We asked one of our favourite fellow cultural activists, artists and filmmakers Andrea Luka Zimmerman (‘Erase and Forget’, ‘Here For Life’) to curate a film list for Loneliness Awareness Week (15-19 June). Andrea’s first choice is: Dreams of a Life by English film director, screenwriter and producer, Carol Morley. Released in 2011, the film is about Joyce Carol Vincent, who died in her North London bedsit in 2003, but was not discovered until 2006.
Here’s Andrea, explaining why she chose these films.
An invitation to think about cinema and loneliness is of course also a chance to think about the nature of cinema itself, especially at a time like this. Isolated in our separate units, we are experiencing the collectivity of the film viewing experience in an atomised way. Is the eye / I lonely in this process? Does it really believe that there are others like it out beyond the window engaged in the same activity?
Cinema and loneliness are also sisters in another way, because so many films (the vast majority) are about individuals and their search for meaning. This of course is where most loneliness is felt, but in my choices here I have also wanted to draw attention to forms of collective loneliness. In addition, I did not want to leave loneliness with the last word. Rather, I wanted it to look in the mirror (the cinema screen) and discover its often hidden, secret twin: solitude. Being able to be at ease with oneself, companionable with oneself, is perhaps one of the great successes of the ‘individual’ life. But cinema will always remind us of the power, mystery and finally solidarity of sharing an experience with others. I hope these films will surprise, provoke, unsettle and always, however darkly luminous their projection, entertain you.
I don’t want to in any way preempt ones encounter with these titles, if you are viewing them for the first time. I would just say that if Dreams of a Life explores an absolute ground zero of contemporary experience, one not to be wished on anyone, then The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzad) and The Apple (Samira Makhmalbaf) suggest different ways in which loneliness can be imposed on more than one person, even socialized.
Ideas of such imposition, by larger historical, social and economic forces, inform Atlantics (Matti Diop), set as it is within the melancholy roar of the sea. That sensibility, however, can also be found far inland, as Vagabond (Agnes Varda) shows, with its protagonist venturing in every sense to the interior. Finally, as suggested above, sudden loss can, if the stars and the will are aligned, as in Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay), turn into a rewarding and expansive solitude.
Dreams of a LifeDirected by Carol Morley
In 2006, the body of 38-year-old Joyce Vincent was found in her North London bedsit. Her death, from unknown causes, had gone undetected by neighbours, friends or family for nearly three years. Carol Morley’s captivating, insightful film traces Joyce’s life and interviews those who knew her in a bid to understand why this popular woman died so alone.
Dreams of a Life is an imaginative, powerful, multilayered quest, and is not only a portrait of Joyce but a portrait of London in the eighties—the City, music, and race. It is a film about urban lives, contemporary life, and how, like Joyce, we are all different things to different people. It is about how little we may ever know each other, but nevertheless, how much we can love.
Cert 12 Contains brief moderate sex references and references to domestic abuse
Carol Morley’s Dreams Of A Life is referenced in part 4 of Women Make Film The new documentary Women Make Film: A Road Movie Through Cinema follows in the footsteps of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey, to give us a guided tour of the art and craft of the movies.
Using almost a thousand film extracts from thirteen decades and five continents, Cousins asks how films are made, shot and edited; how stories are shaped and how movies depict life, love, politics, humour and death, all through the compelling lens of some of the world’s greatest directors — all of them women.
This epic, five years in the making, is made up of forty “chapters” narrated by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton and Debra Winger.
WHERE TO WATCH