Film ID:
YFA 3301

A PRISON SHOULD BE DARK

1971

Visitor Tabs

Description

Fiction short about a man who is arrested for an unknown crime but ultimately finds his ensuing confinement no worse than the monotonous life he led with his wife and job and family.

While adjusting his sock, John Andrews is seized by two men, who grab him by each shoulder and steer him down the street. John's prison cell is dominated by low-key lighting, and he sits alone, obscured by shadows. John is visited by his jailers, who inform him he has been sentenced to death but neglect to inform him of his crime. He is visited by his employer, who offers to use his influence to help but almost immediately leaves to visit someone else. He is visited by his wife, who promises to look through the holiday brochures he sent for before he was taken away. In each instance, John is illuminated in high contrast by bright lights, which dominate his line of vision and shine directly into the camera in place of his unseen visitors. During this imprisonment, we are treated to various snippets of John's former life: He explores an empty room with the two men from the beginning of the film. He receives cocoa from his wife as their television advertises Cadbury chocolate. He kisses his wife and baby, rides on the underground, and reads the 'Guardian' in the park while an older child in a cowboy costume plays with a toy gun. His wife hands him a white book, labelled 'John Andrews: 1940-.' The images are accompanied at times by violins, by excerpts from George Harrison's 'Beware of Darkness' (NOT COPYRIGHT CLEARED), and by John's own voiceover, which often takes the form of this poem, or variations thereof:
'They seized my hand and put it in the darkness,
Impeding my direction to a state which I despise
Yet lack the will to break.
It is nothing in the darkness;
I've created no escape.
My hand is in the darkness,
In a grasp I cannot break.
It is a question of passing through my knowledge,
Then passing through a limbo,
But the darkness is unfriendly.
I prefer my little path of resignation.'
When his jailer returns and tells him that his incarceration has been a mistake and he is free to go, John begs his captors, 'Please let me stay!' As the credits roll, the little boy from the park calls out, 'Daddy!' again and again.
Ending Titles:
james woolley as john andrews
also appearing:
lucy o'connor-howe
toby claridge
john mills
graham moore
technical assistance from:
rodger hickman
john mills
graham moore
david peabody
royal college of art 1971
The Opening Titles ('A Prison Should be Dark; A Film by Richard Woolley) appear only on the A Roll Negative, in which they take the place of a completely black stretch of film that appears just after John's incarceration, during his first recitation of the poem.