Friday, 20 January 2017

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN











d. Jack Arnold (1957)

'Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something too'.

Despite it's sensational title, 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' is an astonishingly thoughtful, even profound film, especially at its conclusion, where our hapless hero, now less an inch high, stoicly accepts his fate and embraces the process of slowly melding into the Universe. 

It starts, like so many stories, with a normal person (blog fave Grant Williams, who is excellent) being made abnormal by exposure to radioactivity, in this case via a dirty cloud that sweeps over him while he's out yachting. Shortly afterwards, he notices that his clothes are becoming looser and, ominously, his wedding ring falls from his finger. Medical science are baffled and pretty useless as 'people just don't get shorter' (actually, they get shorter all the time, particularly as they get older. In fact, people get shorter over the course of a normal day, and are always tallest when they get out bed: fact).  

Within a few months, he's incredibly angry and living a wretched life barricaded in a dolls house under constant threat of dismemberment by his own pet cat. It's terribly sad, especially as the mysterious condition diminishes him in every way except mentally, leaving him all the time in the world to question himself as a husband, as a man, as a human being.

Eventually, he ends up lost in the basement, presumed dead by his family and locked into a life or death battle with a resident spider. He drinks water that drips from the boiler and lives on crumbs from a slab of stale cake. It's a hard, miserable existence, and there is a palpable sense of relief when he finally realises that his normal life is gone forever and that whatever his future brings will be at a sub-atomic level. So, he raises his eyes to the night sky and accepts he will go from microscopic to submicroscopic, from quark to proton, finally becoming an infinitesimally small, nameless particle known only to God, to whom 'there is no zero'. 

I'd like to have that sort of courage and spiritual depth, but I'm a bit of a 'fuck it' person, so I'd probably just impale myself on a needle or jump on a mouse trap. We all have our own way of shrinking away to nothing, I suppose.

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