written & directed by Christopher Brown, 2014
Remission is about two men and a boy struggling to survive a deadly virus in a devastated English countryside. Loosely adapted from The Pardoner's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, its imagery was conceived as a nightmarish echo of the AIDS epidemic.
The film was nominated for the Iris Prize and the Best of British Award at the 2014 LGBT Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff, and it also screened at screened at the Athens International Film Festival, Borderlines Festival Hay-on-Wye, and the PoutFest tour in Belfast.
In 2015, Remission was distributed on DVD and VOD by Peccadillo Pictures, on their Boys on Film 13 collection. The DVD peaked at No.1 on the amazon world cinema list.
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I wanted Remission to conjure up an imaginary English countryside, in which nature is reclaiming the ruins of our old civilization. It’s harsh and bleak, but also the timeless realm of a fairy tale – a psychological landscape that determines each character’s decisions and fate.
My inspiration came from reading The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, set in the desolate aftermath of the 1348-50 Black Death, which killed one half of Europe’s population. The tale is a parable of human greed in which three young men seek to find and punish ‘that traitor Death’.
Today, we associate ‘remission’ with sickness, but from a fourteenth century perspective, this took on a moral dimension. The plague was seen as God’s apocalyptic punishment for human wrongdoing. Remission from sin – forgiveness – was a service a Pardoner would provide in return for cash, a kind of divine insurance policy (my other great influence here is film noir).
Remission is a fable, but an ambiguous, ironic one. I was thinking of the AIDS epidemic when I wrote the script; the ways in which gay victims of the virus were blamed for their suffering by a moralizing mainstream. Male sexuality drives my story, in which contact with infected blood means death – but how far should we accept the tales we are told, or trust those who tell them?
Remission trades in fate and punishment, but I wanted to rescue the men by exploring their quiet moments of humanity. One of them cries to himself, desperately. The other stares in childlike wonder as an old iPod crackles into life. The boy murmurs as he arranges his treasures, the
leftovers of our disappeared world.
Christopher Brown, 2014