Wednesday, 22 October 2008

I, precarious

I saw Dead Man's Shoes last night. Nasty, brutal, utterly compelling film - I'd strongly recommend it if you like your films to be nasty, brutal and utterly compelling.

What was of particular interest for me was a certain dichotomy - that of ruthless, cold reason, against a desperate and frightening loss of rationality. This dichotomy existed both within specific individuals, and in opposing groups of people, which made for quite a powerful element of psychodrama as the sequence of dark events unfolded.

The narrative skilfully made room for the viewer (well, me anyway) to be able to extend a sense of empathy to the central figure, despite the fact that he was out to seek murderous revenge. That empathy was to be necessarily checked later on, but it served to cast light on how a particular event - or sequence of events - can cause a person to take a certain path, dramatically repositioned outside the realms of the everyday.

But this is the key to its strength for me - that ability to draw one in, and to make one ask, under such desperate circumstances, could that be me ? Could I take that course of action, fully mindful of the likely consequences?

It also made me think - perhaps a little tangentially - of the TV film Threads, made in the middle of 80s nuclear-attack paranoia, about the aftermath of such a cataclysmic event.

I don't actually remember much about it - and I'm not vouching for its quality or lack of - but the salient point here is the title, and what it refers to: the notion that everyday, ordinary life (whatever that is) is held together only by delicate little strands, which could break at any moment in the face of certain events. After which chaos and disorder ensues, both within and outside the self.

All of which is way too ridiculously grandiose for the point of what this post was originally going to be about (namely, me), and as such I may well have just written myself into a corner.


Well anyway. At the weekend, my mind was brimming over with thoughts about two situations which have occurred in very recent days. These are both related to my employment, but there any similarity ends between them (except that also I won't mention any details about either, since they're necessarily confidential in nature). All I can say really is that both, had they been handled differently, could have been quite pivotal for all concerned.

My sense of preoccupation, such that it was, was about the sheer sense of potential that these two situations carried. I'm not talking about potential in a positive way either: in the one case especially, had things happened in a certain way, there could have been a notable impact both on myself and on a number of other individuals. Over the weekend I still had room for an element of doubt as to how well that situation had been resolved, and so it gave me the space in which to project forward any number of possible scenarios.

Not a great place to be.

Thankfully it turned out fine, but that window of tangible uncertainty allowed enough space to get more than a glimpse of huge changes, of normality rent asunder. It reminded me just how vulnerable and precarious one can feel, or can actually be: often without realising it. I'm still feeling the aftermath of this sense of precariousness.

It was a disturbing blip, which reminded me of a rather humdrum train journey one Friday evening: I was sat in a crowded compartment, full of what looked like businessmen/women, office workers and so on. All sorts of conversations were taking place about finance, accounts, deals in this and that. My eyes rested on a group of four such people sat facing each other just ahead of me: smart in their suits and ties and accessories, and emblematic of so much that I just could not identify with.

I remember actually delighting in finding them irritating as they waffled on about things which I neither knew nor cared about. It all seemed so mundane to me, so ordinary and downright dull.

And then one of them just froze. He looked like he'd got the thousand yard stare - glazed over, impenetrable. He started shaking violently, hands and jaw clenched. Saliva dripping from his mouth. The atmosphere in the carriage swiftly changed as more people saw this happening.

In the moment between witnessing this and realising that he must be having some sort of epileptic seizure (his colleagues were calm and unfazed), there was such a huge gulf between my prior thoughts and assumptions and what was unfolding before me, that it seemed as though someone had just made a big rip in the fabric of that point in space and time.

As with these work-related situations which I've had to be annoyingly vague about here, it served as a wake up call in terms of taking certain things for granted.


Fire Byrd said...

Not the sort of wake up call you wanted, but a timely reminder perhaps that we spend our lives making assumptions and preconceptions about situations and people. And just sometimes maybe we should stop and check it out before we vere into paranoia about the world and what it wants from us.
I hope you're feeling clearer in yourself now you have articulated these thoughts.

trousers said...

Most definitely, fire byrd.
I am clearer, thanks: hindsight is helpful as always, and I'm able to carry many positives from this.

I hope, with your last sentence, that it suggests this piece isn't as jumbled as I thought it might be :)

zola a social thing said...

Was this film nasty and brutal AND short?
Or was it a kind of long-term thing?

Janette Jones said...

ah 'God will forgive them and allow them into heaven. I can't do that' You have excellent taste, trousers, Dead Man Shoes, is one of my favourite films. If you watch the extras on the DVD, Shane Meadows explains the whole theory behind the film. The fact that the lead character is essentially only afflicting the same pain on the gang, as they did on his brother. I heart Shane Meadows!

Merkin said...

Perhaps, everyone is capable of anything given the 'right' circumstances.

trousers said...

zola, it was around 86 minutes. But, as you'll be well aware, it's really not about the running time...

janette, yes I looked at the extras earlier, and it's all fascinating stuff, most definitely.

But of course I have excellent taste, how could you doubt it? Oh, alright...It's actually through a series of connections with Matlock/Matlock Bath - especially recent walks - that I ended up being led to the film (and not just some kind of aesthetic sensibility).

merk, this is indeed an exploration of the "right" circumstances. For me, it's that word, potential.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Trews

I've had a couple of situations in the last week where things were ducky until they weren't. What struck me is the inability of most people to solve a problem, or even look at it critically. That work crises have such potential, as you say, to explode suggests to me that the skill of being able to calmly unpack the components of a difficulty and reassemble them in the correct order is one that needs to be relearned by everyone.



Reading the Signs said...

Great post, Trousers. So much of this resonates - feels true about the sense I also have of things being held together by "delicate little strands, which could break at any moment in the face of certain events."

I think it's why we (I don't mean me in particular) have to keep writing stories; to explore the "what if" - to find a way of containing it.

I'm a bit of a wimp about nasty and brutal films. But now I want to see Dead Man's Shoes.

Merkin said...

Never mind nasty, brutish and short - did you see the cats in the parking lot?

Now, that is wicked.

Wow wow wow

The capcha reads 'monyin'.


Monyin was a slightly disadvantaged individual who lived in the Isle of Mull when I worked there as a student.

The locals teased him all the time.
Maybe I will write a story about it, one time.

trousers said...

Excellently put, pants. I seem, overall, to be able to play my part in dealing with such crises - but at times like the ones alluded to in the post, I do feel so - well, precarious.

Thank you signs, and I find myself nodding at your "what if" thoughts, in terms of writing. If ever I were going to write, I feel as though it would be in that territory, exploring some personal "what ifs". Oh, and I think what makes "Dead Man's Shoes" as good as I think it is, is not so much the brutality, but the quality of the performances in conveying that brutality (and the rest).

merk, , that's an excellent and bizarre photograph and I would recommend any further visitors to this thread, to follow that link!

And, as always, if you have any stories to tell, please tell them...