You want dark? Try Bergman…or Larkin

October 25, 2008 at 11:28 am (cinema, hell, Jim D, literature)

Film critic Peter Bradshaw has been musing on the “darkness” of recent fillums:

“There’s The Dark Knight, the latest, madly successful Batman movie; it’s nothing to do with the camp silliness of the 60s TV show or even the relative gaiety of the Tim Burton movies. This Batman returns the film franchise to the crepuscular gloom of the original comic book…Dark is absolutely de rigueur for superhero movies nowadays.

“Spider-man is relentlessly angst-ridden and the first X-Men film actually began at the gates of Auschwitz.

“Or there’s Harry Potter, something else for which the brightness dial is twisted resolutely anti-clockwise…because Harry has grown up, you see.

“Then of course there’s James Bond. When Roger Moore had the job – and indeed when Sean Connery did – you would get the odd quip, the flirtatious interlude with Moneypenny, and each and every violent encounter would be topped off with a nonchalant wisecrack…But the new 007, Quantum of Solace starring Daniel Craig, there are no jokes, no smart remarks. Bond is just a ruthless killer, driven by rage…

“Dark equals grownup; dark equals sexy, dark equals real. Dark is the new black.

“Or is it? I can’t help thinking that these movies aren’t really dark.

“You want dark? We’ll rent a DVD of Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers and afrerwards I’ll read aloud Philip Larkin’s poem Aubade. There – that’s really dark.

“A couple of lines of Aubade will make Christian Bale’s Batman whimper with fear, or it would if he’s got any sense…”

So let’s put it to the test:

Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not used, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:
But at the total emptiness forever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says no rational being
Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing
that this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no-one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Bloody hell! I think Bradshaw’s got a point. Anyone for Bergman?


  1. Ed said,

    Peter Bradshaw is a pretentious moron.

  2. charliethechulo said,

    The miserable sod’s “lost tapes”:

  3. KB Player said,

    Heads in the Women’s Ward

    On pillow after pillow lies
    The wild white hair and staring eyes;
    Jaws stand open; necks are stretched
    With every tendon sharply sketched;
    A bearded mouth talks silently
    To someone no one else can see.

    Sixty years ago they smiled
    At lover, husband, first-born child.

    Smiles are for youth. For old age come
    Death’s terror and delirium.

    Larkin – He could certainly write them, the old misery.

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