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Rough Mix 2010 - Nicholas Bone's starting point

When I was 10 I spent the year in bed

One day at school, the teacher told us that a new boy would be joining our class. She explained that he was older than the rest of us and that he had been ill and that as a result of this he had spent the last year in bed. This seemed fantastically glamorous to me for two reasons: first, he was being announced in advance by the teacher, rather than just having to turn up at school on the first day like the rest of us; and secondly, he hadn’t had to get up for 12 months. No-one really knew anything about him and even once he started, he had an air of mystery about him: the only thing he ever told me was that he hadn’t had his hair cut for the entire year, which only added to his glamour in my eyes even though he now had rather neatly cut hair. What had actually been the matter with him, I never knew - and I was probably too embarrassed to ask him (the middle class fear of asking personal questions) – but I was fascinated by the idea of what it would be like to just stay in bed. This was long before I’d ever heard of Oblomov.

When I was young, I was obsessed with silent films, and Buster Keaton in particular. When I watch the films now, I see a strange sense of solitude there, and I don’t think it’s just his great stone face staring at the camera. Even at his funniest, there’s an edge of melancholy and darkness. One of the most striking sequences is the storm in Steamboat Bill Jr. It cost a phenomenal amount of money when it was made and you can see why when you watch it. Steamboat Bill was the last independent film Keaton made before he finally succumbed to the big studios – he never had quite the same edge again and his career was effectively over within 10 years. Because the sequence starts with Keaton in a hospital bed, it has lodged in the same bit of my mind as the boy who spent a year in bed and the two have begun to blur...

The other strange thing about the film is the little dance with a ukulele he does. In my ten year old mind there is another shot, a reverse POV of his father watching him, but the shot isn’t there – maybe it was only ever in my head?