So, like a sleuth, last Sunday I was in London and I found a cinema still showing Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for one last cinematic experience (as if I hadn’t already had enough! …. I haven’t!!)

The film still made me physically ache!  Not just for a bit, but for much of the film. How does it do that when I know it so well now? I also felt strange things about cuts to doors at certain points in the film, which made me sad with significance & foreshadowing.  This definitely suggests I have seen the film too many times.  I am probably inventing the significance of doors.  Everything can have meaning if you’re on a certain wavelength so already feeling?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just that: we find meaning and odd associations in the strangest of things in real life, so maybe that’s the way in which I felt these door emotions?!  I am crazy.  Yes.

Anyway, back to the event in question: it was a double bill with Mud, which was screened first.  I’m curious, those of you who’ve seen it (not that anyone’ll be reading this!) what do you think of Mud?  Or indeed Ain’t Them Bodies Saints?  The double bill was themed “Lost Souls and Last Chances”.  It fits and I see why the films pair for a double bill.  I’ll get to that…

In any case, before the cinema opened up I glanced up and in the upstairs window there was a teddy bear!

Thus, I imagined his story.  I think he lives in the cinema and when no-one is there, he sneaks down, puts on the films and watches them, rapt.  He imagines the stories the films tell are how real life is and when he goes back to his room upstairs, to lie there, immobile to all observers, really, he dreams of how his life would be were he not a teddy bear, forced to remain inert when human eyes are upon him, watching his films alone in secret.  But although Teddy doesn’t get to love and live out there in the real world, he also doesn’t have to die and nor does anyone he loves.  The only sadness he ever has to experience is the vicarious empathizing with these often flawed, yet mostly romanticisied if not also idealized human-folk on the screen and the loneliness that the knowledge that their world is beyond his grasp brings.…………  I made up Teddy’s story as I was going along and now I am slightly afeared what it may say about me so I think his tale may end there…!!

Before I return to the double bill… So, you do you want to hear about the door(s?)?  I am sure not, but I am going to tell you my thoughts anyway.  My gosh, I could write a thesis on Ain’t Them Bodies Saints by now I’m pretty certain!  Even though I know literally nothing about film.


The first time (or when I first noticed this door stuff) was when Ruth is singing Blue Jay to Sylvie, lying on the sofa (the same song Bob was singing and humming to the as yet unborn Sylvie just before the moment of the top image from the film and indeed their last time of happiness together).  At this point Ruth knows Bob has escaped and it is the first time we see Bob post-escape: coming out of the woods (like the little horse!) and embarking on his journey home.  I felt sudden whopping (note to self: should use whopping more in general conversation) sadness at that glimpse of door.  I don’t even know if it’s meant to be as I felt or it is just a door!  But anyway.  It’s just this cut to a closed door and I guess I first just thought that I’d not noticed there was a door there then I thought why was there just the door there and then I felt it…?!  Is this odd?

The second time is after Bob has spoken to Skerritt who has told him to stay away from Ruth and he’s angry and says Ruth’d run from the house Skerritt has provided for her as if it were on fire in order to be with him – we see Ruth and she looks towards the door.  I doubt it’s actually the same door, since it goes to the outside, but it’s still a door of her home – it’s an ajar door this time.  She goes out, looks out then closes it.  From first watch this scene always had the vague sensation that Ruth had (as Bob will later say in his own words) sensed Bob’s presence or the strength of his feeling.  Not explicitly, but a tenuous thing…  I don’t know – as though the strength of Bob’s feeling is such that it somehow reaches Ruth and when she sees the door ajar, she feels it and looks out as though perhaps  Bob’d be out there..??  (I don’t wish to imply the film is airy-fairy we all are literally one kinda danglings as it is not, but I still feel this..)

Anyway, this time I was also thinking about it (as I did with door one) in relation to that door we’ll see near the end – prempting the door Bob will eventually come through. As though it’s writ?  And that’s the third door – wide open, blood is on it and it’s where Bob entered the house.  Oh, door, you tragic piece of wood and handles and lock.

I must be literally crazy thinking things like this about doors.  I am sure all films have a lot of doors in them.  Doors, doors, doors.  Or…  is it intended?  Are there lots of other things like this in the film that we don’t notice but subconsciously we feel them and they add to give the film it’s ache?  Because literally for an hour my chest ached, my heart beat faster, my breathing was deeper, slower and at the end my throat hurt with the sadness.  I didn’t sob like the first few viewings, but it likely would have been better if I had done so as without that the ache didn’t leave me and for hours afterwards I kept feeling tears coming to my eyes.  In the end that’s the best I can ever say about a film – that it makes me feel something very strongly.  (As long as it is a thing the film wants me to feel – not for example irritation, haha!!)  And in this case, given the amount of times I’ve now seen it, I don’t know quite why or how it still achieves this..?.  Is it still yearning I ache for?  Still for the characters?   A desire for all fantasy to be able to somehow become real?  I don’t know, but even though I’ve seen it lots now, it still devastated me

