Loving Memory (1971)

Loving Memory (1971)

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I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.
I bet he drinks Carling Black Label.

Twitter Plot Summary: A young man on a bike is accidentally killed by a car. The couple in said car take his body home. She sits there talking to him. Very odd.

Genre: Drama

Director: Tony Scott

Key Cast: David Pugh, Roy Evans, Rosamund Greenwood

Five Point Summary:

1. Bam! He dead!

2. They’re a very odd couple.

3. She’s talking to a corpse. That’s not right.

4. You know what, he looks nothing like the dead brother. Just saying.

5. It’s not a traditional burial, but it will do.

Before he became known for his vacuous, kinetic, swirly camera action films, Tony Scott started his movie making career with this relatively low-key affair. Shot in stark black and white, it’s about an older couple who accidentally run over and kill a cyclist on a country lane. Rather than report the matter to the police, they take the body home with them and the woman sets about dressing up the body so it resembles her long-dead brother. As she spends the movie chatting away to the recently deceased boy/man, the older man works the mine and gathers wood for what we later find out to be a coffin.

Dialogue is kept to a minimum and the story is subsequently told more in images and very deliberate sounds. There’s the constant tick-tick of an old clock in the room where the body is left, occasionally punctuated by the buzzing of a fly. Or flies, I’m sure after a few days the body would be a little ripe. David Pugh has the easiest (or should that be the hardest?) role by playing a corpse for the film’s running time. He’s embodied with the personality of the dead brother, but being dead himself he’s not in any position to respond to the woman’s never-ending stream of melancholy exposition.

Symbolism, or just a nice shot of a horse in a field?
Symbolism, or just a nice shot of a horse in a field?

It’s nice to see where a director started, and if you were to compare this to his later work you would barely recognise it as a Tony Scott movie. The constantly moving camera for which he is famously known is non-existent, replaced with either static shots or slow zooms in or out and gentle crossfades. It’s a really curio of a film, a three-header where only one character has any dialogue, one works a mine and builds a coffin, and one is dead. The living pair are half a step away from being being a Yorkshire version of Leatherface or one of those crazy families in the Wrong Turn mould. She’s clearly got unresolved issues – who else would spend twenty years mourning a dead brother then dress up the corpse of a man you’ve accidentally killed as that same brother? Apart from Miss Haversham of course, she’s the right kind of crazy for a stunt like that. The young man does become a character in his own right, albeit a silent one. She gives him a personality but we never get to see what he’s actually like.

More interestingly is Roy Evans as the man. What’s his story? Why does he do what he does? Why doesn’t he ever speak? Many questions are raised and we only scratch the surface of his persona from the woman’s expositional dialogue. All of that is from her perspective as well, so much like the corpse of the young man our entire perspective of the older man is twisted by her thoughts and opinions. Without a voice himself it’s difficult to ascertain his motives.

There seems to be a theme about isolation prevalent in the story – the young man dies in a country lane; the older couple live on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere – to the psychological aspects of loss, grieving and the inevitability of death. And after all that has preceded it, the film ends with the rag style jazz piece Button Up Your Overcoat. This is at odds with the rest of the film and sums it all up perfectly. Most odd, yet strangely appropriate.

Favourite scene: The fateful car crash. For a zero budget thing it looks rather good.

Silly Moment: The woman spends an entire movie talking to a corpse, does that count?

Score: 3.5/5

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