Sredni Vashtar (film)

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Sredni Vashtar is a 30-minute film, released in 1981, and written, produced and directed by Andrew Birkin. It is based on the short story of the same name written by Hector Hugh Munro. It is about a little boy, Conradin, who worships a ferret and prays for deliverance from his overbearing guardian, Aunt Augusta. It won the BAFTA award for Best Short Film, and was nominated for an Academy Award Oscar.


The film is set in middle class Edwardian England. Conradin, an orphan, lives with his legal guardian and aunt, Augusta. She is a sadistic figure who oppresses and controls him, on the pretext that he might die because of a genetic blood disorder. His only companions are a Houdan hen called Henrietta, which he adores, and a ferret named Sredni Vashtar, which he keeps hidden in a shed at the back of the garden.

Conradin reads history books about Actaken Cults, although his aunt has forbidden him to learn history. He imagines that the ferret is a bloodthirsty god, Sredni Vashtar. Inspired by his reading, he makes offerings of bloody entrails and red berries to the ferret. One day, his aunt discovers Conradin's Houdan hen and takes it away. Very distressed, Conradin begs his god Sredni Vashtar to grant him one prayer.

Shortly afterwards, his aunt finds the key to the shed where the ferret lives. She goes to the shed, while Conradin waits in the house. The ferret appears in the garden with blood on its muzzle. Horrified cries from members of the household are heard. Conradin makes himself something to eat and sits in his aunt's place, at the head of the table.

The film differs from the original story in a few respects. Conradin's cousin, in the original, Mrs. De Ropp, becomes his Aunt Augusta. Also a tutor, who teaches Conradin Latin, is introduced.


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