English-born author and film director Robin Hardy, renowned for pagan horror masterpiece The Wicker Man and its similar follow-up The Wicker Tree, is set to make a film in Shetland.
This new venture will be the third in what approximates to a trilogy and is likely to feature black comedy, tragedy, crime and romance, with some input from the gods thrown in. In his previous work Hardy harked back to Greek mythology, with the scary subject of human sacrifice.
The new film, inspired this time by the Norse sagas, promises to be equally chilling. Its working title is The Wrath of the Gods, and in it the gods, who meddle in human affairs, get their comeuppance.
Hardy, now 82, has been in Shetland this week for Up-Helly-A’ and has been impressed by the isles’ Viking past and “marvellous pagan ceremony” of burning a longboat. He settled on Shetland, with its “Nordic inheritance”, as being the “logical place” to work after coming to the conclusion that it would be impractical to film in Iceland, the setting of the Norse sagas.
If he can get suitable actors and actresses in place, and subject to securing funding, filming in the isles could start in four to five months.
However it is “early times” yet, he said. Before approaching funders he will first have to completely re-write the script for Shetland, but he is hopeful the distributors might be interested, thanks to the success of The Wicker Tree.
The third film will feature lots of music. The Norse sagas inspired Wagner’s great operatic Ring Cycle, the last one titled The Twilight of the Gods.
Hardy said: “That’s what I have adapted, very, very loosely, as the final story in this trilogy because, ultimately, it’s what happens to the gods, not just to the people who are offering sacrifices to them. The gods themselves get sucked into the melee. I looked for a suitable carapace to put that in and the last act of the Ring Cycle seems to work very well and it allows me to mix full-blast Wagner.” It will be slightly tongue in cheek, however.
Hardy said the music of Up-Helly-A’ had also inspired him and made him think of the “extraordinary things we could do”.
Hardy began his directorial career in Canada and the US, where he was mainly involved in making television drama. In the 1960s he returned to London and became involved in making commercials and informational films for the company Hardy Shaffer Ferguson Avery, which Hardy formed with writer Anthony Shaffer.
As a result of this partnership, the two men were involved in the creation and production of Hardy’s feature debut The Wicker Man made in 1973 and now considered a classic. Set in a fictional isle in the Western Isles, it creates a dangerous, creepy situation against the backdrop of a joyous community.
Actor Christopher Lee described The Wicker Tree, based on Hardy’s 2006 book Cowboys for Christ, as “erotic, comic, romantic and horrific enough to melt the bowels of a bronze statue”.
Hardy knows all about the rigours of film-making. “Film-making has to be planned like a military campaign in terms of cost and efficiency. Experienced costing in minute detail has to go into the preparation, and that takes quite a lot of time and effort. It’s the sort of thing that one does if you’re in the army, which I once was.”