Skip to main content

I believe I shall be very happy here.

Children of the Stones
7: Full Circle


And so, the finale. This flip-flopping of characters in order to provide sufficient exposition is occasionally a little too evident (Matthew feels the need to reaffirm that cycles are repeating themselves to his father, who is well aware of this, or was the previous episode) but there’s a nice line in philosophical clarification during the opening section.


Earlier I noted how pagan beliefs were seemingly cast in a negative light, in favour of Christianity as a bastion that wards off such spells. Now, the balance is redressed. The goings-on in Milbury are cast as an aberration. It may be something of a token gesture, since any kid watching will think “Ohh scary nasty pagans” but it’s an important distinction to make (interesting too that, like Mr. Magister in The Daemons, Hendrick sets up operations of evil in the basement of the local church; the corruption of all that is on the surface sacrosanct).


AdamPerhaps it had some sort of benign power. But then, when the supernova became a black hole, the power was reversed.

It’s the sort of thing John Carpenter, with his anti-god of Prince of Darkness, would love. There are some curiously Christian riffing lines too. “In the beginning was the star… and the star was some sort of God” recalls “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”; by its nature the echoing suggests a corruption of purity, which has occurred in the form of the black hole.


Adam also qualifies the possible takes on Hendrick and the priest; that when the power of the implosion was harnessed, he perhaps thought the process was for the villagers’ own good (yet Hendrick absolves himself from the conditioning undergone by the people). Hendrick’s concept of evil, we are led to believe, is “the capacity to do wrong”. He refers to the ritual as a method of “purging the community of sin” (one might see the happy day zombies as a metaphor for “Born Again” Christians), and Adam again accuses him of assuming the role of a priest

HendrickYour sin is my sin. Your guilt is my guilt. You are free. Happy day indeed. My flock is cleansed, my task is done.


A mention of the day-for-night filming we’ve seen throughout. Often I’ve found such a device distracting but I think it works in this serial, adding to the pervading sense of the uncanny.


Adam’s plan to set the clocks five minutes fast is simple but effective; there’s a tension to their work, with the constant background chanting heard outside. And the decision to set them fast rather than slow turns out to have the added bonus of ensnaring Hendrick, who is still at the table when the alignment with the Great Bear (Ursa Major) occurs. When the beam captures Hendrick, we see him as the ancient seer he once was.


Prior to this, Adam does his best to disparage the airs and graces of Hendrick’s room, referring to it as “exactly the sort of thing I would have expected of a man of your conceit to have chosen”. Presumably the piercing beam of light is partially subjective, as even with his chair turned Hendrick would notice that no such impact occurred this time round. 



LinkMaster! They are still impure! The circle is broken. Your protection is gone!

Link’s words are all we really need to explain what takes place. I mean, why exactly the villagers turn to stone is not clarified (only calcified). A realisation of the ages this has played out over? If the number of stones represent the number of people, it nevertheless cannot mean they are one and the same, as these people turn to stone (additional stones). Then again, presumably these new stones vanish with the reset?


The escape is especially dramatic, with shades of Lot’s wife, as Adam instructs Margaret “Don’t look back”. It isn’t just adults who succumb; we see young Bob stonified. So, as with the painting, villagers are turning to stone as two travellers flee the site to the safety of the sanctuary.


As noted, the specifics of the reset that occur remain elusive. Dai is not only reconstituted, but when Adam and Matthew awake his sanctuary is redressed; now it appears that he is a sharpener of knives and of a disgruntled disposition, uttering that he is no friend to Adam. Yet the telltale bones in the shape of a serpent that Dai cast some days earlier are still there. 



The villagers are back to normal, and unlike Dai they recognise Adam and Matthew. The distinction in this process is unclear, although it allows for a suggestion of unrequited potential between Adam and Margaret.


MargaretAre you still determined to leave?
AdamIf we can.
MargaretI’m glad we’ve got such a hold on you. It’s been nice.
AdamFor me too.

Aw, that’s quite sad. Still, I’m sure they’ll meet again…


MatthewDid it happen, or didn’t it?
AdamI don’t know, Matt. I just don’t know.
MatthewPerhaps there was another circle besides the stones. Time. Perhaps that’s circular too.
AdamYou mean. It might all happen again one day.
MatthewIt may already be happening. To the people inside the time trap.


And as if on cue, a car goes past containing Iain Cuthbertson, this time with slicked back hair and sporting a bow tie. He drives up to the manor and is greeted by Link; there is “For Sale” sign outside (that was… quick), and we are told that he, Sir Joshua Lytton, is retiring here from London (“I believe I shall be very happy here”). Link now has a moustache.


It’s unclear, if this is an instant reset, how many times has this happened over thousands of years. And did Joshua Litten just wink fully formed into existence? Should Margaret and Sandra have been reconstituted in the village (the time trap) since they arrived as outsiders? While Litten’s arrival works for dramatic purposes, and we see similar resets with Dai and Link, it resists being nailed down. After all, if Litten is there to begin his work all over again, won’t Adam and Matthew have to return to defeat him once more? Which won’t really work if they know in advance what they must do. Perhaps the outsiders incarnate differently each time? Or perhaps Litten is not set to achieve the things that Hendrick did. Maybe such cycles of achievement are sporadic, within longer ones that remain dormant (what happened during the cycle before Hendrick arrived)?


Overall:


Children of the Stones isn’t a serial that really demands such extensive probing; it’s success is in immediate impact and whispered remembrance, so it is all the more rewarding that it withstands repeat viewings. And let’s face it, time travel/loop stories never tie things up in a wholly consistent way; the holes are intrinsic to the construction. The effects of the passage of time on the show have been mainly cosmetic. It still fires the imagination and should continue to inspire generations to come.


Wikipedia provides a useful guide to the different time periods explored in the series.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds . Juno and the Paycock , set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Sir, I’m the Leonardo of Montana.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013) (SPOILERS) The title of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s second English language film and second adaptation announces a fundamentally quirky beast. It is, therefore, right up its director’s oeuvre. His films – even Alien Resurrection , though not so much A Very Long Engagement – are infused with quirk. He has a style and sensibility that is either far too much – all tics and affectations and asides – or delightfully offbeat and distinctive, depending on one’s inclinations. I tend to the latter, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the trailers for The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet ; if there’s one thing I would bank on bringing out the worst in Jeunet, it’s a story focussing on an ultra-precocious child. Yet for the most part the film won me over. Spivet is definitely a minor distraction, but one that marries an eccentric bearing with a sense of heart that veers to the affecting rather than the chokingly sentimental. Appreciation for

I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert.

Dr. Strangelove  or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) (SPOILERS) Kubrick’s masterpiece satire of mutually-assured destruction. Or is it? Not the masterpiece bit, because that’s a given. Rather, is all it’s really about the threat of nuclear holocaust? While that’s obviously quite sufficient, all the director’s films are suggested to have, in popular alt-readings, something else going on under the hood, be it exposing the ways of Elite paedophilia ( Lolita , Eyes Wide Shut ), MKUltra programming ( A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket ), transhumanism and the threat of imminent AI overlords ( 2001: A Space Odyssey ), and most of the aforementioned and more besides (the all-purpose smorgasbord that is The Shining ). Even Barry Lyndon has been posited to exist in a post-reset-history world. Could Kubrick be talking about something else as well in Dr. Strangelove ?