For the next six weeks, because of various commitments, I’ll not be able to give as much time to these posts as I’ve previously been able to (oppressive academic concerns aside). Instead of essays, I’ll provide only a few clips of things that seem interesting.

I begin with this video, which is beautiful.

The more films I watch the more I notice that sometimes I’m approaching them backwards: I’ve often seen the parody before I’ve seen the picture itself. When I first saw Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), for example, I found it was quickly coloured yellow, as Homer Simpson’s take on George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) came to mind.

In fact, The Simpsons becomes consistently richer the more films I see. References to America’s cinematic heritage appear not only in episode-long treatments of certain pictures but also in the more fleeting echoes of a particular shot or character trait.

Here are some more examples.

I’ve been meaning to write about Werner Herzog for a few months. After a period of oppressive academic commitments, I was lucky enough to get away on Wednesday night to hear the director speak in Cadogan Hall in London. The event, entitled Filming the Abyss, was run by Intelligence² and put Herzog in conversation with Paul Holdengräber (the director of LIVE from the New York Public Library). As well as wide-ranging discussion, we were provided with short clips from his then unreleased new film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), as well as a picture that he is in the process of editing, which involves a series of interviews with members of the Texas 7. Cave of Forgotten Dreams opened on Friday and I saw the film on Sunday afternoon.

It’s perhaps the first film I’ve seen which uses 3d technology in a sophisticated way, justifying its appearance as a crucial element of the storytelling, rather than a hollow gimmick. The documentary tells us about the Chauvet caves in the south of France and the rock paintings contained therein (the oldest yet discovered). The horses, lions and other animals depicted all rely on the dimensions and contours of the rock for their elegance and a 3d presentation more fully recreates the total effect of the experience. In Herzog’s own words, the decision to shoot in 3d attempts to ‘capture the intentions of the painters’. As a technical exercise alone, it’s very impressive. The crew, limited to four men, was allowed only six four-hour shooting days; they used a 3d camera built especially for the project, which had to be assembled in the cave itself; they had to stay on a two foot wide walkway for the duration of their time.

And, after all this hard work, it is the caves and the paintings and the artists that are the stars. Most of the interviews and most of the narration is quite quickly forgotten (though there are a few crazy characters and a few striking phrases). The stalactites and stalagmites stunningly shimmer as Herzog (who’s operating the battery-powered handheld light) shines the beam onto the sculptures. Footprints, both animal and human, rest frozen, well preserved in the floor. A far-off wall (far away from the walkway) is spotted with red handprints. Charcoal-black horses seem to gallop across the rock, looming towards the viewer, while never losing their figures or becoming a series of lines. One of the most stunning creations is the form of a large male lion in profile, achieved simply with a single unbroken line.

These details hint at stories which are now impossible to uncover fully. A scientist points out two footprints that rest together. They were made by a wolf and a small child. We’re left to wonder how this formation came about: as Herzog muses, the animal may have been stalking its prey, though it could instead have been prowling beside the kid in friendship. It could also be the case that two moments separated by thousands of years have been juxtaposed together in calcite crystals. The red handprints, we are told, are all from one man: we can tell because he has a crooked little finger. Not only does this signature allow us to follow his path through the cave, as his handprint appears in other areas, but it also invites us to wonder what went on outside the cave that resulted in a broken bone.

If Herzog has a tell-tale little finger – a filmic signature – it may be an explicit suggestion that he knows when not to show us something. In Cave of Forgotten Dreams, his hand is somewhat forced by the limits of the walkway. There is a certain rock formation upon which is drawn the lower half of a woman fused with the upper half of an animal. But unfortunately the floor is too delicate and he must stay quite far back, showing us only one side of the three-dimensional structure. He attempts, with the aid of a camera on a stick, to reveal the other half, though this technique is only partly successful: some of the work remains hidden. In The White Diamond (2004), he soars above the forest canopies of Guyana but when the camera reaches the cave behind the overwhelming Kaieteur Falls, a space where the white-tipped swifts nest and local spirits rest, he refuses to show us the resulting footage (captured using similarly ingenious means, if my memory’s correct). When faced with the gruesome, he decides it’s better to turn away: in Grizzly Man (2005), he doesn’t play the audio recording of Timothy Treadwell getting eaten (and actually recommends destroying the tape entirely). In Cadogan Hall, he suggested that he knows what not to show, when it comes to his presentation of the Texas 7 on death row. He believes some of the details of the crimes are too revolting to bear repeating.

