Thursday, 3 March 2011

Voices from a locked room

I did see a film full of psychological truths except it was not based on fact. Peter Warlock the contemporary British composer whose most famous work was a collection on songs called the Curlew. His real name was Philip Arnold Heseltine. He was born in 1894 and died in December 1930 either as a suicide or distracted leaving the gas fire on without lighting.

In the film Voices from a locked room Heseltine is the music Critic of the influential Journal and is a missionary against the work of Warlock, complaining about the derivative nature of his music, its lack of originality and vision. His editor has to insist he re writes his reviews because they are libellous. He attends the opening night of an American Chanteuse at a posh nightclub. While at the club she is told that he is known as the grim reaper and later in an adjoining phone booth she overhears Heseltine phone in the review of an earlier piece by Warlock thinking it refers to her and berates the man, When she arrives home in the early hours she finds Heseltine on her doorstep with a copy of the paper which also includes a positive review of her performance.

They become friends and lovers and she is introduced to his society friends who flock to he night club to see her based on his recommendation. She is also surprised when his supposed closest male friends warns her off a relationship. Because he is so obsessed with attacking Warlock claiming the he is threatening to sue and also making threats on his life and possession she goes to see the composer only to find that it also Heseltine leading another life and that the cause appears to be related to his childhood and relationship with his mother who refuses to encourage her son to obtain professional help.

The truth is that the man was brought up in Wales, the home of his mother and her second husband after, his father died when he was still a child. He was educated at Eton and then for a year at Oxford sand one term at University College London and without reading one fo the several works on his life I do not know what his studies were cut short. It is said in Wikipedia that he was a self taught musician and while his interest had been classical he was introduced to contemporary music by a master at Eton College. He married a an artist model whose nickname was Puma.

According to Wikipedia he was said to suffer from depression and to have an interest in the occult as testified by one authoress who claimed he had introduced her to the subject. He is also said to have enjoyed cannabis tincture, would compose obscene limericks and was interested in flagellation. None of this is in the film which is perhaps why the film does not appear to have been released until later. A second film, Peter Warlock, Some Little Joy was made in 2005 and several writers including D H Lawrence in Women in Love, Aldous Huxley in Antic Hay, Osbert Sitwell in Those were the Days and Anthony Powell in Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant all featured characters based on Heseltine. But for once I do not plan to investigate further although I am intrigued.

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