The Sunday Classic
The Mill directed by Petra Freeman is a movie that defies clear interpretation though the sheer magic of events captivate. In simple terms it is a fantasy stemming from a young girl's fascination with bees. The girl is carried off by the swarm of bees, enters a beehive, and a bee becomes a playmate. Other than explaining that the girl undergoes a journey in her imagination, Petra is non-committal in her explanation of meaning: "I feel if I say what I think then that limits other people's ideas about it." My own ideas are confused though appreciative. It is certainly, if partially, to do with coping with loneliness through imagination, rather as Jumping Joan covered here earlier. The girl's journey is strange. The fluidity of the movement in the animation aids this depiction, Petra's method of creation being to paint on back-lit glass, stacked in layers for depth. The dream commences almost in nightmare as a tiny sailing ship heads into an amorphous mass of red and black from the gloom of which emerges the girl peeping through curtains under a giant pair of white hands. It is full of enigmatic scenes: she watches as the beekeeper dressed in his protective robes calms the hive whereupon the girl unsuccessfully attempts to follow him out of the garden; she stands on a precipice having emerged from her own hair; and she conjures up a child's swing that morphs to a hive. The bee seems part of her and her journey an exploration of herself. The hive is viewed as one of those huge dark satanic mills that still distinguish parts of the north of England, forbidding one moment, enticing the next, the sense of drama heightened by the very dramatic music, Sofia Gubaidulina's 'Offertorium'.
Biography: Petra's father kept bees himself in their North Cornwall home. She was born in 1964, obtaining her BA in Theatre Design from Wimbledon School of Art, prior to studying for her MA in Illustration at the Royal College of Art, 1988-1990. The Mill was funded by Channel 4 and the British Film Institute and won the Freeman the Debut Prize at the 1992 Hiroshima Film Festival.