Saturated with too many pieces of news, fake news, bad news, and the empty space of no news, I made the mistake of opening and viewing one of my Christmas presents, a DVD of Brave New World, with John Hurt being tortured before the final scene with the rats. Not what you might call easy viewing, but although I’ve read the book (hasn’t everyone?) I still wasn’t prepared for the ending.
My next mistake was to catch The Silence of the Lambs the next night, which I did have the sense to turn off, one flayed body in a derelict car being enough to be going on with. Immersing oneself in horror is one way to avoid the real world. Hopkins is a brilliant actor and Jodie Foster matches him scene for scene, but it’s an incredibly nasty film.
Yet I imagine that across the land Covid is presenting us with equally gruesome and gut-churning scenes, as exhausted health practitioners grapple with the effects of the virus. So should I have chosen to watch a light-hearted comedy or romance? Perhaps.
Last night’s concluding episode of Black Narcissus, filmed on location in Nepal in a fabulous deserted monastery, promised much but didn’t deliver the full menu, just the hors oeuvres. There were so many themes – repressed sexuality, colonialism, religious self-denial, the caste system, rivalry – that the choice felt overwhelming, and several stories were begun but not continued. What happened to the little boy? The angry villagers? The holy man? It’s not that I need everything to be tied up neatly but for me, there were too many loose ends.
Sometimes less really is more. I remember staying on a hill farm in Lancashire just after the new lambs had been taken away, and listening to the cries of the ewes all night as they called to their lost babies. Now that was the real Silence of the Lambs.