The Feast

The Feast
The Feast
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Since the beginning of time bloodcurdling stories and legends have been joining up. The idea that people were trying to fathom an irrational, topsy-turvy natural world with light-heartedly gloomy tales is one of the oldest kinds of storytelling there is, and it’s the ancient traditions of Celtic folklore specifically that director Lee Haven Jones and writer Roger Williams are harvesting in The Feast, their first feature. Like The Wicker Man or recent efforts such as Men, this small but intense film places a violent environmental horror at the heart of an idyllic pastoral setting to deliver a quiet but savage warning about what happens when you mess with Mother Nature.

It takes its time getting there, though. For most of its first hour, The Feast movie is slow-moving to the point of being almost laborious; stasis brought on by still cameras and sinister calmness establishes an enigmatic mood. We’re somewhere in the Welsh countryside, where a local politician has invited some guests for dinner at his palatial country pad – he wants to offer up some land for oil drilling rights. The house isn’t exactly in keeping with the local aesthetic (all floor-to-ceiling glass and Scandinavian modernism) and there’s a definite element of class tension in how obnoxiously it sits among working-class homes.

The dysfunctional ensemble occupying this house includes slick-talking MP Owain (Julian Lewis Jones), who may well be keeping more than just his cards close to his chest; his tightly-wound wife Gwyneth (Nia Roberts), for whom perfectionist attention-to-detail seems to be a way of life (“Do you know how much effort goes into making a pavlova?”); their two sons (Steffan Cennydd and Sion Alun Davies), one a drug addict, the other an obsessive triathlete.

And then there’s Cadi: a local girl from the village hired as kitchen staff for the meal, played by Annes Elwy with an absolutely mesmerising oddness. It’s clear from the off that something is not right with her; what exactly it is isn’t revealed until right at the end.

Entirely performed in Welsh — which quietly lends it a Celtic-ness even if you don’t speak the language — it’s not immediately obvious where this film is going. Some of its imagery (Cadi watching a naked man shave his pubes through a window, for example) gives you some idea. If it can sometimes be frustrating as a viewing experience, cards held too close to the chest at times, there are enough flashes of visual panache to keep you interested.

Of course, things become bloody towards the end; as ever, all roads lead to carnage. The final act here isn’t subtle so much as satisfyingly unhinged: it swerves into the fast lane very suddenly indeed. It might be too weird or kooky for some viewers’ tastes, but there’s no mistaking that this is a clear-minded engagement with these themes and an ancient tradition being tapped into: respect the natural order or you’ll ruin your tea.

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