all divided selves

Time Stood Still, Part 5: The Mummer’s Farce Is Almost Done

Whole series here

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Every dream-narrative has (to borrow from IMO the finest example of the form, Mulholland Dr.) a Club Silencio moment. Right before our hero wakes up (in Davos’ case, on Unicorn Cannibal Island), the author lays it all out for them: here’s what the dream’s been about, here’s what all the symbols meant, here’s what you learned. 

Indeed, Davos IV ADWD is in essence a full-length commentary on, counterpoint to, and occasionally critique of Davos III. The structure is identical: Davos starts in a cell (though GRRM dwells on that more here), is brought before Lord Wyman, a discussion ensues about the war so far and where they should go from here. Robett Glover acts in private where Marlon Manderly acts in public, similar issues of loyalty and injustice are raised in the confrontation, and the meeting even takes place directly below the Merman’s Court, where the last one took place (that was the public face of Wyman Manderly, this the private one). This sort of echoing strikes me as unmistakably similar to dream-narratives; not that other kinds of narratives don’t have echoes and parallels, of course, but the feigned/real divide, the way the symbols are used, and the way everything is tied into Davos’ own internal struggle is what leads me to the dream-construct. 

If you take what we’re seeing here as Davos’ dream, for example, the setting should feel like we’re wandering his subconscious, right? And just like in the last three chapters, it does. 

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I went to see the Turner Prize shortlist at the Tate Gallery when I was in London (yesterday? Was it really only yesterday) and by far and away my favourite was ‘All Divided Selves’ Luke Fowler’s documentary on RD Laing, an influential out-there psychologist born in Glasgow. It was a full length documentary, interspersed with odd images and shots of nature saturated in light, the hair of Highland Cows caught up close, pine trees against the sky, beetles drowning, that sort of thing. And a clear, high male voice singing the refrain 'all that is hidden will be revealed’, which I’d love a recording of.

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The footage of RD Laing at work and being interviewed was massively compelling. crumbly 60s London and Glasgow, everything smoke-grained and grubby and cold, but everyone, too, with fire in their eyes for these new ideas they were discussing. The Anti-university, the idea of Psychology as a pathological need to categorise. It was all a bit much, but you could see how radical they were trying to be.

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One line stuck of Lang’s stuck with me (and I’m approximating it here, wrecking the nuances, but) “'Schizophrenia’ - 'schiz’ meaning schism, and phrenia, meaning soul or heart, and from that you can say that schizophrenics are, in fact, the broken-hearted.” His message was that they should be treated with compassion, that their rambling flights of language should be listened to, in order to provide them with relief, and there were shots of psychologists listening to and responding to the garbled speech of these people in pain. Holding their hands, sometimes. I don’t know if it helped one bit more than medication (which was from accounts pretty rough at that time) but it seemed humane in its reasoning.

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I sat there the whole time engrossed, though thinking, this perhaps should be on TV. But it’s a fine line sometimes I suppose. I hope it wins. I left a comment card on the wall with a picture of RD Laing drawn on it saying 'Luke Fowler for controller of BBC Scotland. RD Laing - of interest’.