On a (slightly) lighter note, Herzog left the audience in London some homework. We were to watch a short by Ramin Bahrani called Plastic Bag (2009). Herzog provides the voice for the bag as it makes an epic journey to reach the Pacific Vortex. It’s elegant and entertaining and I think I’ll end with that.

I enjoy boxing. GORILLA productions frequently makes some excellent compilations celebrating particular boxers or particular bouts. The latest one I’ve seen is below (though I think you’ll have to click on the video to watch it on Youtube):

To use V.F. Perkins’s methodology for criticism, which suggests that you start with your intuition rather than with theory, I’d like to highlight a moment in the clip that captivates me, even though I’m not sure I can yet explain entirely why. At present, it’s enough to describe it briefly. At around 1.29, an overweight man – a promotor – with white hair tidily swept in a centre parting joyously swings his right arm. He comes soon after the voice over begins its emotive plea ‘to get up now’. He beams with delight as a boxer hits the canvas and the non-diegetic drums continue to crash. He fills the frame and moves surprisingly quickly within it. Perhaps he could have thrown a good hook in his youth, though we’re by no means sure. The gesture quickly passes and the moment is subsumed by the ruckus of the main event, the boxing itself. But this man sticks in my mind and his place in the video feels more enigmatic the more it’s considered.

In the apartment of Dix Steele (Humphrey Bogart), when she is first unnerved by the bang of a shoe hitting the floor, Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) hugs her borrowed copy of Althea Bruce all the tighter. After all, she is only lured to the building in the first place by an appealing narrative of a different sort. When she meets Dix, she is made to feel ‘real important’ and the attraction of being able to tell Aunt Cora that ‘I told the story to the screenwriter’ is simply too strong to resist. As she begins to question why Dix has brought her back to his house (and the truthfulness of his design becomes flimsily suspect), she literally clings to the solidarity of Althea Bruce, to the firmness of the form of the book. She fears trickery, as Dix’s suggestion of (a small piece of) screen fame threatens to fall to the floor as quickly as his shoes. Mildred worries, for a moment, that her newfound ability to tell a tale is a sham and that Dix only offers her this opportunity to get her into bed. The craft of story telling is at stake here, as well as the agency that comes from such narrating.

Of course, this scene in In A Lonely Place (1950) is uniquely poised in Nicholas Ray’s own retelling of Dorothy B. Hughes’s 1947 novel with the same title: for the other characters, all the ambiguity that surrounds the part Dix played in Mildred’s death stems from this meeting, from the undeniable fact that the pair go home together. Only two scenes later, the audience hears suspicion in Captain Lochner’s (Carl Benton Reid) voice: he thinks the decision to bring Mildred back home is a ‘rather eccentric thing to do’; throughout the film, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) suffers attrition from doubt, finally announcing to Sylvia Nicolai (Jeff Donnell) her belief that ‘There is something strange about Dix’, demanding to be convinced by her absent lover that Lochner’s intuition is wrong.

It is perhaps fair to suggest that most audience members do not suspect Dix as the murderer: they notice, for example, the lack of enthusiasm in his voice, as he changes the subject – raised by Mildred – as to whether he is ‘going steady’ with anyone. Though she cannot see his face, he nonetheless reveals that he is trying to make her leave with the nervousness of his eyes. It is as if he cannot even keep eye contact with a woman out of sight: his gaze moves briefly from pointing towards frame right to frame left before ducking down to his shoes (which he perhaps wishes he had kept on) and back up to its original position. He only looks up to her face when his suggestion of parting company is accepted with an enthusiastic (though slightly disappointed) ‘That’s alright’.

As Dix cheekily gestures her out of the door as quickly as possible, again without her seeing, he makes clear his desire to be separate from this woman. The non-diegetic strings also seem to will Mildred out of the house: her steps fall in time to the staccato notes, played at an allegro tempo. And yet the more relaxed and lulling wind instruments create a tone that suggests she is content. Furthermore, as she is stepping back into the courtyard, the instruments combine at a slightly slower tempo to produce a major keyed mellifluous tune that leads the audience to believe that, while the evening did not quite go to any plan, both characters are happy. The fade-out that ends the scene marks Dix’s retiring to bed and gives no indication that a crucial moment in the narrative occurs. It is the behaviour of Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy), rather than Dix, that brings the serenity of suggested sleep to an end: the replacement of non-diegetic with exclusively diegetic sound begins with the harsh buzz of a doorbell.

