Monday, 26 April 2010

THE PRISONER; My visit to Swakopmund, Namibia

There have been inevitable criticisms of ITV's remake of 'The Prisoner', the main question being;'Why remake it at all?' It is a fair point - we live in a world in which the fear of putting serious money behind original ideas has crippled much mainstream filmmaking. The original series was a surrealist enigma, an open-ended puzzle - a Lynchian premonition - open to interpretation like a Kafka novel. But, watching the series, and knowing the ambition behind it,I think it wrong to write it off without a fair hearing.

I visited the set in September 2008 while the series was being filmed in Swakopmund, Namibia, talking to actors such as Ian McKellen, Jim Caviezel and Ruth Wilson. Wilson told me how the writer Bill Gallagher instructed the cast to read John Gray's book, Straw Dogs. Will Self wrote that Gray’s greatest feat was to highlight the human race’s ‘unwillingness – inability even – to appreciate not simply that we are the kin of the other animals, but that like them we are ultimately powerless over both our individual and collective destinies, which leads to our nonsensical faith in progress.’ A progress that leads leaders of men like Two to sadistic acts in the the name of furthering the human race.

While filming began in Swakopmund a story ran in national newspaper The Namibian. 47 skulls of local tribesmen were being stored at the Medical History Museum within the Charité Hospital in Berlin and had been requested to be returned to Swakopmund. They had been taken to Germany from Namibia around a hundred years ago to ‘prove the superiority of the white race’, following an ‘extermination order’ from General Lothar von Trotha in 1904: German troops surrounded thousands of members of the Herero tribe; men, women and children perished under machine gun fire. Many survivors were reportedly sent to concentration camps in Swakopmund and Luderitz Bay to the south.

My piece, which ran in the Telegraph Magazine on 17 April, can be read here.

1 comment:

  1. It seems quite bizarre that not a single one of the cast has recalled ever watching The Prisoner, yet they were all asked to read some philosophy book. Did Bill himself ever watch the original show I wonder? Or did he just read some of the tripe written about it, on the internet or in books.

    Perhaps the reason the new six-pack fails so spectacularly is partly because nobody really understood what they were re-making. Certainly, the person who spliced all the footage together didn't seem to even understand the Remake - never mind the original :-))

    I wonder if Bill Gallagher recognised what ended up on-screen. He seems to have said nothing since, and the show as presented was utterly garbled, if not garbage.