Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dreams of a Life- A film by Carol Morley

Guess what…I’m probably not going to watch Prometheus even though Fassbender was a great Rochester in last year’s Jane Eyre (jump here for my review) and I may one day watch him playing a sex addict in that film called something or other with Carey ‘in absolutely everything’ Mulligan. Sorry if you landed here expecting that review. I’ve only just joined Lovefilm after a brief flirtation with Greenwich Picturehouse.

Instead I'm going to share a moment a few months back in which I watched Channel Four’s ‘Fresh Meat’, had many hilarious flashbacks to being a fresher at Uni, momentarily felt a bit old and then really thought Zawe Ashton was the best and funniest one and then stumbled upon a docufilm she was in around the same time. Are you still with me?

It was called ‘Dreams of a Life’ and based on the true story of a lady who died alone and wasn’t found for three years in a flat in North London, not a weird loner or outcast but instead an attractive, sociable person. The alluring and mysterious Joyce Vincent would probably never have been on a social network but for some strange reason, this odd film was a stark reminder of the superficiality of facebook every now and then; dilemmas of identity, superficial contacts, surprises, conflicts of personal over professional life,  reminders of birthdays and crappy jobs. Not wishing to feed the troll that is that infamous network, people that think they know you but never really will beyond some surface observation they’ve made or you’ve cooked up wanting to promote via your status update. This woman's life ended in a time before we all muddied our own up with online personas.

So Joyce’s secretive life was prior to mass cyber socialising, they must have had to scrabble about a bit to find people that really knew her (no sarcasm intended) because it was like the filmmaker Morley had raided her ‘Top Friends’. We all know they never really are your friends; they are just the ones most active that can be bothered to add that app. This just highlighted the tragedy; nobody really seemed to know Joyce or understand how she slipped through society and the welfare state, why a woman outwardly glamorous as she was, yet towards the end of her life, was a cleaner and named her bank manager as her next of kin when admitted into hospital. Not a single member of her family were interviewed and the main stay of the cinematic portrayal of Joyce’s life was an ex boyfriend that looked like he might have added her over and over again on a social network.

The film was endearingly clumsy, there were bits where you weren’t sure if it was actors or real people, accounts from minor celebs and an overwhelming sadness at outward appearance over truth. Her life appeared to be a collection of ‘moments’ hiding a lonely and troubled existence with dreams only partially made. And the big mystery was; how could someone die on their sofa, having wrapped up Christmas presents for her friends and not be found or missed for three years?

Well guess what again…I think quite easily. Because this was at the start of an era where friendship has become lazy and modern life is a testimony to loneliness and show. And significantly, she was estranged from her family. And significantly, she lived in a flat in a very transient part of London where people would easily walk past a flat, smell a decaying body and walk on. Her television was on for the entire three years; perhaps if it hadn’t been, someone may have knocked and asked why she wasn’t watching Big Brother. Who knows?

It is a blundering yet beautiful film of morose speculation which does make you think and hangs around in your mind a while after, the beauty of Joyce alongside the horror of decay on many levels, literally in her death and metaphorically in the diminishing web of social contact. If you died in a mysterious way and someone made a docufilm, who would come forward to try and piece your life together? This kept me awake for a while.

It was kind of like watching a Crimewatch reconstruction in places and instilled a need to catch up on old friends and make sure they are alive. It also might make you want to not die in a mysterious way but leave a really long letter or a smart yet devastating blog post at the very least. Nothing narcissistic to see here then.

Watch it and trust me. It will make you think and move you. Then click on 'Fresh Meat' which makes you do nothing of the sort but is brillo.

In a related televisual incident, the beebs Lip Service was also good. Kind of that 90’s thing ‘This Life’ but with lesbians. Phwoaaaaaaar (suddenly need an immature emoticon). More seriously though, it was a detailed portrayal of female dynamics and relationships and (imo)  survived the loss of two major characters.  Here's hoping BBC3 come back with another series. I think HBO may buy it and make it into more of a male fantasy at some point though which would be major pity.

*Dedicated to the lovely friend who sat through 'Dreams of a Life' and its surprisingly funny 'extras' with me and who’s having a rubbishy time right now…mwahs to you x

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