So, now I’ll move on to Mud which I’ve seen once before as well.  It was interesting to have these two films together and there are comparisons you can make certainly.  Mud makes me feel a bit sad and frustrated overall though. Having just spoken about how much Ain’t Them Bodies Saints makes me feel highlights even more my problem with Mud: that it doesn’t.  Watching them back to back, for me, did this even moreso as within the first few moments of ATBS I was caught up in it’s feeling.  But Mud?  See it IS enjoyable to watch and a great film in most respects  (comparisons have been made to Stand By Me and that is there in it’s feel) except in what it has to say (which is, surely the only thing that matters!)  It makes me feel nothing and any message I struggle to take from it leaves me feeling rather unsettled at best, piqued at worst and if you look into it feels a little insulting to all ladies. Because first and foremost this film is Ellis’ coming of age tale and what he mostly learns is not to trust any woman as even if they don’t do so via their own malice, they’ll end up being a guy’s downfall.  Anyway.  Sadder still that it’s in essence an indie film (is that the right way of describing it?  I mean by this that you’d think it’d also have a different and open minded viewpoint to put across) and it’s shy of it but not shy enough that you can’t note the metaphors that come to the fore several times between the female of the species and venomous snakes who if you linger too long by, you’re done for.  I mean, if you really want to you can go down this route until it all becomes ridiculous.  Mud’s lame “If you find a girl half as good as you” at the end does naught to undo it all!!  All as Mud and Tom sail off into their freedom.. free, too from those life-shattering females…!!  If it just didn’t highlight it a bit in the way it ends, the way Mud’s women seem intangibly unknowable wouldn’t matter so much and it’s still not an awful thing, but it just leaves an uncomfortable tang to what might have been so much more?

It’s not that it’s view on women pervades the film negatively, but more that it’s just an uncomfortable tinge to an ending that has little meaning at all.  And with no meaning, the film is sort of ruined. A film with no feeling at the end and no message to take away from it is if not worthless then weak no matter how enjoyable it’s been to sit through, how beautiful or well acted.  It is empty.  I don’t mean to be mean to it as I want to like Mud, but why didn’t they decide what they wanted to say with it?  Or did they want to say they world would be better or at least men’d be more content if women didn’t exist?  I mean I could go through every woman in this film or referred to but I don’t have the inclination to do so.  Funny how Mud and Juniper are the main love story in this and you get a lot more told backstory – going back until they were 10 although they too physically remain apart for nearly the whole film.  Yet I never felt love from Juniper to Mud.  And I did from Mud to Juniper at times, but it obviously fell away easily.  You know, it is acted very well though and the two young boys are particularly great.  I feel I am being harsh on it that I feel kind of against it but I don’t know: it is a really good watch, but also frustrating and just sad – sad that it has nothing to say and that the little it does say is pretty depressing if you’re not a man.

Anyway, you could compare the folks in these two films I guess.  There are similarities and differences between Mud and Bob.  Both outlaws, though different as two law abiding citizens are.  Both with a propensity towards lies and fabrications, fantasizing and Romanticising their worlds, though Bob moreso as this defines him.  I could go down pathways here and do this compare and contrast but it’s not that interesting and it’s even less interesting to compare Ruth with Juniper or any of the females in Mud since I can only think it’d reflect more negatively on Ruth than she deserves to try to compare this way.  And to ATBS as let’s face it I have just been a bit uncomfortable with the portrayal of women in Mud, but there is only one woman in ATBS.  Well, and a child.  But then there are few people in ATBS, so…  And it’s a small story where Mud is supposed to be Ellis’ coming of age.  The stories’ needs are different. Anyway….

Let’s end with Ruth though.  I felt her a little differently in this viewing of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.  I kept falling back on that line “Maybe I’m just fooling you all” and so wondering how much exactly she is holding back?  Has she grown up, moved on really from Bob anyway?  I felt it more complex than this from first watch that Bob was still who she felt passion for, and that she did feel a debt she owed to him too, but she knew inside there was no way for them to be together and he posed only danger to their daughter now who she’d protect of course above all.  This time though, I wondered whether Bob didn’t offer her a kind of freedom to be entirely who she is she can’t have without him too.  Bob knows a side to Ruth it is apparent is there (that smile after holding the gun) but which we don’t otherwise see in the film and nor does any other character in the film.  “Maybe I’m just fooling you all.”  Maybe she has to keep up some amount of ruse the entire time in order to protect the life she cares about more than her own.  It’s kind of I suppose in a small way like a sacrifice she makes for Sylvie as Bob made a sacrifice for his love, Ruth and for Sylvie.  I don’t know.  I’m going in silly circles now.  But, is here a sense in which Patrick is a fantasist just as Bob is in seeing “only the good” in Ruth?  In looking upon her and her daughter as though they are angels.  Are we all guilty of this kind of fantasy?  Surely.

And so it leads me back to the ache in the film.  The biggest aspect is for the tragedy you know is coming even on first watch.  The yearning and aching is most of all for the heartbreaking Bob.  But deeper is it for all our fantasies in our little lives and for our realities and and and and and…….?