2/5/15

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD (2006)

Written by Greigh Johanson

When it comes to British film directors, then Simon Rumley become one of my big ones. I discovered him in my favorite sequence "Bitch" from the anthology Little Deaths and later I stepped down into his filmography to discover Red White & Blue, and then I became quite enamored. The third film was The Living and the Dead, a film which I think means a lot to him personally, because it's dedicated to his parents, Sheila and David. Simon's father died of a sudden heart attack and three months later, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and died. Much of the film reflects on his parents' death.


In a decaying mansion in England, Donald Brocklebank lives with his very sick wife Nancy, and their schizophrenic son James who need to eat several pills a day to stay calm. Donald is completely broke because of Nancy's and his sons medical treatment and he has now been pushed into selling his mansion. One day Donald need to trip to London to do business and to call the nurse Mary. Now James decides to prove to his father that he is capable enough to take care of his mother and close all entrances to the house. By mistake, he gives his mother an overdose of pills and expect it to heal her illness, but Nancy dies. At the funeral James remains another problem, which makes his father Donald crazy as hell.

Rumley mixes the most nightmarish and disturbing aspects of Stephen King's "Misery", Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" and Harmony Korine's "Julien Donkey Boy". Even some of the film's surrealism refers to the frightening sequences from Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream". Either you will love it or hate it. It has brought mixed reactions from the audience when it comes to the harrowing journey into madness. The script connects reality and madness in an environment of nightmares, and the viewer must be focused to succeed understanding its entirety.

The actor Leo Bill who plays James has received mixed reviews by many spectators. Some think he's really amazing and other doesn't think he's credible at all. Personally I think he is quite good, but of course, you will see that it's spectacle behind his actions. Schizophrenia is one of the most inexplicable illnesses, so I understand that it 's difficult to act sufficiently credible as a non-sick person. A psychosis is played out in so very many ways despite the fact that people who are actually sick, have a tendency to exaggerate their own illness.

I like Rumley's fascination for fast movements and my absolute favorite sequence is when James neglects his medication and starts to hallucinate. This scene is really intense and filled with a beautiful and executed surrealism that triggers my brain in high gear. There will be no worse then when Leo Bill actually penetrates his skin with needles for real. It's an authentic scene that Leo Bill did to make it look as believable as possible.


Did you know that "The Longleigh House" as the film is set in, was an active hospital during the First World War? Afterwards, the building has been a boys' school, as well as a drugrehabilitation clinic. Local reports say that the house contains at least three ghosts today; an old woman, a soldier and a child. The house looks really scary and helps us spectators to fill the right feeling from a genuine horror-filled atmosphere.



The Living and the Dead makes a very strong statement and I would urge anyone with an interest in psychiatry to watch this movie. It's definitely not meant to everyone, so be prepared for a thoughtful and gloomy night you may not have been in for a very long time.



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