A Life on the Farm review – delightful documentary about an English eccentric

The found-footage connoisseurs assembled in this documentary all agree: first-time feature director Oscar Harding has struck gold in Huish Champflower. That’s the Somerset village where his family once lived alongside Charles Carson, a farmer who found his vocation making mad little films about the life and death – mostly death – he saw all around.

Too much is made of the slight story of the VHS tapes’ rediscovery, but the footage itself is delightful, ranging from Countryfile banalities to macabre surrealism, and swerving excitingly between the two. Oh look, a cute kitty curled up by the fireside! Oh no, wait… is it mummified?

Harding’s film proves movingly open-minded on the subject of the strange things isolation can do, but as a neighbour he might have been nosier. English reserve seems to have prevented further prying into the circumstances that created this English eccentric. Instead, talking heads variously compare Carson to Goodfellas director Martin Scorsese and serial killer Ed Gein. That’s ludicrous on both counts, but he certainly was a talented outsider artist, one whose work fully justifies the attention this film bestows.

The Guardian