Skeletons – Pastoral Preternatural Fiction and a World, Time and Place of its Own Imagining: Chapter 42 Book Images

  • Skeletons-Nick Whitfield-Soda Films-A Year In The CountrySkeletons is a film by Nick Whitfield. It is something of a gem in amongst British film, one which in part deals with the sense of loss associated with unrecapturable moments and people in our lives and the way in which we may wish to try and revisit the gossamer strands of those now gone times.

    However, it is not a heavy or dark view, but rather it is humorous, touching, fantastical and intriguing.

    The plot involves two suited, slightly shabby (or even seedy in one case), privately-contracted investigators who walk through the British countryside to visit couples and others who want to exhume and clear out the secrets and skeletons in one another’s closets before for example getting married.

    This is done via visiting a form of portals to the couples’ histories, that are accessed through the cupboards in their houses and which allow the investigators to view and experience the hidden parts of their customers lives.

    The Wall-Die Wand-Roman Posler-Martina Gedeck-film poster 2012

    It is a curious item amongst British film; one which at first glance has some visual similarities with realist film but which is actually a journey through a fantastical world, one that is set alongside but slightly apart from the real world.

    In this sense it could be linked to a film such as 2012’s The Wall/Die Wand where a lone inhabitant is trapped by an invisible barrier in a rural location, while all of the outside world has been frozen in time; both that film and Skeletons are pastoral science fiction as a genre, set in a landscape where the fantastic happens/has happened but where the reasons, whys and wherefores are not fully explained.

    Ghostbusters-1984-landscape film poster

    “It has also been described as a very British Ghostbusters (1984), which is rather apt; if you were to put the comedic paranormal investigators story of Ghostbusters through a British pastoral and independent film filter, it might just come out a little like this.

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    Provisionally Skeletons appears to be set in contemporary times but there are a number of pointers and signifiers which also set it aside from today: the instruments the investigators use could be post war, the suits they wear are contemporary-ish, while the aprons and goggles they don for protection when carrying out their viewing seem to hark back to some earlier possibly mid-twentieth century industrial Britain.

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    Further reflecting this mixing of the styles and artifacts of different time periods their boss could have tumbled from the parade ground of a 1960s comedy (and is a standout turn with his clipped parade ground manner) but there are no mobile phones or computers and we hardly see a car. It is now, but not.

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    “One of the only references to modernity are the power station cooling towers that background one of the investigator’s homes but even then what decade are we in?

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    Skeletons shares some common ground with the 1979-1982 British television series Sapphire & Steel. This does not appear to be a deliberate connection or point of reference and when director Nick Whitfield was asked about it at a post screening Q&A he said that he was aware of the series but could not remember it particularly.

    Both Sapphire & Steel and Skeletons deal with a pairing of investigators who in some ways could be said to be working with problems based around a modern updating of supernatural concerns and stories…

    …both seem to exist in relatively isolated worlds of their own imagining, ones where the outside or wider world rarely intrudes. Connected to this, geographically Sapphire & Steel and Skeletons tend to take place in isolated spaces or those that are removed from the wider world.

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 42 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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