The film Akenfield is set in a small Suffolk village and tells the story of the last century. In 1974, under the direction of Peter Hall, the people of the village acted out the stories of their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents. The film crew worked with them at weekends, filming for nearly a year, chronicling the community and landscapes in the different seasons.
The film was inspired by a now famous twenty page 'script'
written by Ronald Blythe, based on his classic book Akenfield. The cast, all
of whom lived in and around the village, invented their dialogue as they spoke
it, drawing on their own experiences.
With his death, the grandfather's tied cottage becomes available. The farmer sees the opportunity of getting Tom to work for him for life, by offering him the cottage. His girlfriend sees the cottage as a way to marriage.
On the day of the funeral Tom has to decide if he is going to accept the cottage, marry his girlfriend and probably spend the rest of his life in Akenfield. The alternative is to take the risk of leaving the village and seek his fortune elsewhere. However, Tom is haunted by the stories of his grandfather's failed attempt to better himself by trying to leave the village.
40 years ago, in November 1974, Akenfield was the first British film to be selected to open the London Film Festival. It was later invited to other festivals including Filmex in Los Angeles, Moscow and Tehran. When shown on television in the UK in January 1975, Akenfield was seen by over 14 million viewers.
The innovative ways Akenfield was financed and filmed created a huge amount of media attention. Anglia Television made a documentary and the BBC made a half-hour programme about the casting before shooting had even started. Derek Bailey made a programme for LWT. On release, Akenfield was the film featured in the weekly BBC programme Film 75. Akenfield made the front cover of the TV Times on 26 January 1975. In 1997 Anglia Television made a further two short films about Akenfield.