Books and Movies Reviews

The Singing Detective

P.D Marlowe’s dreams, hallucinations and imaginings play an important role in The Singing Detective.
This is a six-episode film may be seen as a marking of thefirst time Dennis Potter dealt with illness in his work, although it is not as much an autobiography.”I felt myself being nudged into writing about the condition.Not what it’s like to be ill, but what it’s like to be a human being trying to understand the shape of your own life,”
The three main subplots are the Hospital Ward (1980s), the Forest of Dean (then later, London (1930s), and the Film Noir fantasy of the 1940s.
Phillip Marlowe is the link between these worlds, these subplots. As the three subplots are basically telling the same story they intermingle in Marlow’s head. As Marlow hallucinates due to his illness the flashbacks and fantasy scenes have an anchor in reality and credibility for the viewer. “Even more than his beloved Forest of Dean, the landscape Potter occupies is the inside of the head”. Seeing the story subjectively from Marlow’s perspective forces us to associate with this unsympathetic character. In Marlow’s head, where all the stories are based he is unravelling the plots to reach a resolution. By reworking his novel he assimilates his childhood memories and so comes to terms with his reality. In Potter’s own words (in ‘Potter on Potter’), Marlow is “trying to rewrite [the novel] simply as an exercise in not going mad. That in turn led him to start assembling his life”. The multi-temporal narrative, with ‘worlds’ crossing into each other, had been tried by Potter before and more so since (Cream in My Coffee, Blackeyes, Secret Friends) but it was probably most effectively realised in The Singing Detective.
The Singing Detective is visually aesthetic, and uses the physical and mental state of the characters to reflect their personality and position in their environment. It is through this technique that the main character, Phillip Marlow…

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