by Roger Guidery
I was church organist at St. Mary’s, Radnage when A Month in the Country was filmed, and still am. I was even employed by the film company as a “technical advisor” to Natasha Richardson, who played Alice Keach in the film. I had to advise her on playing the old harmonium organ that was brought into the church as a prop.
Natasha could not play and no sounds needed to come from the organ (they were added in the editing room later) but I had to make sure that her body movements made it look as if she was actually playing. Natasha was very sweet and came over as a bit shy but she listened to me very intently when I was teaching her. Though it was only a small part that I had, it made me feel involved.
During the filming, the church was kept open for Sunday services. We were determined, as a village, that worship would continue at St. Mary’s whatever the “disruption” to the building. It was quite surreal holding services with all the scenery in place. It felt as if the congregation had all been in a time machine and had been transported back to 1919. I had to play the old pedal harmonium for the services; it did make musical sounds, but wheezed a lot — as did I!
A number of locals were used as extras in the film. Some of them are seated in the front row of the screen shot inside the church.
For the churchyard filming the director wanted something to enhance the “summer feeling,” so local children were recruited and sent out into the surrounding fields to collect butterflies. They were paid 50 pence for each butterfly they brought back in their jam jars. The butterflies were then released just out-of-shot when the filming took place.
Most of the interior lighting of the church was actually done from outside. The lighting rigs were set up outside the windows to give the impression of sunlight streaming through the windows.
The filming did cause some damage to the church interior. Despite assurances that nothing would be attached to the walls, diamond-shaped wooden wall hangers were nailed into the ancient plaster work and also some fake stone (polystyrene) was sprayed onto the walls. St. Mary’s received considerable monetary compensation following the filming.
As has been mentioned, fake tombs and gravestones were added to the church and churchyard. In fact they were so realistic that, weeks after the filming finished, someone realized that one of the gravestones in the churchyard was a film prop and no one had noticed before!
— Roger Guidery