Not Scrooby church, but nice if you think the Pilgrims have something to do with Shakespere.
Picturesque Bruges pretending to be Leiden.
Fairford church: exterior.
Fairford church: Last Judgement window.
What Untold Story?
“Desperate Crossing’s” three-hour presentation of the Pilgrims is likely to determine public perceptions of the history of New England’s first English colony for many years. Combining beautiful photography with a simplified but familiar plot, the result is a lively story full of tension, romance, and a conflict of cultures. The film’s narrative is predominantly composed of quotations from the works of Plymouth Colony’s original historians William Bradford and Edward Winslow. To consider that their well-known words told an unknown story would be ludicrous, so what’s the twist? Condensation and omission are inevitable within the limits of a film. What does the story become when distilled? What does the producer choose to include? What is added, what left out? What is the untold story?
Here’s the story “Desperate Crossing” does tell: The Pilgrims are English Protestants who separate from a state church (also Protestant) under the control of a monarch who petulantly persecutes them for their disobedience. With difficulty, they flee to Holland, where they soon find life so hard that they decide to seek more distant refuge in America, not before, however, giving young William Bradford time to court and wed the beautiful Dorothy May. Their future is one of unknown dangers. Dorothy’s distressed response to emigration while leaving their infant son in the care of friends in Leiden forms a recurrent emotional theme contrasting with the pious posturing and tense business arguments that occupy the men. The film’s coverage of the sea journey of the “Mayflower” is generally excellent, using Plimoth Plantation’s replica ship “Mayflower II” and a smaller replica ship from Maryland (as the “Speedwell”). The waves look real and the ships are indeed sailing. Travel to New England on the “Mayflower” is grim, and conditions crowded. The colonists are riven with factionalism, expressed in continuous, angry shouting matches, that culminate in a mutual agreement to abide by laws they themselves choose, and to elect their own governor. But an expert reminds us that this is not democracy, merely a system to create their own laws and select by mutual consent one of themselves to be governor with authority to enforce those laws. (What’s democracy, then?) On arrival, the Pilgrims ignorantly offend the Natives, stealing corn and robbing graves. A violent first encounter with Natives apparently hurts no one seriously. Native antagonism, however, can be explained. For years, up and down the coast, English sailors had been stealing Natives to sell as slaves, but the Natives were too noble to be intimidated, reacting instead with caution and a deep, abiding sense of grievance. Weak and unprepared, the colonists leave Cape Cod for Plymouth, where half the colonists die. Dorothy Bradford drowns, interrupting the narrative flow as commenters agree that, although there is no evidence that she committed suicide, there is also no evidence that she did not. People in such circumstances can become depressed. Some people who are depressed, whatever their religious convictions, kill themselves. Maybe Dorothy did, even though the first person to suggest this interpretation was a nineteenth-century novelist seeking to add interest to a romantic plot. Any suggestion that the total absence of evidence means there is no reason to believe she killed herself is decreed to be “hogwash.” Surviving Pilgrims are saved by a formerly enslaved local who has returned from Europe to his homeland to discover that in his absence all his family and friends had died of a plague. He teaches the English how to plant corn. The Pilgrims are impressed by a Native show of force, so, from a position of weak dependency, they invite the tribal leader to a conference with the governor, hoping for friendly relations, for the gift of survival. The former slave helps the English arrange a treaty of mutual assistance. The English may be useful allies against Natives farther west who are exerting political pressure on these who have been weakened by diseases brought by Europeans. Clever diplomatic maneuvers by Natives from Nauset on Cape Cod remind the Pilgrims of their obligation to keep the promise to make restitution for the stolen corn. As untrustworthy European men, they might easily have forgotten this. Harvest time arrives; hunting is good; and it’s time for a party. Natives appear, weapons at the ready, but instead of attacking the colonists they teach them that the most important thing in life is to get along with your neighbors, because, as an eminent writer assures us, the abiding message of the Pilgrim story is that good neighbors make good friends.