Sunday, May 08, 2005

When I was about 8, my grandfather was unexpectedly knocked down and instantly killed while crossing the road. Just before his funeral, my grandmother, who wasn't really thinking straight, took me to see his body, laid out in his coffin. Two particular aspects of this freaked me out - first it was surrounded by elderly people, crying and it was the first time I had seen grown-ups cry. And second, I barely recognised my grandfather - he looked so different and grey when dead. Needless to say I had some sort of hysterical attack and had to be taken home.

My grandmother moved into a flat to be closer to my parents, and occasionally, at weekends I was allowed to stay overnight, as my parents also had a 3 year old toddler to contend with, who was a bit of a handful. I used to like staying overnight because my grandmother doted on me and spoilt me, cooking me porridge with sugar and jam in for breakfast, warming my clothes on the radiator before I put them on in the morning, and best of all letting me stay up late to watch tv, way past my usual bedtime (which was about 7.30 pm)

During one of those late night bouts of tv I watched The Hammer House of Horror on ITV (the one where Diana Dors is matriarch to a family of werewolves). And during another, I saw a short Spanish film called La Cabina on BBC2. Everyone I know who saw it was really affected by it, for years and years afterwards. It is probably the most disturbing thing I've ever watched. It's very simple to explain the story. A man enters a telephone box which doesn't work. The door quietly closes behind him, and he realises he is trapped. A crowd of people gather to watch, laughing at him and enjoying his predicament. Various people try to break down the door but none of them succeed. Eventually some men from the telephone company come, load the box onto the back of a truck and drive off with him. They drive through the town and into the countryside. On the way he witnesses various incidents - a funeral with a glass coffin, some sad clowns holding a ship in a bottle, another man trapped in a telephone box, on top of another van. Eventually he is taken into a huge underground factory, the box goes along a conveyor belt and is left in a room - full of other telephone boxes, all containing dead bodies. The man sinks to the ground in despair. The film ends with another telephone box being set up in the same place.

This film and seeing my dead grandfather are both linked in my mind as two of the most horrible things that happened to me as a child. Of course, now as an adult I can appreciate all the subtleties and metaphors in the film - how it has a lot to say about the human condition, communcation, isolation etc. But with that said, it still disturbs and upsets me to watch.


matty said...

Oh, that is so sad. I hate it when adults feel it important to have a child see a loved one "in state" --- I mean it is upsetting enough when you're an adult much less a child still aborbing the horrors of this world.

And, don't even get me started on the horror of Diana Doors! Tho, I guess I sort of love to not like her. But I've never seen the film you mentioned.

Lubin said...

To be fair on her, she was in shock herself and not really thinking straight. The Diana Dors film is called Children of the Full Moon - it's available on DVD along with the the other Hammer House of Horror series. Worth it for a hammy night in.