Dead Man's Shoes
I finally got round to watching Dead Man's Shoes. I know, I know - about 4 years after everyone else. I watched it alone, with my two children in bed, safe behind white melamine doors, and spent a good deal of the time shaking - a full on body response to what I was watching.
The film has a very basic central plot of revenge and it’s a tough watch for a number of reasons the implacable, righteous brutality of Paddy Considine’s avenging angel being the foremost of these. In many ways his character covers the same ground as a serial killer in that he controls the thread of the narrative – he holds all the information and directs that plot. No matter where the other characters go he is there: he becomes omniscient and omnipotent. Yet he has the crucial element of chaos about him, and his anger is molecular, seething. He also has the crucial driving motive force of vengeance – the phenomenal emotional weight of absent guilt - this is his prime motivation, his motor. And it’s this that Considine portrays so well, the jittery, always-close-to-the-surface unmoored nature of his wrath, a wrath that exhausts itself and leaves nothing behind.
What the film also does is weave the cloth of fable around itself; and this is partly due to the originality and integrity of the soundtrack, which seems to sum up a certain strand of the underground as it was in 2004. For a time there, the spooked-out weirdness of the alt-folk scene seemed to pour itself into the mainstream (I’m thinking of the Homefires festivals, mainly, and the early days of The Green Man), and the Dead Man’s Shoes soundtrack seems to encapsulate a certain truth of this scene, such as it was – it’s relationship with the past and to the present and well, yes a particular kind of lonely beauty. There’s a moment in the film where the besieged gang seek out Considine in his lair, an abandoned farm on the outskirts of town, and they pull along the farm track in a Citreon 2CV. They come to a halt to the creaking strains of Adem’s ‘Statued’. It’s an oddly beautiful moment. One of many throughout the film. Maybe it's because the track is essentially a love song; maybe it's just the refrain of 'let this be a moment that you won't forget all your life...'
All of which is say I’ve gone back and listened to a lot of stuff in and around the soundtrack. It isn't exclusively British but - the emotional swell of smog's 'Vessel in Vain' set against the opening credits and the tense border crossings of Calexico aside - it feels of this soil. The early Adem stuff is gorgeous (his album from this year, Takes , is well worth a listen. I can’t think of anyone else who would take on Tortoise and Bjork in the same covers album); but I think it’s the early Gravenhurst records which best capture the feel of the film – particularly Flashlight Seasons and the Black Holes in the Sand EP, which somehow encapsulate a strand of the mood of the film: the thinly veiled menace - of Considine and in some very real sense, of the land - the very Romantic allure and purging spirit of vengeance... In many respects, Flashlight Seasons is the very epitome of this spooked out folk. ‘The Diver’ from the soundtrack is another creaking barn of a song, but for me the standout track on that record was ‘The Ice Tree’ which sounds like a standard lullaby to me, a song for all time. Strangely enough though, the man I think who could be said to boil with this sound, and who isn’t on the soundtrack at all, is Matt Elliott – he of the Third Eye Foundation and conduit of middle-England ghost stories. But that’s for another time…
Download: Gravenhurst - The Ice Tree
Dead Man's Shoes
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)