Monday, 31 October 2016

The Room

My interest in the subject of captivity and isolation commenced when in 1960, because of my age, I was kept locked in a prison cell  between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning on remand having refused bail and with only two half hours of exercise with another nonviolent protestor, against weapons of mass civilian extermination, in an adjacent cell in Bedford jail and where we had to walk  round the yard with distance between us while the adults later reported having a grand time by comparison kept together on mattresses in the prison library. I hated very second without a book, writing paper or anything to do. My approach when spending the last four and half months of the six months’ alternative chosen to promising to stop protesting was to separate myself from other protestors and fit into the regime of prison life with everyone else.  That did create problems when I left, so I learned a little of the impact of being isolated and of the subsequent adjustment required when you have accepted and adjusted to the situation which in my instanced I had placed myself in. The book edited by George Mikes called Prison, includes chapters by a survivor of Auschwitz, by Rusell Braddon, Arthur Koestler and Paul Ignotus, and an older first cousin returned from his participation in World War II and prison camps in North Africa, Italy and central Europe as a man damaged, dying prematurely from his persistent need smoke.

Works of fiction only reflects the impact of reality and over the past decade there have been accounts worldwide about the experience of girls adducted and kept imprisoned for sexual purposes. Elizabeth Smart suffered for only 9 months compared to Natasha Kampusch 8 years, Michelle Knight, 12 years Jaycee Duggard 18 years and Elizabeth Fritzel for 24 years by her father with whom she had seven children and where in some instances the abductors have been a married couple.

Recently, possibly because of the commercial and artistic success of the Canadian film, The Room in 2015, there has been a sudden flux of new material, with the BBC making available on its I player all five episodes of Thirteen with the showing of the first, the second series of Missing with Donal Morrisey as the father, has 10 episodes and where James Nesbitt was the male lead in the award winning first series of the British American drama. An adolescent boy has so far been rescued in the first three episodes of the Australian series the Code which features the dark net where individual children are abducted for on demand bids, and where the main story appears to be the international UK/USA capitalist exploitation of the mineral resources of an island people involving corruption, murder, torture and political complicity.  

I saw 2015 The Room in theatre at Bolden Cineworld on January 26th at 16.50 screen 4 and seat J3. The film stars Brie Larson in the role of the abducted teenager who survives captivity in a room with the son born through the enforced union. She is abducted and kept in a purpose created room for seven years which has a bed, toilet, bathtub, television and basic cooking area. The window is a skylight and one of the ways Joy copes is to pretend to her son that TV is all fiction and that their life is normal with the child as he has got older having to sleep in a wardrobe when the captor visits for sex. When the captor loses his job, and says he cannot continue to provide the same level of food and clothing as previously Joy devises a plan to get the son out by faking that he has severe fever and pressing their captor to take him to hospital, he only offers to bring antibiotics and the next step is for the boy to play dead and for him to be removed from the room in a carpet from which he escaped, is escapes and come into the hands of the police.

Understandably the boy is overwhelmed and disorientated by a world in which he had no previous knowledge and the police find there is no record of his existence. The police are able through credible work to locate the property and rescue his mother and reunite her and the grand child with her mother who is now divorced and in a new relationship and where the girl’s father lives at some distance. He returns but cannot accept the grandson and leaves. While the authorities do everything, they can to prepare mother to return to normality and Jack to adjust to life, both find the challenge exceptionally difficult as do all the other family members. Controlling and dealing with media is an issue which occurs in real situations and where victims have written books, given interviews and participated in documentaries.

Jack who at first refuses to communicate with anyone other than his mother and refuses his hair to be cut and for the first time begins to adjust with the help of a pet dog and boy of his own age, learning to play with other boys and to go to school.  His mother finds it more difficult to cope especially when challenged about having become complicit in the situation something with life victims have all had to face. Mother becomes withdrawn, depressed and attempts to take her own life. The grandmother can cut his hair and sending this to his mother as a reminder of his existence and adjustment so far, help the mother to survive. They both decide on the need to visit the place where they live and Jack comments that the place has shrunk. The both say goodbye to the Room leaving the audience upbeat with a sense that they will survive

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