While the viewer may believe that the saxophone-heavy jazz band that begins with the fade-in is part of the non-diegetic soundtrack, she soon sees that it exists within the filmic world when Dix brings it to an end by switching off his record player.  Ray, here, may intend to trick the viewer, making her expect a sound to be non-diegetic before revealing it to be the opposite. This play with the soundscape allows a broader comment to be made with subtlety: the suspicion of Dix having committed the murder comes only from the characters within the film itself. The tone of the scene before (accompanied and generated by a harmonious soundtrack), is punctured by unseen actions – between the fade-out and fade-in – that take place within the film. With the seriousness of suspicion as the source of the scene (there is no other reason why Brub would visit Dix so early), it feels only fitting that the pragmatic question ‘who killed Mildred?’ does not allow room for non-essential elements. This particular morning is no time for music that sits outside the reality of murder.

The switch to a solely diegetic soundtrack comes to enact, at this moment, the different possibilities of interpretation afforded to the characters within the film and the audience watching it. While the viewer sees plainly that, in this instance, Dix cannot get away from Mildred fast enough, Brub is allowed no such luxury. Similarly, Lochner only has a hefty file of past offences and a suspicious set of circumstances from which to begin. Even Laurel gets nothing more than a fragment: the audience can only be sure that she hears Mildred’s dramatic ‘Help! Help!’ Ray employs a form of dramatic irony (as the audience does not see the murder itself, though they do see the last moment of interaction between Dix and Mildred) which produces related though not identical questions from characters and viewers. While Brub wonders whether Dix killed Mildred, the audience, unconvinced that he did, asks a slightly different question: they are left wondering, especially when watching the film again, whether or not he could have done so. Ray’s (and Edmund North’s) treatment of Hughes’s novel transforms a relatively simple detective story, in which Dix does commit a murder, into a subtle psychological study and an investigation of possibility. The scene in Dix’s apartment with Mildred becomes crucial, then, not as a fertile ground for clues that help to make sense of an answer already given, but instead because it allows the viewer to probe whether there is a method in Dix’s madness.

What an ending. I was shocked and then delighted to see In A Lonely Place (1950) finish the way it does. Nicholas Ray silences the suggestion that the pictures produced in Hollywood’s Golden Age are unashamedly neat and formulaic by refusing to end the picture with a happy resolution (with the couple united) or, as Dorothy B. Hughes’s novel does, with an emphatically tragic one – with the murder of Laurel (Gloria Grahame). Indeed, the poster used for the original release advertises ‘the Bogart suspense picture with the surprise finish’ and the surprise may just be that the film just sort of stops. As ‘THE END’ appears and the frame fades to black, Dix (Humphrey Bogart), thoughtful and alone, wanders away from Laurel, his apartment and the camera (looking down at him from the first floor). He begins the film as a large pair of eyes in a car mirror, looking in the direction of the viewer (though not at her); by the end, he is like an ant, dwarfed by darkness and hiding his face.

We may perhaps infer that Laurel’s last view of Dix is this one (it’s certainly ours anyway). As he walks away, Dix is faceless. As I look again at the poster above, I notice that Bogart’s face is used as a selling point. It dwarfs Laurel and overwhelms the viewer. This face, Ray commented, is ‘an image of our condition’ and stands with an idiosyncratic and weathered appeal.  That which first drew Laurel’s attention – she tells the police inspector (Carl Benton Reid) that she found Dix’s face ‘interesting’ – is now withheld. As the poster shows, Bogart achieves a level of tenderness in his gaze that challenges Dix’s dangerous aggression. As he walks away, the painful thing, perhaps, is that Laurel is left only with an outline: she sees only the form of a man that she suspects is capable of murder and it is left unbalanced – unaccompanied – by Dix’s face and eyes. As he is consumed by the shadows and his boundaries break down, the specifics of his character are engulfed for Laurel by a general fear of his overwhelming psychosis.

Who is to blame for the way things turned out? It’s difficult to say and, in the end, I’m not sure it matters.

There’s a moment quite early on in Howard Hawks’s Bringing Up Baby (1938) when David (Cary Grant) drops his top hat. Immediately, Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) came to mind: Jefferson Smith (James Stuart) repeatedly fumbles with his hat when speaking to Susan Paine (Astrid Allwyn). These instances make me wonder if the hat – though not necessarily the top hat – is a recurring motif in Hollywood during the 30s and 40s? Off the top of my head, it could stand as an emblem of social convention (a hat should be doffed) and, at the same time, indicate the constraints and pressures of such demands (we hope it doesn’t fall off uninvited). I think more time and more viewings will tell.

