Watch Anchoress

"Ecstasy and orthodoxy in the 14th century!"
  • NR
  • 1993
  • 1 hr 48 min
  • 6.5  (440)

Anchoress is a 1993 British drama film directed by Chris Newby, remarkably distinct for its visual storytelling style that melds religious fervor with medieval mysticism. The film is set in the 14th century and revolves around the true story of a young girl, Christine Carpenter, portrayed by Natalie Morse, who aspires to become an anchoress, which is a woman who chooses to withdraw from the world to live a life of prayer and solitude, often in a small cell attached to a church.

The narrative is deeply rooted in the societal and religious context of the Middle Ages, capturing the norms, beliefs, and practices that governed the lives of people during that period. Christine is fervently religious, and from a young age, she shows a strong desire to commit herself to God by becoming an anchoress. Her journey represents a struggle for spiritual fulfillment and autonomy within the confines of a rigidly structured and patriarchal society.

In the film, Gene Bervoets plays the role of the priest, a man wielding significant influence and power within the village, whose interests intersect with Christine’s spiritual quest in complex ways. Toyah Willcox portrays Christine's mother, a character that represents the typical expectations of women in that era, further adding to the contrast between Christine’s divine calling and the material world she wishes to leave behind.

The central premise of Anchoress revolves around the tension between the earthly and the divine, as well as the conflict that arises from a young woman's attempt to pursue a life that deviates from the traditional roles assigned to her by society. The setting of the film is austere and evocative, with a cinematography that mirrors the stark and contemplative life Christine seeks. The landscapes and architecture of the time are rendered with attention to detail, immersing the viewer in a bygone era.

As a period piece, Anchoress goes beyond mere historical re-enactment; it philosophically delves into the themes of faith, sacrifice, and the struggle for personal freedom. Christine's vision of serving God through isolation brings her into a sharp, and at times, contentious dialogue with the people around her, including her family and the church authorities. Her decision to become an anchoress is met with various reactions ranging from admiration to skepticism and outright opposition.

The film's dialogue integrates medieval English dialects, which, along with the costuming and set design, enhances the authenticity of the experience. The film invites audiences to ponder the broader implications of a life lived in pursuit of spiritual perfection and what it means to surrender worldly desires for a higher purpose.

Anchoress also explores the impact of religious institutions on individual lives and how these institutions navigate the tension between supporting religious vocations and exerting control over the lives of their parishioners. The priest character, played by Gene Bervoets, embodies this tension as he becomes instrumental in both guiding and testing Christine's resolve. His role highlights the complexities of leadership within the Church and the interpersonal dynamics that play out beneath the surface of religious life.

The character arcs in Anchoress are deeply woven into the fabric of the community, capturing the delicate interplay between individual aspirations and communal expectations. As a work of historical cinema, it offers insight into the nature of spiritual devotion and its manifestations in a time when personal choices were often subsumed under societal demands and religious orthodoxy.

As the narrative progresses, the audience is drawn into Christine’s journey of self-discovery and the challenges she must face to remain true to her convictions. The film neither glorifies nor denigrates the choices made but rather provides a nuanced portrayal of the complexity of human motivations and desires.

Anchoress engages viewers on multiple levels, blending historical context with existential inquiry. It raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of freedom, the sacrifices it demands, and what ultimately constitutes a life of meaning. As a cinematic experience, it offers not only a window into the past but also a mirror reflecting timeless human themes and struggles that continue to resonate with contemporary audiences.

While Anchoress may not have reached mainstream popularity, it stands as a distinctive piece of cinema that captures an intriguing moment in history with a haunting narrative and arresting visuals. For those interested in medieval history, religious studies, or compelling character-driven stories, Anchoress presents a rich tapestry that is as beautiful as it is thought-provoking.

Anchoress is a 1993 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.5.

Where to Watch Anchoress
Anchoress is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download on demand at The Roku Channel. Some platforms allow you to rent Anchoress for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 48 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.5  (440)