Is anyone else feeling like a spooky movie recluse while we shelter in place?
As we stay at home and limit our in-person contact to stop the spread of COVID-19, most of us probably feel cut off from our regular lives. There’s only so much comfort videoconferencing and other self-care techniques can offer. But remember: If you’re feeling loopy from cabin fever or isolation, you are not alone. Well, you’re probably physically alone, but we’re all in this together (though at least 6 feet apart).
Instead of seeing the downsides of staying in, I encourage all of us to look at this period as an opportunity to explore an exciting new lifestyle — the eccentric, but ultimately super compelling, shut-in. Haven’t you ever wanted to experiment with being the mysterious neighborhood character local children whisper about? Or the weirdo in the cabin in the woods (with apologies to Henry David Thoreau)? This is your chance to throw yourself into being whatever your fantasy recluse is for a temporary period.
Long before staying in was a government order, I was a huge fan of the kooky recluse. Who’s cooler than Emily Dickinson, she who made staying in into actual poetry? Or how about “Star Wars” hermit Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi, who probably used all his quality alone time to perfect his lightsaber technique?
Of course, there are also more sinister recluses like Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now,” and a host of shut-in movie monsters and serial killers, but those aren’t the ones we’re seeking inspiration from.
My top film recluses are the ones who make living apart look like a carefully curated alternative lifestyle, filled with all kinds of adventures. During this shelter-in-place period, I’ve been revisiting my all-time favorite cinematic recluses for my “Fabulous Films for Shut-ins” viewing recommendations on Instagram @TonyBravoSF. There are lessons we can learn from all these fictional recluses, but the most common takeaway is: You are responsible for creating your own joy when you’re shut in.
“Sunset Boulevard,” 1950: Director and screenwriter Billy Wilder gave us a model for how to shut in like a star with this classic film noir about silent-movie queen Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) self-isolating in her Hollywood mansion.
What we can learn: Sure, Norma does have a mental breakdown by the film’s conclusion, but before that, she was really good at entertaining herself. Not only was she writing her “Salome” screenplay, she also played bridge, had a funeral for her monkey and did Charlie Chaplin imitations in her living room.
These things may not all be to everyone’s personal taste, but we should all be so enthusiastic about our own projects.
“Rear Window,” 1954: Alfred Hitchcock knew we’re all curious about our neighbors. This suspense masterpiece shows just how consuming that curiosity can be for people stuck at home all day, like James Stewart’s character, Jeff, who is apartment-bound with a broken leg.Read Full Article
What we can learn: Some people might call Jeff’s spying on his neighbors an invasion of privacy; I say it’s important to have a hobby. Why not train your binoculars on the trees to bird-watch or onto the public sidewalks? If you get a lot of foot traffic in your neighborhood, you could become your block’s unofficial social-distance patrol. If people are getting too close to each other, shout “6 feet apart” out your window until they separate. It’s one way to feel like you’re making a difference without leaving home.
“Grey Gardens,” 1975: Albert and David Maysles’ cult documentary of mother and daughter Big Edie Beale and Little Edie Beale shows the reclusive aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in their East Hampton, N.Y., mansion overgrown with vines and overpopulated by cats.
What we can learn: Big and Little Edie made a game of rehashing incidents from their colorful socialite pasts. If you’re sheltering in place with someone else, now’s the time to remember happy times together or continue to debate any sore points from your shared history.
Big and Little Edie have the same arguments many different ways in “Grey Gardens” (which has also been adapted into a musical and a HBO film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore) and pepper their recollections with songs, dance routines and poetry recitations. Just because you’re hidden away from the world doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself.
“Great Expectations,” 1946: David Lean’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic has one of the best OG recluses ever created. Among the characters is long-ago jilted bride Miss Havisham, who lets her would-be wedding banquet rot in her moldering mansion as she obsesses over the betrayal of her groom, while wearing her equally decaying wedding dress.
What we can learn: You’ve got to have a look! I’m not saying you should wear the same thing every day, but Havisham’s wedding dress was the kind of risky style signature that you have to applaud for personal bravery. Shut in doesn’t mean shut out of fashion.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” 1962: Robert Mulligan directed and Horton Foote wrote the adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved novel about childhood, racial persecution and life in Alabama during the Great Depression.
What we can learn: Gregory Peck’s empathetic lawyer Atticus Finch is often named as a favorite fictional hero, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the town recluse, Arthur “Boo” Radley. In a town filled with racist liars (minus the Finch family), voluntary social isolation was probably the best choice if you couldn’t afford to move. At the climax of the film, Radley chose the right moment to show his face and save the day, proving that some recluses are the story’s real heroes.