Wednesday, 11 February 2009

An Intriguing, Inspiring and Stimulating Film to Watch on YouTube

Hi Folks. A contributor has written in to recommend a film series available on YouTube that has certain elements in common with the spirit at least of the INSTITUTIONALISED series. I have been working on putting together volume 2 today and it is at present up to 189 pages of completed and checked work. For this reason I have had little time to devote to making blog posts of late and consequently I am primarily acting as editor in this instance.

He writes: “I know you're interested in Victorian prisons, and I've always enjoyed moth-to-the-flame stories where upper-crust heroines go slumming and get a bit more than they bargained for. There are some interesting clips on YouTube that have elements of both.

AFFINITY (click here to view series on YouTube) is the story prim and proper Victorian goody-goody, Miss Margaret Pryor, visits Millbrook prison for women. It is a Gothic romance about spiritualism and a lesbian relationship developing between the visitor and one of the inmates, and that is the primary story.
However, Miss Haskby, the cruel crone who runs the prison (and some of the guards) clearly do not like to the prissy Margaret, and constantly make sly references to their starched “lady visitor” being a prisoner:

Some interesting [sections] [The numbers refer to the episodes and the time references can be used to jump straight to the section quoted - Garth]:

1: 3 minutes into episode 1, Miss Haskby makes a sly reference that Margaret has “timed her arrival well.” At 5:30 the matron giving her the tour slams a cell door shut, making poor Margaret visibly nervous. When Margaret asks her to open it, she waits several meaningful seconds before replying.

2: 3 minutes into this episode, she is shocked to watch as the new prisoners are processed:

4: About 2 minutes in, she is shocked when a guard uses her arm to cut her off and warns her that some of the inmates have "pals" if you know what I mean. "Don't let them make a pal out of you, Miss" she says, much to Margret's shock!

About 9 minutes into episode 4 she witnesses a punishment (solitary). When she protests that it is “barbaric” Miss Haskby asks her to her office to “review her progress.” She is shocked to find that the matrons are reporting on her…

5: At 6:15 into this episode, she finds that she can’t visit her friend, so the female matron asks if she wants to tour another section of the prison. “I’m in your hands, Mrs. Jelf” she replies submissively. The guard shows her where they store the inmate uniforms (“all sizes”) and remarks (to our lady’s shocked distress) that “these would fit you, I think.”

6: At the beginning of this episode, she imagines her girlfriends being hosed down in the shower.

8: 8 minutes in, a guard threatens to incarcerate her for helping a prisoner. “Then it will be your turn for correction. We like having ladies here at Millbank,” she threatens.

There are a lot of references like this scattered throughout the show, and it’s clear that Margaret is both repulsed and drawn to the prison. It’s a different story, of course, and the emphasis is the lesbian relationship, not corporal punishment.”

As for myself; I have not had much time, what with one thing and another, to look through all of the episodes but I did have a look at episode 5, the part dealing with the prison uniforms, and have to admit to having gotten quite a thrill from the part where the matron says "these would fit you, I think." and the woman's taken aback reaction. Then there is the part a little further in in which the prisoner's wedding ring is produced from her stored belongings "quite black now I'm afraid" with the implication that she is married (or was, one suspects) and what that comment says about how long she has been there - and how long she will remain. Although no actual term is explicitly mentioned - I like that implication of 'indefinance' (if such a word exists - and if it doesn't, then it should. ie an implication of an indefinite sentence - something I am fascinated by, particularly if unjust and corruption is involved in the imprisonment in the first place.) . There is also that atmosphere, the slamming iron gates and jangling keys...lovely.

It is the sort of atmosphere I would try and recreate for my girls; albeit in the world of today (or recent past) with all the modern medical facility trappings of an experimental psychology department, it is something I have tried to evoke as somehow being retained there.

The contributor goes on to say: “I would be interested to see a story thread where a society lady visits the workhouse in the guise of a reformer, and becomes fascinated with the place. She asks to be admitted for a brief stay, arguing that she can't help the girls unless she truly understands their plight. Of course once in, to her shock she discovers that she is in fact just another prisoner, with the psychology that implies, and that it is easier to get in than out...”

I have to say that I do like many elements of that particular scenario – there is much inspiration to be had there and that phrase about it being “easier to get in than out” is very close to something that I write in the early stages of volume 2 when referring to certain young lady volunteers having found themselves ensconced in a residential experimental psychology programme running in what amounts to little more than a refurbished Victorian asylum. To quote myself “…like other volunteer subjects that have gone before them, they now share in the knowledge that it is not going to be quite so easy to leave as it had been to join!”
And the pic at the top? Just something that caught my eye...and that screams REFORMATORY and brings out that cruel streak Perfect for a few years out, in the life of the young lady of your choice - you decide just how many years.

Anyway, check out the film and enjoy! Meanwhile I’ll be sweating over the last few missing paragraphs of vol 2…Don’t worry about me…I’ll be alright…I think….But I don’t ‘alf need a drink about now!!!


Rex Talbot said...

The Affinity you mention is the ITV film of Sarah (Tipping the Velvet) Waters book, so you may find the book of interest.

The movie is at at £3.42 at time of writing

Rex Talbot rex @ yahoo dot com said...

PS - if one buys the DVD then the creators and actors may get some revenue which they won't from a pirated copy ripped off onto youtube.

As a content creator yourself you'll no doubt people buying their entertainment :)