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directed by Chris Newby
Belgium/UK 1993


Withdrawing from the medieval world to devote herself to the Virgin Mary, a young woman named Christine happily chooses to be forever walled into a tiny room adjoining the church. As the last stone is put in place, "Anchoress" creates a chilling sense of entrapment while making the young woman's sense of relief and escape clear. Now she won't have to marry the reeve, the belligerent overseer of the manor where Christine, her sister and their parents sleep in a single bed in their thatched cottage. At times "Anchoress," an eccentric, beautifully photographed black-and-white film, offers an eerie immersion in a distant world.

Excerpt of review from Caryn James located HERE


Theatrical Release: September 10th, 1993

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:44:08

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.0 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (LPCM 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• Short film: The Old Man of the Sea (20:42)
• Short film: Flicker (4:31)
• Short film: Stromboli (10:52)
• 24 Page Illustrated Book

DVD Release Date: June 22nd, 2009
Keep Case

Chapters 11



Chris Newby's "The Anchoress" may just be the most hauntingly beautiful film that I have ever seen. Nearly every frame from this black and white masterpiece could be taken and hung in a museum. Such is the visual mastery that he and his cinematographer, Michel Baudour, possess. The film tells the true life story of Christine Carpenter (or as faithfully as the story could be reproduced given the incomplete historical records surrounding her life), a 14th century peasant, who at at the age of 14 began experiencing visions of Mary. Rather than live the life that her mother had chosen for her, Christine agrees to become her church's anchoress, a chasten woman who lives the rest of her life entombed in a wall of the church, with a window being her only contact to the outside world. What follows is a lesson on the role of faith, bureaucracy, greed, and women in the church and has more to say on any of those subjects than most that would focus on a single one.

The disc, which was only released in the summer of last year, sports one of the most gorgeous and nuanced black and white transfers that I've ever come across. The palette that is used here contains an exceedingly large range of blacks, whites, and grays, and features one of the cleanest, clearest and sharpest transfers that you're likely to find on a standard definition DVD. Indeed, I don't mean to sound hyperbolic when I say this, but I'm not sure how this film could have looked any better without making the leap to 1080p. While that would have been a welcome move, I suppose that we ought to be grateful for what we have, which is simply wonderful. I don't usually do this, but in this case I thought that it would be appropriate to single out the work done by everyone on this image and James White in particular for this magnificent anamorphic transfer.

As per usual with their 2009 releases, this film sports a LPCM 2.0 audio transfer and as usual, this has proven to be a relatively strong choice. The soundtrack is clear with the dialogue easily discerned. A few extended periods without dialogue where we look at the wheat or fibers of the women at work come across as a near silent meditation and contain no distracting background noises to take us out of the world that we're being shown. The subtitles were very welcome and as usual were placed in a way that is unobtrusive to the image.

The extras on the disc consist mainly in three short films by Newby. All of the shorts are unlike the main feature in that they're highly experimental, dialogue free, and perhaps with the exception of "The Old Man of the Sea", plot free. I must admit that I really didn't care for any of them, but that's okay. When the film is as strong as this one, you could make the only supplement on here twenty minutes of the cast eating lunch at the craft services table, and the disc wouldn't lose any value. Aside from the films, the disc also comes with a lush 24 page illustrated booklet with comments from both the writer and director and essays by Michael Brooke on all four films in the set. As always Brooke's knowledge of and passion for the films shines out in his work.

So far as I'm concerned, this release is an essential part of any cinephile's collection. It showcases the extreme talent of one of the UK's most singular filmmakers who, because of the government's decision to shut down funding for the BFI's production board, has sadly been unable to get funding for a third film. Thankfully we now have at least one of his two feature productions on DVD and hopefully someday we'll see more work from Newby. I give this release my highest recommendation.

 - Brian Montgomery


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