A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt, 1935). I have really fond memories of catching some fabulous, older movies, mostly lying on the living room floor while my folks were doing other things. A lot of old Cary Grant era movies, and John Wayne westerns and stuff. I’m thinking I must have been about ten years old or thereabouts. This has given me a taste for older movies that aren’t necessarily about giant space robots exploding in an impressive shower of special effects.
I caught the start of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. My Dad was a teacher of English and I thought he might appreciate it. I decided to tape it on our old Sony C6 betamax video recorder for him, and ended up tuning right in. Stunning.
Of course it’s Shakespeare, so it’s going to be a great story. The performances are amazing, and I really got the aspect of farce.
The thing that struck me the most, conversely enough, was the special effects. I suppose they were largely based around theatre techniques at the time. The faeries are beautifully realised.
Anyway… at a time in my life when people were all watching ‘porky’s’ and that kind of stuff, it’s probably the film that gave me a greater appreciation for what cinema could be. I’ve never looked back.
George Orwell: Coming up for Air (1939). This is such a melancholy book, as a lot of Orwell’s are. It’s a story of an individual’s experience with nostalgia, and how he is disappointed when he tries to recapture something nebulous which he seems to have lost in the banality of his everyday life.
It’s kind of an everyman’s experience of what was happening, pre-war on a much larger scale; A microcosm of the human response to ‘progress’. The main character, George is utterly ordinary. He has his failings which are made very apparent. The trip to his childhood home is financed by money he won gambling, but had kept secret from his wife, that sort of thing.
The upshot of the story is that George’s return to Lower Binfield, his childhood home, is a hugely disappointing experience. Nothing that he remembers is quite like it was. Some of it has gone… I particularly like the part where he returns for a giant fish in a hidden pond he recalls from his childhood. The pond no longer exists, the prize is gone. It has become a rubbish dump. I found that to be symbolic of the entire theme of the book, but beautifully summarised.
The whole book is an emotional experience for me, but it reminds me that while nostalgia can be warm and fuzzy, those days are definitely over. That was then. This is now.
Under the bridge at Dengin. I lived in the highlands of Scotland for a short period of time in the early 90’s. I lived on a traveller site with various forms of travellers, hippies, anarchists and oddly, a couple of traditional gypsy traveller families. It was an interesting time… It allowed me to experience life from the point of view of someone for whom most daily activities had tangible, touchable results. If you want to be warm, you need get firewood. Want to be clean and be able to cook, you need to get water and know how to build a decent fire. Everything, more-or-less that any of us did on a daily basis was immediately personally profitable. It’s in the West Highlands, in one of the most beautiful parts of the world that I have ever been to.
A river ran past the site, into the loch. Beautifully clean, ice cold Scottish mountain water. About twenty yards away from where we had pitched, there was a little road bridge crossing the river, and under it, the river deepened substantially, so there was a fairly calm pool of about eight feet deep, fed from a reasonably swift-flowing river.
It was the hottest and sunniest summer weather we had had in Scotland for somewhere in the region of twenty years, and I used to love sitting under the bridge, listening to the river and watching the reflections of the sun from the surface of the pool dance on the underside of the bridge.
It was a quiet place. It recharged me. I always go back when I’m up in the West Highlands, but in a twist of circumstance strikingly similar to the book I described above, I always find there’s nothing there anymore but ghosts.