Screening of The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973), proposed by Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, followed by a discussion.

2023 is the 50th anniversary of the release of The Wicker Man, a British B movie that has left a deep mark in the culture of the English-speaking world. During the 1970s, Britain turned its gaze towards its preindustrial roots, rediscovering and, at times, reinventing its lost folklore. On the fictional Scottish island of Summerisle where the action takes place, pagan traditions have survived with all their exotic cults, at times bloody and, of course, sexually liberated (we are dealing with the 1970s). The film, which addresses issues like anti-Celtic colonialism or cultural isolation in the face of modernity, is characterised by a mixture of genres – it starts as a thriller and quickly becomes an archetype of folk horror. Utilising texts of comparative mythology of questionable academic rigour, like The Golden Bough by James George Frazer or The White Goddess by Robert Graves, The Wicker Man reflects the obsession with religious syncretism of the first half of the 20th century. The island of Summerisle, with a magnificent performance by Christopher Lee as the Hierophant, synthesises this desire to resuscitate a pan-European paganism that never existed.

Following the screening, Itziar will give a brief talk that will show the cultural heritage of The Wicker Man in contemporary films like The VVitch (2015) or Midsommar (2019) and in artists like Jeremy Deller. She will also talk about the recent resurgence of interest in folk roots in the British counties, at times associated with rave culture and festivals, as well the BBC’s experiments of the 1970s and 1980s, where magic and analogical technology were fused in creations like Penda’s Fen (1974), Quartermass (1979), and other television films that, like The Wicker Man, have left their mark on the aesthetic of the generations that grew up with them.

Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, artist, activist and pornographer, focuses her work around inter-relational ritualistic expressions, ranging from fetishism, which covers a large part of her research, to the more questionable results of the Western esoteric tradition, such as the comparative mythology of Frazer, Campbell and Robert Graves. The otiose search for religious syncretism, in the form of a common thread capable of unifying the pagan traditions of Western culture in its entirety, is often ideological, almost always hallucinatory and at the service, as in the case of Lord Summerisle, of more individual interests rather than group cohesion.