Sunday, 19 December 2010

OLDER HOUSES (John Hinckley, 1987)

A young man visits a childhood home.

'Crossing the road with several other people. The house where we lived between 8 and 14 is here, on a busy main road. In my dream, I know that we have sold part of the house to a young family, and that they will eventually have it all. This is simultaneously a recent event and from twenty years ago.

I retain hope that we can have the house back at some point. I walk up the driveway and meet the grandfather, a rugged Hemingway-a-like with soft eyes and a slight shyness. He is surrounded by playing children. He knows who I am, and upon seeing my excitement at seeing my old house becomes momentarily defensive. It is as if just a moment before he had been relaxed and playing, but now his friendliness is slightly forced. He invites me in, and in the hallway I see the father, who says hello shyly, but certainly with more warmth. He is red-headed and slim. He shows me around, tells me how much they love the place. Every improvement I notice that they have made causes him to point out great things we left behind, as if he doesn't want to upset my memory. I can already see that my idea that part of the house is still ours is misguided, as they have filled or redecorated every room I see. The father makes noises about how I can stay whenever I like for as long as I like, as it is still my house, but through his sweetness I can see that this makes him uncomfortable, and although I'm convinced of the genuineness of the offer, I know that he'd rather I go. We walk through the long kitchen, and I can see the changes we made, like putting the sink by the back window, have already gone.

We walk into the back garden, where I notice the neighbour's house has been changed, from a neat large semi-detached brick house into something huge and somehow scary; much has been cutaway, leaving a large carport area, and the back lawn has been carved into rutted roads. They have some kind of business there. I reminisce aloud about kicking footballs over the fence and sneaking into the allotments to retrieve them, and the man laughs politely.

Then the mother emerges from the house. She is red-headed too, curvy, and wearing a purple velvet dressing gown. She doesn't appear to recognise me, and her demeanour is dreamy and confused, as if she is sick or drunk. The grandfather shepherds the children inside sadly, and this alerts me to a family politic I cannot identify. I tell the woman who I am, and she smiles as if to say 'of course I knew'. She starts talking about how much she loves the house and how beautiful she remembers my mother and family being, before drifting off into elliptical reveries that make little sense. I sense that while the men in the family love her dearly, they are somewhat embarrassed of her, as her conduct is not quiet, but I sense her frustrations with this and sympathise silently. She excitedly tells me about a game she plays on her computer, and that I should play it on mine. She gives a full account of her scores and statistics, assuring me that it is impressive. She looks at me, lingeringly, and I look away, but then look back again an hold the stare. Words are jumbled, but a message skims through, as if telepathically: She likes me. She is sorry they took our house. It is OK, I attempt to communicate. It is silly of me to want something back that is really theirs now. It dawns on me that the house is gone, and that I am happy that nice people have it. Through her distant daze, the woman somehow understands this far more intuitively than anyone else.

I follow her to an unrecognized part of the house, a darkened ground floor bedroom that I'm convinced doesn't exist; this also helps me to feel that it is hidden somehow, and safe. She pulls me onto the bed into a long embrace.'

Older Houses Directed by John Hinckley Produced by John Hinckley Written by John Hinckley Starring James Horston, Sam Nicholas, Lou Longshoot, Bob Fields St Nic Films 65 mins Release date UK: Sept 1987. Tagline: None.

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