If the hat is a frequently used symbol shared between many Hollywood films then it likely functions as an external image system. The term is borrowed from Story, Robert McKee’s practical screenwriting guide. He suggests such a system ‘takes a category that outside the film already has symbolic meaning and brings it in to mean the same thing in the film that it means outside.’ A national flag or a crucifix are other examples. I think, though, in Bringing Up Baby, Hawks also makes effective use of an internal image system to strengthen the sexual double entendre that begins in the dialogue. McKee defines an internal image system as a design that ‘takes a category that outside the film may or may not have a symbolic meaning attached to it but brings it into the film to give it an entirely new meaning appropriate to this film and this film alone.’ I believe the system centres around the titular baby: the notion of a leopard and its spots.

When Susan (Katherine Hepburn) asks David over the phone “Do you want a leopard?”, she is wearing a striking dress dotted with spots. When David arrives at the apartment, we notice that she has changed into a dress with stripes. On the one hand, Susan’s wardrobe binds her to Baby the leopard and his (or her?) animalism which is, in essence, both playful, forceful and sexual. On the other, we see quickly that this leopard is special: Susan can change her spots. Though, like Baby, she may balance sexuality and playfulness, she can also go beyond such drives, demonstrating an ability to control a situation: we notice that she lures David to the apartment through intelligent trickery rather than animal magnetism.

A network of related images extends from the central notion of a leopard and all the facets of its behaviour as an animal. When Susan comments “Don’t be silly David you can’t make a leopard stand still”, the incessant energy of the woman herself – revealed in her speech and her movements – comes to mind just as readily as the literal lost leopard. There is a sly nod to David’s sexual desires when he, rather than Susan, is linked to the beast. He warns Susan “never hang onto a leopard’s tail.” We remember the earlier scene in which Susan accidentally rips David’s suit: she backs away nervously (as David presses forward almost menacingly), explaining “I didn’t mean to. I’ve just been hanging on your coattails.” There’s a wonderful moment when David, seated on some stairs and dressed in a borrowed negligee, among much commotion caused by (almost) shouting women and a barking dog, quietly but explicitly demonstrates his animalism. He has tried and failed to interrupt the speech with human means – with language – so he sits, slumped, and simply hisses at the yapping dog. He hisses. In other words, he behaves like he suggests cats (of various sizes) will behave towards dogs when provoked.

There’s much more to say on this film. But here’s something to start.

 

It’s a commonplace of film theory that the gaze of a camera is more invasive than it is cooly objective. D.W. Griffith was aware of this tension. If A Drunkard’s Reformation (1909) represents his early faith in the power of cinema to produce moral improvement, presenting the titular drunkard’s reformation during a theatrical performance, by the production of his later picture True Heart Susie (1919), Griffith has tempered his enthusiasm for his medium and nuanced his understanding of the camera, an object that is morally ambiguous in its voyeurism.

We see, in Susie‘s closing scene, that Susie (Lillian Gash) finally kisses William (Robert Harron), her long-pursued childhood crush. She receives a peck in an intimate close two shot. The pair pull apart and we see amazement and pleasure on her face. Griffith, perhaps feeling that he is unjustly invading this private moment, pulls his camera back, reframing to a more discreet wide two shot. Finally, he cuts to an inter-title, entirely removing the pair from our (and the camera’s) gaze.

By forcing Susie and William’s absence upon us, Griffith acknowledges the transgressive nature of cinema. We are allowed to see the characters’ most intimate and private moments; this luxury becomes obvious when the embracing pair are removed from the silver screen, when we are not allowed to look.

In Patrick Keiller’s London (1994), many of the images are similarly – in fact, on occasion, more immediately – voyeuristic (in the etymological sense of to see without being seen). We watch a girl and a boy playing in the street with a crushed can, builders doing very little and the Queen Mother unveiling a statue to a crowd. The picture is a mosaic of shots captured on an almost always static camera with an unnamed narrator providing a commentary. The design is reminiscent of Chris Marker’s La jetée (1962), which consists almost entirely of still black-and-white photographs. It also brings to mind the tradition of cinema vérité. Keiller is unique, though, because he doesn’t seem to mind if his camera is detected. While it often isn’t, it certainly is from time to time. Passers-by glance down the barrel before walking on.

