Black Combe, from Hodbarrow
The film was inspired by a discovery of its own, of sorts.
My family has long lived in Millom, near the Duddon Estuary, where the film is set. A local and much respected poet, Norman Nicholson, lived, loved, and breathed the Cumbrian landscape for most of his life, in the same house in which he was born. He was known for his elegiac and earthy verse, deeply entwined with the paths beyond his door.
Hodbarrow Nature Reserve
The lagoon where the film takes place is known as Hodbarrow, a nature reserve. The sea wall that Jake jumps across used to protect Millom Works, a massive hematite mine, now flooded. The lighthouse, the old mill, the chimney, all memories of the past still poking through its cracks. An imprint of others before us. And so, as Jake, our hero, discovers his own path, he becomes his own memory, leaving a mark, a legacy, traces of a story for others to find.
I found a special print of his poem ‘The Shadow of Black Combe’, in our house, silent in a drawer (in fact, the drawer of the dresser seen in the film). I was immediately fascinated with the language, themes, and atavistic symbols spiralling endlessly around the words. An elided quotation from the poem appears at the beginning of the film, including the final line: ‘one death will do for me’. An idea that haunts. How being separate from a place, so interwoven with one’s identity, makes death feel living.
And there is the basis of the story for Shadow of the Mountain. With rounds of lockdowns, the poem echoes the rediscovery of heritage and reconnection with ‘local’.
In terms of the production, a local company was kind enough to sponsor some of the shoot. Pretty much all of the cast, crew and post production are local talent, including students from nearby schools or Cumbria University. It was a great shoot and lots of fun, and I think we all discovered a place that still holds secrets.