Do you have movies you’ve grown up with? You know those ones you see again and again, and see more in the film – and in yourself – with each viewing?
I loved film from an early age. One of my prized possessions was Halliwell’s The Filmgoer’s Companion. Given to me in 1965 when I was just seven, it was my dad’s inscription to me that made the book so special: “For my favourite film critic…”
As a teenager I was captivated by Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Its depiction of the urbane lives of Greenwich Village neighbours was far removed from my suburban London life.
Here was the sophisticated beauty of Grace Kelly, the drollness of James Stewart and the laugh-aloud ‘say it how it is-ness’ of Thelma Ritter.
Confined to his home to recuperate after breaking a leg James Stewart’s character Jeff becomes a voyeur of his neighbours; each of their window-framed apartments becoming a set within which they are the stars in their own movie. And like Jeff, I too was an observer, willingly escaping into the fantasy of film.
It was only in later viewings that I realised that Jeff is escaping as well. By prying into the relationships he sees played out in front of him, he doesn’t need to fully engage with his girlfriend Lisa. In this way he can be titillated by Miss Torso, feel compassion for Miss Lonelyhearts, and see his own fears of marriage confirmed in his newlywed neighbours, whose sex-fuelled honeymoon period is replaced with bickering by the end of the film.
And of course there is Jeff’s growing obsession with the possible grisly disappearance of the salesman’s wife in the apartment directly opposite his own… This is a Hitchcock thriller after all!
I am still interested in the lives of others; I wouldn’t be a trainer and coach if I weren’t. And perhaps not surprisingly where I now live in Covent Garden has me cheek by jowl with my neighbours à la Rear Window. My observations of others though now come not from a wish to escape, but from a heart-felt desire to connect, learn and support.