I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth. And indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory. This most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! How like an angel in apprehension. How like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me, no, nor women neither. Nor women neither.”

Withnail and I

Towards the end of every year, I feel a necessity to return to some of the memorable moments of my youth. Sometimes I simply look at photographs or re-read my diaries (so full of angst they are still oddly miserable decades later) – at the end of 2021 I decided to revisit my memories in films.
I am creature of some habit and one of these is watching certain two particular films in December. The first one is “Love Actually” – only because I am a sentimental sap at heart and there is something so terribly terrible sadly wonderful about the film, I cannot help myself.
The other is “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” (Not the 1939 version but the 2002 Martin Clunes televsion film) -for life itself is spectacular. Perhaps the message of the film isn’t that. After all one could argue that Mr. Chips is spectacular and so is his life; yet I believe he would disagree.
These watched, I turned my attention to other films which left an impression on me. They are not necessarily good and some of them are actually quite ridiculous, but we cannot help our memories or our inspirations, for that matter.
I start this list with “Withnail and I” – the language of the film impressed me so much, dialogue, insults and imagery. We were precocious teenagers, my friends and I, with “Withnail and I,” we were in heaven.
When I was not running about dreaming about life as an out of work writer (how glamourous, how avante-guarde I used to think), I remember dreaming of adventure, heroism, awe inspiring battles and forlorne hope. These films inspired my love of history, and in particular a fascination with the 19th century. I have also added the quotes I remember the best.

Zulu (1964)
Lieutenant John Chard: The army doesn’t like more than one disaster in a day.
Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Club Secretary: I say, Lawrence. You are a clown!
T.E. Lawrence: Ah, well, we can’t all be lion tamers.

Waterloo (1970)
Emperor Napoleon: Never interrupt your enemy while he’s making a mistake. That’s bad manners.

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
Lord Cardigan: Lucan, you’re a stew-stick!
Lord Lucan: Fetch off!
Cardigan: Poltroon.
Lucan: Bum roll!
Cardigan: Draw your horse from ’round your ears, and bring your head out of his arse!
(I have as yet to come into a situation where I could safely call someone a poltroon, but stew-stick has been a staple of my vocabulary for many years).

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
Daniel Dravot: You are going to become soldiers. A soldier does not think. He only obeys. Do you really think that if a soldier thought twice he’d give his life for queen and country? Not bloody likely.

Conduct Unbecoming (1975)
2nd Lieutenant Millington – Good heavens! I wouldn’t want to add sacrilege to my list of crimes.

The last one of the list, Conduct Unbecoming, is not considered a great movie. Critics call it underwhelming and glacial, with “pompous asses on display.” A young 21st century audience would likely find it boring and probably bewildering – the notions of honour, loyalty and comradeship are terribly old fashioned. However, I have always found those qualities, – which this film displays in a fascinating setting- most admirable. I have added the link below, should anyone be interested in watching the film.

Some films I watched all those years ago fell straight out of the literature I was reading at the time.. I shall watch these again when I feel the need to use copious amounts of tissues.

A Room with a View (1985)
A Passage to India (1984)
Bhowani Junction (1956)
Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)

One film is missing, even though it would fall into this category: Tess (1979) – I had an intense dislike of the book “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and when our English teacher thought it would be a treat for us to watch the film after studying the book for an entire semester, I would have preferred to be boiled in oil. That did not happen and I had to sit through a seemingly endless afternoon which I shall never get back.

Of course memories of teenage years are not complete without what I now call “the silly list.” The films we watched with wild amounts of popcorn, when we screamed with laughter or clung to each other in fright, when we believed in forever and never imagined we would grow old. We seized our days, and never thought of how short they really were. We would meet at each other’s homes, clutching VHS (PAL) cassettes – shame be on you if your machine only played NTSC and you didn’t tell anyone.

The Highlander (1986)
Warlock (1989)
Fright Night (1985)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
Gremlins (1984)
The Princess Bride (1987)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
LadyHawke (1985)
A Nightmare on Elmstreet (1984)

Perhaps somewhere in another universe, in another time a reel is running with imprints of our lives for all to see. For now, until we come so far, we hold on to our memories, the movies in our minds.

John Keating: ‘Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’ Why does the writer use these lines?
Charlie Dalton: Because he’s in a hurry.
John Keating: No. Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die. (The Dead Poet’s Society)

Photo by Anthony on

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