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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A Film in Dark Times

The camera is pointed at the window, out of which we see a moonless night and an empty street with one flickering streetlamp. In the center of the street a figure is approaching. It is a long way off yet, but just by the heavy insistence of its steps we are sure that it is headed for us. Urgent music is playing as evidence—a choral piece like that one from the Lord of the Rings, “Knife in the Dark,” which starts off slow and brooding with the timpani drum and the choir in hushed voices delivering an indecipherable message in Tolkien’s invented Adûnaic, but which builds into a vocal intensity that never seems to tip over into a climax. It’s terrifying and makes you think of cosmic battles and Lovecraftian secrets. The figure is getting closer. We begin to grow uncertain about just what it is; its contours are shifting and unstable. Then, as it reaches about midway down the street—and this is after some two full minutes of shooting—the camera pans to the side of the window, then down along the wall until it hits the floorboards. 

There, we see a mouse. It is backgrounded by white wainscoting and is crouched on all fours. It seems to be listening to the music. Its eyes are shut tight, as though in concentration, and its head is bobbing along with the insistent beat. The camera zooms in. The mouse seems to be oblivious of everything but the music, which at the moment has achieved a frantic new height and which we now discern is in Latin. He is coming, we might translate; he is coming for my soul. With its little whiskers a-twitch, its hands squeezed into fists, the mouse mouths the choir’s words and its little nose goes up and down in rhythm. The camera just lingers. The mouse is so earnest; it does not know what is coming, it does not know we are there.

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