It’s a dark, damp Friday afternoon at Talbot Primary School. Honestly, I’m just dying to get home and have a cup of tea in front of the fire, but tonight is Movie Club night so I’m not going anywhere for a while. Things could be worse though. Aside from giving my parents a bit more kid-free time to run errands, it is also, at the very least, a decent excuse to hang out and have a laugh with my friends for a couple extra hours.
The movie today is Watership Down, which my friend Anthony quickly and condescendingly reminds me is “the one with the bunnies”. Last week’s selection was the viciously boring 1971 version of Black Beauty, but at least Watership Down is a cartoon so, you know, I’ll give it a chance.
Everybody quiets down as the assembly hall falls dark and the light from the projector flicks and splinters into life, and there upon the screen appears the rabbit god Frith in all his pulsing, psychedelic splendor. “Cool,” says Anthony to my left. I silently agree.
The movie continues quickly, shocking us all with contrasting images of vast pastoral beauty and heady, blood-soaked violence. The rabbits in the story become slowly recognizable, familiar - human. Themes of environmentalism and authoritarianism and caste that will one day speak loudly to me pass largely unnoticed upon this viewing - and yet by the time Art Garfunkel sings “Bright Eyes” at the emotional mid-point of the story, I find that I’m desperately choking back tears.
Anthony snorts to my left, and I turn to catch him quickly swiping away a tear of his own. “Shut up,” he says. But I’m with him in every way.
These bloody rabbits are breaking me.
The movie finally ends and my head is thudding from the effort of having stifled my emotions for an hour and a half. I’d be lying if I’d said I hadn’t parted with at least a small handful of tears, but each time one had started its inexorable trickle down my cheek I’d managed to quickly wipe it away under cover of darkness - my pre-adolescent cool properly and finally maintained.
Still, sounds and pictures have begun to twist and turn inside my head in ways which will quietly haunt me for the rest of my life.
Outside at the front gate I meet up with my sister who was watching with her friends in another part of the hall. Her eyes are glazed, her nose a bit redder than usual. We stand and wait in silence for Mum and Dad’s car to come round the corner and pick us up.
“What did you think?” I finally ask her.
“Strewth,” is all she can muster, shaking her head.
“Yeah,” I reply, giving my eyes one last cautionary wipe.
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