I like travelling. I used to get upset by it, but not anymore. In fact, arriving can sometimes be a bit of a disappointment once the flying above the clouds, rounding mountain roads etc is done. The one thing, the hitch, about travelling is the constant presence of imminent death. Whenever I fly, or drive for long distances, I'm aware that death is often inches away, hurtling pasted usually dressed in a metal and concrete combo that never goes out of fashion. I've not spent too long thinking about this, but I do think that the origin of road rage is probably the sudden outburst of the suppressed fear of death. Driving one feels so weightless, gliding along with the music on. Even the slightest touch can disabuse us of that particular whimsy. Fortunately, it went well this time. The shell of a twisted Juggernaut full of burning rubbish on the motorway outside of Nice was a hearty reminder, although up until
Okay, maybe not shit but near enough. I've watched three episodes so far and I'm intensely underwhelmed. Full chops to them for starting 6 months after the invasion, but why did the post-apocalyptic world have to be designed by Ikea and dressed by Gap? Why does everyone wear the narrow palate of muted colours, purples, greens and mustard yellows? Will someone please turn off that incessant dramatic music, which plays even when nothing remotely dramatic is happening? How come teaching suddenly became of a higher more inspirational quality? No one ever says turn page 15 to groans from assembled children, they say things like 'Biology is the study of the wonders of life' and the sprogs gaze, rapt. How come there are so many old people about? Surely they ought to be slower at running, but apparently not. Why do we keep getting hero shots of people walking down a street? What the fuck was the story line about the Nazi biker happening to be a good cook? He actually gets to tell you how to cook chicken! Like Gordon Ramsey but without the sense of imminent danger. Why is there no sense of imminent danger? The characters move around with impunity except when they decide to go on a raid. Why does Carter from ER tell us right away that he's a history teacher and then in every episode use a little bit of history knowledge to make some preposterous analogy? Why isn't he more upset about his son who's a prisoner? At one point he says 'oh yeah we're going to get him tonight' as if it was just another thing to do. How come the danger that does occur happens as a result of character stupidity, knocking a tile off a roof or jumping up and running in full sight of the aliens? Maybe it'll get better. Maybe the Nazi biker will give us some better recipes, or John Carter from ER will realise his history knowledge is redundant as aliens from outer space are not remotely comparable to Nazis, the Visigoths, the latter part of the Roman Empire, etc. Maybe they'll find a shop of Hawaiian shirts. Maybe someone will turn the music down, or off. I hope so. I sincerely do.
Watching films in the summer is just wrong. Straight forward wrong. In Italy, where Summer truly is Summer and not a time of wailing and gnashing of teeth spent watching the long long days of rain slowly shrink, they often close the cinemas or delay releases, especially of the bigger blockbusters until the Autumn. The exception being the large screenings that are organised in parks through most towns of any size. You can often hear the sound of a movie, music and gun shots as you walk through a town at night. I do have some very specific memories of Summer movies. I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back on a very hot day in Dublin. And Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom gave us suitably sweaty thrills one hot July. Which makes me think about hot films. There's an episode of Cheers when they have a competition to name the sweatiest film (I think Alien wins), but the same could be done about the hottest film. I'd go for Bridge over the River Kwai, but Apocalypse Now has Martin Sheen so sweaty it runs down his cigarette.
The dangers of parenthood can be comic (Three Men and a Baby) or horrific (The Omen), but are rarely both. Dogtooth is an uncomfortable film to which because it shows how a family can be twisted out of shape and yet weirdly still function. This is not so much a nuclear family as a dirty bomb family. Mum and Dad don't just set the rules, they invent them as they go along, creating wonderful and frightening fantasies, a biblical and lost brother behind the fence, airplanes that can fall from the skies and monstrous cats which eat human flesh. Of course, the validity of their fantasies is only possible when all other fantasy and reality if blocked out. Television is there exclusively for family videos, the Frank Sinatra music is said to be grandfather's and all wrapping and packaging is removed from products before it comes in the house. Mum and Dad both enjoy freewheeling when it comes to their bullshit, dad portraying himself as a hunter gatherer, mum happily declaring that she's pregnant with twins and a dog and she'll have them whenever she pleases. The children themselves are now adults, although their behavior is still petulant and infantile, having known nothing of life except games and the large garden. One is left ultimately wondering why the family set off on this extraordinary experiment. Dad holds down his normal job, but obviously relishes coming home to his family. Mum seems happy surrounding by her adult children who won't ever leave her. There is abuse here, the children are lied to, and there are scars (although it is unclear whether the adults do this, or the children do it to each other), but there is also a toxic love and a despair with the wider world. In this the film is similar to Michael Haneke's Seventh Continent.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.