In fact, though, people don’t often figure in this picture. The majority of the shots are of London – its architecture, its literary curiosities and its banality – and the protagonists (the Narrator and Robinson) are both unseen. In this mode, the writer/director establishes another relationship between the camera and the subject matter that is interwoven with the more expected voyeuristic mode of filming. Every now and then we feel like the camera has arrived too late. When he speaks of meetings, we become aware that his cinema is one of absence. Like Griffith’s final inter-title, the Narrator provides a commentary on an event that is not to be seen. In a shopping mall, as the camera moves up an escalator, he mentions a friendly man with whom Robinson spent a few hours (though later, when he tried to call, he only reached a public telephone box). It’s jarring to realise that this event is long since passed and that all we are left with is second- (or third-) hand report.

The film is more engaging because of this shadowiness, a quality shared between the Narrator, Robinson and  many of the events detailed. Keiller sets up a trail to be followed, pynchonesque in its slipperiness and aptly suited to the Narrator’s theme of social degradation. The best has past or is, at least, not now.

At its opening, Intolerance seems unsure of what it’s supposed to be. An early inter-title introduces ‘our play’, linking the picture to a dramatic tradition, rather than a specifically filmic one, and the first shot is of a book entitled ‘INTOLERANCE’ being opened. The text inside is not a dramatic script but instead dense prose. Both these motifs (the borrowing of drama’s critical lexis and the bookending of a film with a book being opened and closed) are common in early pictures. Their presence suggests that cinematic art is, for Griffith at least, in part a textual one. Even his key image, the Eternal Mother rocking the cradle, which punctuates his picture and unites his four separate narratives, is drawn from poetry: a poem from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855) begins ‘Out of the cradle endlessly rocking’.

The qualifying phrase ‘for Griffith at least’ distinguishes D. W. from many of his contemporaries. He shoots differently from them: his camera is (on the whole) an objective one. By 1916, shooting and editing methods devoted to apparently invisible continuity and emotional subjectivity were already solidifying into convention. They appear in Danish films as early as 1912 and are built upon by American directors in the years that follow. Griffith, though, rarely uses either a point of view shot or a shot/reverse-shot structure (though he must have been aware of them). He is not concerned about the seams of his work showing.

Notice, for example, the discontinuity in the introduction of The Mountain Girl. Griffith begins with an inter-title (‘The Mountain Girl down from the mountains of Suisana’). There is then an iris wipe-in from the top left corner of the frame to a wide shot of an open area. The Girl is seated and occupies a space near the bottom right corner of the frame. There is then a cut to a close shot of The Girl, in the same position, with a slight angle change. There is finally a cut to a close up of The Girl, whose head is at an obviously different angle to the previous setups, in which she looks directly into the camera. Griffith achieves a distance between his audience and his picture with these techniques: his work strives for the spectacular (in its etymological sense of a public show that is to be observed) rather than attempting to draw the viewer into the narrative, engulfing her with emotion.

Any comments on the development of early filmmaking conventions must be tempered with an acknowledgement that many prints are no longer extant: Griffith was very likely not alone in his refusal to make trendy editing or shooting decisions. Equally, D. W. and whoever else worked as he did should not be condemned as primitive craftsmen, lagging behind cinematic developments. He makes a choice to ignore certain patterns; he is not ignorant of them. In Intolerance, the jaggedness of his cutting – the mismatches, the jumps and the changes of angle – achieves a tension within scenes which disregards apparent continuity. This aesthetic could perhaps stem from a belief that the whole is more important than the individual parts: that the subject of the piece is more important that the details that create it.

This editing style, if not perhaps the underlying aesthetic driving it, brings to mind the work of Godard, to pick only one of many later directors who turn away from Hollywood’s conventions of invisible editing. In his drive for a spectacle, Griffith is not afraid to move his camera every so often: there is what appears to be a crane shot that surveys much of Babylon at the beginning of Act II; within a splendid royal court of sixteenth century France, the camera pans right to show the viewer every corner of the room.

We notice too that, in an early scene involving The Little Dear One, Griffith intercuts a shot of The Dear One blowing a kiss to her departing father and a short of her returning to her house with a shot of two little chickens nuzzling with one another. Here is the whole above part aesthetic again and an example of montage (in the technical sense). The meaning is generated through the contiguity of the three shots, their juxtaposition next to each other. Association is championed rather than continuity and it is this sort of assemblage that was picked up by Russian experimental filmmakers after 1917.

