Not a Christmas Carol | K.V. Turley | CWR
The constant bustling of London often hides a dark loneliness at its core
London is a strange place, and the longer one lives in its shadows the stranger it seems to become.
Commuting home, we hardly notice those sitting or standing around us, our hands so full of newspapers and books, our heads crammed with the day’s ups and downs—some of import, most not. The last thing on anyone’s mind is the person sat opposite.
Until, that is, something extraordinary throws it all into relief.
And in this city, a few years back, that something crawled to the surface and, for a while at least, stood in full view for all to behold: proving too much for some, too little for others, and altogether too late for the unfortunate woman concerned.
This city: so full of people and things, and, yet, seemingly with such an emptiness at its core. A recent film documented this like no other I have seen. Paradoxically, it has a Festive setting; but this is definitely not A Christmas Carol, or for that matter It’s a Wonderful Life—quite the reverse in fact. There is no redemption here, and, perhaps, therein lies the reason why it still haunts me so.
Documentaries rarely make any money when shown in cinemas. One released at Christmas, dealing as it did with a lonely death, was always going to be a hard sell. And so, not surprisingly, Dreams of a Life made a pittance at the box office when released in 2011, but it did gain some impressive reviews.
The subject? A young woman who died alone in a drab apartment, remaining there for three years until the property was repossessed; by which time, her skeletal remains were waiting for the bailiffs. During those years, she had been sat in front of a television set that was still on, surrounded by recently wrapped Christmas presents. It couldn't get any more pathetic, or maybe more insightful, into an aspect of London life many would prefer not to know about. In this Christmas tale, there is to be no comforting ending: no ecstatic Scrooge, no overjoyed George Bailey reunited with his family. Instead, it is one that ends in tragedy, with an accusing finger pointing at all of us.
And yet, there is something “Dickensian” about the scene nevertheless.