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1903 Into The Mystic v2 ;

'Into the Mystic': A filmmaker's adventures in London, Vietnam and medieval England - where she tells the extraordinary tale of the mystic Margery Kempe

Meet multi-talented filmmaker, writer and thespian Mirabelle Dominé-Walley (English Literature, 2011) and her partner, Luke Walker – a filmmaker and artist. The pair met in secondary school, where they co-directed the Harold Pinter play, 'Old Times', during their A-Levels.

Partners in real life and behind the camera, Mirabelle and Luke’s upcoming film, Into the Mystic, tells the tale of the iconic medieval Christian mystic, Margery Kempe. Produced by Harry Grindrod (MA Film, 2013), a fellow King’s alum, the film stars Mirabelle in the lead role as Margery. The King’s connections continue, with Marcos Schneider (English and Film, 2012) joining the cast as Margery’s husband, John Kempe.

Into the Mystic is based loosely on the text The Book of Margery Kempe (written by Kempe through dictation and considered by some to be the first autobiography in the English language). The film centres on Kempe’s encounter with the equally intriguing Julian of Norwich, a renowned medieval anchoress. Julian’s devotional text, Revelations of Divine Love, is credited as the first book in the English language written by a woman. In a tale rarely told, the film celebrates the coming together of these two extraordinary mystic minds.

Two actresses in medieval dress, one a yellowy green and the other in a white one, sit near a wooden door.

A tutor by trade, Mirabelle teaches English and French, both through schools and privately. Since graduating, she has also worked in book-to-screen publishing – which involved reading novels and deciding whether they would be suitable for film or TV adaptations. Luke works primarily as a sound recordist, but often assists on camera and production. Like Mirabelle, he studied English Literature, graduating from at Queen Mary University of London at BA and MA level, where he specialised in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake

A woman write calligraphy onto a white booklet.

Why King’s?

Mirabelle first discovered her love of the West End theatre scene during her A-Levels and was determined to go to university in London.

King’s lived up to Mirabelle’s expectations, and her halls in first year were in Bloomsbury. She has fond memories of walking down to lectures on the Strand, then to the West End, Soho and Southbank with friends to see shows or films for only £10.

During her degree, Mirabelle took on several theatre modules and did some acting with the PEN Society, encouraged by her personal tutor, Lara Feigel. She comments that, ‘The course at King’s was modern and engaging and turned out to be a good choice because there was no drama department. So, lots of the English students were a bit 'thespy''. As part of her Master's degree at QMUL, Mirabelle specialised in the theme of miscegenation in the South-East Asian-based novels by Joseph Conrad and Marguerite Duras.

Other highlights include a creative writing drama course taught by the poet So Mayer, which she describes as ‘brilliant.’

An image on a camera of two actresses standing in a garden, wearing medieval dresses.

Life behind the camera – getting into film

Mirabelle and Luke first tried photographic documentation when travelling around Vietnam on a food research project Mirabelle embarked on soon after graduating. Luke was the project photographer and sound recordist, and the pair presented their findings at Asia House.

Around the same time, the duo created a short sound piece (performed by Mirabelle) based on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities with found sounds from Venice. The project was a success and reignited Mirabelle’s love of acting, so they tried doing something similar with The Book of Margery Kempe. Hence, the idea for Into the Mystic was born.

A camera is held over a table covered in cups and plates of food.

Telling Margery’s tale

Mirabelle and Luke developed an interest in Margery Kempe while chatting to their medievalist PhD friend, Dr Fran Allfrey (PhD English, 2019) – a fellow King’s alum who helped with the research for Into the Mystic. Mirabelle recalls how she was particularly struck by Margery’s conflicted sexuality and obsession with both the material and spiritual aspects of life, while Luke was drawn to the text’s exploration of Margery’s madness, sickness and visions.

‘The initial shots of the film with Margery wrapped in a white sheet came out so peculiar and haughty that we kept going and adapted some of the (densely written) moments of her book into full drama’, Mirabelle tells us.

Mirabelle tried out performances in the third and first person. Luke explains: ‘We started with the most charged episodes from Margery’s tale, creating small unconnected scenes, and then over time linked them together. Margery’s meeting with Julian of Norwich became the core moment of our story and everything else fell in around that.’

One thing led to another and the two ended up writing a full screenplay during the 2020 lockdown and started shooting a short film in 2021. As more friends became involved and the production values developed, Harry (producer and Director of Photography) suggested shooting the whole script for festival submission. And here they are several years later!

While on set, Luke, Mirabelle and their team were sometimes managing up to 30 cast and crew, with costumes (designed by Luke’s mother, Janet Walker, who has passed down her creative genes to her son), detailed historical sets and prop food (including 40 roast quails!). Filming was a steep learning curve, with the pair taking on many different roles and tasks in the project. Both appreciated the opportunity to work with a lot of talented people and share knowledge and experience – which Luke described as ‘one of the project’s most valuable aspects’.

A woman wearing a medieval red dress stands in a garden.

Mirabelle and Luke’s top tips for aspiring film-makers

Mirabelle’s advice: ‘The daily advice I give to myself is to keep working, stay positive and try to focus on things I can control.

I also have some advice from my teachers and mentors over the years:

From my personal tutor at King's, Lara Feigel: "Avoid clichés".

My King's creative writing tutor, So Mayer: “Take it seriously; do it ethically".

I also have some advice from my acting coach, James Kemp: “Be ready for opportunities when they come because they don’t come all the time.”

Also, from my voice coach, Robert Price: “Take up Qigong.”

And, finally, my singing teacher, Barbara Maria Rathbone: “Think; breathe.”’

Luke’s tips:

  • Start shooting and editing with whatever equipment you have. If you don’t have equipment, start writing and/or storyboarding.
  • Break everything down into a series of small tasks and problems to solve and complete. 
  • Accept that filmmaking is a team sport, and one that requires many different skills and experience.
  • Offer people roles that they are interested in and would like to put time and energy into, rather than just what you think they are talented at.
  • Accept that you will lead and finish any part of the filmmaking process, no matter whether people drop in or out.

What’s next?

The pair are giving a presentation, Filming The Book of Margery Kempe, at Bush House on the 12 June 2024, as part of the Interdisciplinary Medieval Seminar, organised by Dr Sarah Salih with the Institute of Historical Research.

As well as Into the Mystic, Mirabelle and Luke are currently working on a film by Rastko Novaković called Roastbeef, based on a section of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Luke has also been collaborating on an A/V project called A MAR about the sea with Rita Rosa Monteiro. They are also developing a documentary project, Postcard Not Sent, based on Luke's grandfather’s time in a prisoner of war camp during WWII, a crime drama, L’Ours Brun, about a murdered Pyrenean brown bear, and a further medieval journey based on Christine de Pizan’s Le Livre de la Cité des Dames with fellow Into the Mystic cast member and architect, Chloé Lecesne.

Into the Mystic will be released next year (2024), with a screening to come at KCL CLAMS.

A group of three actors wearing medieval dress listen to their director, who stands in the background.

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