Griffith did not invent montage. He did not pioneer the moving camera. He was not an intentionally revolutionary craftsman throughout his career. He would have us believe, though, that he was the most important director of his time (if not of all time). When he broke with Biograph, he announced his split on 3rd December 1913 with an advertisement in the New York Dramatic Mirror. It read:

D. W. GRIFFITH

Producer of all great Biograph successes,

Revolutionizing Motion picture drama

and founding the modern technique

of the art.

Notice that he looks both forward and back. He begins with the past, with ‘all great Biograph successes’. He does not yet feel confident to draw a distinction between moving pictures and ‘drama’: his wording suggests that the works we see on the screen are of the same aesthetic group as those we see on the stage. Yet he also believes that ‘Motion picture[s]’ may eventually be separated from other art forms: he looks to the future and to the development of ‘the modern technique’. Where he and works like Intolerance sit in the history of this process – the removal of film out from under the proscenium arch –  is more complex to locate than his advert suggests.

A friend of mine recently showed me Alexandra Monro + Sheila Menon’s short film No Way Through (2009). One of five winning scripts entered into Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s short film competition, the picture tries to ‘highlight […] mobility restrictions imposed in the West Bank, that are limiting its habitants’ access to health care, thus violating a fundamental human right.’ On the whole, it’s an effective film. You can watch it here: http://www.ctrlaltshift.co.uk/video/nowaythrough.

The picture is quickly rooted in London. We recognise the squashed together suburban housing of the opening and notice the almost obscured ‘LONDON’ on the front of Rob’s (Tim Plester) folded-over roadmap. Almost as quickly, we feel this is not the city we know; as Rob approaches a roadblock, rather than a hospital, greeted by armed guards, rather than paramedics, we begin to wonder where we are. Monro and Menon convincingly establish a sort of dystopian Never Never Land. Their London invites comparison with Gilliam’s unidentified city in Brazil (1985) or Jeunet and Caro’s post-apocalyptic France in Delicatessen (1991): all three films present, with varying emphasis, worlds that are both governed by seemingly strange political situations and at the mercy of authoritarian military control.

But Brazil has its steam-machines and Delicatessen has its cannibalism: these films make more telling comments than No Way Through because of their surface absurdity. There is, perhaps, in both the feature films, a moment of insight, when the distorted world of the picture snaps in line with ours. I’m avoiding phrases like ‘political comment’ because I’m not sure that Brazil or Delicatessen attempt to make any; it’s also reductive to root all the joys and questions that come from watching these films into a single ‘pop’ of realisation. Nonetheless, we’re sure that No Way Through has a political point to make. The directors outline it explicitly in their accompanying text.

The one weakness of the short is that Monro and Menon try to bring their dystopia too close to reality too quickly. The epiphanic ‘pop’ becomes instead an instance of dramatic irony. The pieces of graffiti really rubbed: ‘FREE PALESTINE’ written on corrugated iron, for example.

With this political signpost obviously positioned, we’re invited simply to join the dots. If references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are removed, though, notice how much freer we are to revel in the nightmare. The situation would seem so absurd that we would take solace only by thinking that it doesn’t really happen. (How, after all, is a crying child comforted after seeing a particularly scary film? ‘It’s only a film,’ The accompanying adult says. ‘It never really happened.’) Equally, a niggling notion that something like the situation presented on screen happens somewhere in the world is not the same: the loss of specificity is enough to maintain the illusion for a time.

Instead, then, of waiting for the text at the end of the film to explain the link already made between ‘PALESTINE’ and the picture we’re watching, the revelation would be more shocking and longer-lasting if this link were cut. We are told that ‘Around Jerusalem the average ambulance journey time for a Palestinian is now almost 2 hours, compared to 10 minutes in 2001.’ It’s fair to wonder how much more brutal the realisation would be if we weren’t already expecting this grim punch line.

Despite this one arguable point of structure, there are moments of wonderful craft in the picture. My favourite shot in the short is a beautiful image of Amy (Amy Loughton), bloodstained, looking through the car window. The camera is positioned above her and outside the vehicle so we’re presented at once with the girl and the city through the filter of the window.

It’s horrible to realise that Amy will die before she reaches hospital (and we have such a suspicion quite early on). We wonder what she’s thinking and we wonder whether the world reflected in the window is the one in which she wants to live. Just like a similar shot in Midnight Cowboy, Monro and Menon manage to blend Amy’s subjective experience and the objective reality in one shot, finding room for her implicit hopes alongside the grim actuality of her situation.