Around the desk at which I work, are piles and piles of folders, notes, clippings and sheets; some of film projects that I’m working on, many others of cinematic progeny that I’ve yet to send to school. On this computer, I have folder and file upon folder and file, containing more abandoned creative offspring, left to become something one day, maybe go nowhere or be there when a file attracts my attention and, like an old box in a store cupboard, I open it to find one or two little trinkets and baubles inside.
Here’s the contents of one such “untitled” file that I stumbled across today:
“An old man and his daughter quietly about on the River in a small wooden
boat at night in the fog. They pull a sodden body from the water. The old man
takes any untraceable valuables that are found on the body: cash and jewellery
and then delivers the cadaver to the back door of an old-fashioned Funeral Parlour.
The body is then picked up and taken to another place where the stomach
is sliced open and bags of drugs are extracted. From here the body is removed
to a further place where the organs are taken. The body is then disposed of”.
I then wrote “Red Chinese firecrackers. Green poison. Gunther Von Hagens”.
A grusome little piece, I grant you. Suitably Victorian Gothic, both grotesque and yet exotic, words that remind me of the typical clues given to Sherlock Holmes at the outset of an enquiry that would see he and the trusted Watson a-foot through wispy lanes in London’s Spitalfields or dashing to Paddington Station to catch the 4.50 to somewhere on Dartmoor, once the great Holmes has realised that another life is in peril and only he can stop the murderer.
In my mind, I see Watson deferring to his intellectual friend, asking “who is Gunther von Hagens?”
Let me handle this one. Gunter von Hagens is a 65 year-old German anatomist, famous or infamous, for his invention of a technique used to preserve biological tissue specimens (and bodies) called ‘plasticination’.
In 2002, when I was back home for the first time in a long time, Prof von Hagens performed the first public autopsy in the UK for 170 years to a sell-out crowd” at London’s Atlantis (art) gallery. The procedure was relayed to the 500 on giant screens within the East End location, whilst 200 more disappointed hopefuls, stood outside in the rain, having turned up on the off chance that they might spring a ticket; the unsatisfied waiting list for seat was more than 1,000.
Professor von Hagen defied warnings from Scotland Yard, HM Inspector of Anatomy and a vast hue & cry from affronted members of England’s decent, yet “outraged” middle class.
“After opening the corpse’s chest, Prof von Hagens stuck his hand in deep and with the help of a colleague, pulled out a huge portion of innards. He declared, ‘I have liberated the lungs and the heart’. Many of the audience covered their mouths and noses as the stench from the body filled the auditorium.”
A year of two later, aptly, in the East End of London, somewhere in the once-grisly neighbourhood of Whitechapel, von Hagens toured his Köperwelten (Body Worlds) exhibition; a collection of preserved human bodies and body parts, all plasticinated. Over 500,000 people paid “the ferryman” more than a simple coin or two to temporarily cross the River Styx and enter von Hagen’s “underworld”.
Two people attacked the exhibits, prompting commentators to ask if the British are more squeamish about death than other nationalities?
Day #168 Tip: Save everything you write
I would like today’s tip to be about encouraging everyone to embrace the dark arts, like I’m a chum of Professor Snape or Draco Malfoy or something. A learn’ed man once pointed out to me that those who shy away from "difficult" material in films, claiming “I have enough of that in real life” are often found to have nothing like that at all going on in “real life” at all, whatever dimension that might be? A healthy relationship with the dark arts, the shadow world, is a good thing.
But alas, my tip today is more prosaic, less expressive: keep everything, throw nothing away, you never know when things/ideas are ready to bear fruit and it is always a great pleasure to stumble across an old friend of a thought and reacquaint oneself with a little rough pebble of a premise...even if it was dragged from a murky river.
The discarded and the "dead" often have plenty tell us