Stellan Skarsgard fits right in as John River
Visions & voices, spirits, ghosts, apparitions, “manifests”- whatever you call them, if you do experience them then know this: they are real.
And if you don’t, then know two things: they are real and you’re missing out.
But at least you can now see how it is in a more than half decent dramatisation on TV.
What’s a Swedish detective with an English name doing working for The Met in London? We don’t need to but maybe we will find out because John River is the lead character in a TV series, “River”, now showing in UK but coming to North America soon.
John River’s partner Stevie was recently murdered – but she hangs round to help him figure out who did it – and to cheer him up and have him remember to love to dance.
Meanwhile River follows one suspect who runs away and eventually hops over a high balcony intending to climb down but falls to his demise.
Then, after a long, long day rounded off to a Karaoke bar John gets home, has trouble sleeping and wakes up to find this same dead guy, Riley, sitting on his bed berating him and making it clear he got the wrong guy :
“I didn’t do it.”
“Wot, you want me to sing you to sleep?”
Meanwhile the dead guy’s pregnant girlfriend Tia gets in trouble because, since she’s understandably upset, she “acts out”, takes it out on River, gets taken in for questioning, gets leant on, “acts out” again declines to accede to authority, so inevitably the people in authority get pissed off and wield their authority – and have her sectioned. River visits with her, listens and lets her know she’s ok, if she plays the game- their game a little, she can get out.
“You’re alright Tia. Even as you are you’re alright.”
“Not everyone fits in this world.”
“You can do this.”
.. and he helps her figure a few things out and, as the dead guy Riley, himself, says to River later:
“she’s better off with him“
before he takes his leave and hops off and away over that balcony again, his job done, his last words:
“I only went out for an ice cream.”
River even has a consultant criminologist on his team – former bad guy, Dr Thomas Neill Cream, The Lambeth Poisoner who died in 1892 and about whose trial John River is reading a book. Cream seems less than helpful but does know a thing or two about crooks, cops, crime and killing but mostly about River himself and how to press his buttons:
“I am you. I am your darkest side”.
Now, if you think this is a bit to far fetched then see here about the Guardian’s exploration with readers on the range of experiences people report the many and diverse experiences people have whilst reading: from hearing a narrator to hearing the voices of characters and seeing them come alive when they read the words off the page, including those report they get none of that – and feel they miss out.
I find they are more honest
Despite getting along better with the ghosts, spirits, voices, or whatever you call them- or as River calls them: “manifests” – than the humans in his life,
“I find they’re more honest”
John River does finds one person who gets it, gets him.
The police psychologist being leant on by the top-brass to deem him unfit for service actually understands and offers to help him learn to trust other humans again. As part of that she invites him to a group that she runs: “Living With Voices” the flyer says, she describes it as
“A safe space to talk to the voices,
see them for what they are”.
The writing is top notch, the cinematography gloomy yet beautiful, the acting is stellar and not just from Stellan Skarsgard but everyone, including the manifests- or whatever you call them.
When asked “how long do they stay?”
John River replies…
“They stay as long as long they need to stay and then they go away.”
“All writers hear voices or you can’t write dialogue” – Ray Bradbury
Writer Abi Morgan says the inspiration comes from her own experience – “I realised I have other people in my head and what a comfort they are to me.”
“I know from myself, I talk out loud. I’ve got children and they say to me ‘mummy, you talk to yourself all the time’. I realised how much I do have other people in my head and what a comfort they are to me. It’s not just about those who experience voices through mental health, it’s the voices we carry from our past, our future or experiences, that we manifest and I hope that’s something that an audience will identify with.”
Interview with Abi Morgan: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/writersroom/entries/d4fdcdcc-fea8-438f-8830-1e9c93182703
bbc one: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06jkk8f