Sunday, 18 July 2010

The old magician and the curious boy

I remember Michael Caine saying (in an interview, I haven't spoken to him) that Is Anybody There? is the first time he'd died in a film. Not shot or blown up or run over, just died from being old. It's a film completely occupied with death. Morbid and funny and sometimes morbidly funny. An eleven-year-old boy lives in an old people's home and has to put up with people dying all around him. As this becomes a part of his life he attempts to understand it, asking questions about 'bright lights' and 'long tunnels'. He approaches it with a child's eye for magic. He talks about ghosts and spirits and seances and says that 'it can't just be black'. Michael Caine, an aging magician, shows him exactly how magic works. It's by sleight of hand and tricks of perspective, its methodical and simple. Magic doesn't exist. The boy's wonder is ruined and he no longer asks any questions. He can even do the card tricks himself. This link between a magician's art and a child's magic was an interesting approach, something I hadn't seen before. But after all, the adults can't really answer the boy's questions, they just stop him asking.

As a film it seems to have strange pacing. Everything goes downhill quickly at the end, like somebody flicked a switch. Maybe it was to cut everything off at the end without emphasis, but after a long build-up it goes out very quietly. Obviously there's something very quiet about the whole film. It's a British indie sort-of-thing that'll do exactly what it wants. Not entirely depressing, just not cheerful. You probably shouldn't watch it if you feel a bit ill, it'll just make you worse. Watch something a bit happier. Maybe a musical.

1 comment:

  1. I was curious about this, but it sounds like something to watch if one is TOO cheerful, which I am not.