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The voices of the departed and Brighton Rock (2010)

A few years ago I read a piece of news about the widow of Oswald Laurence, the voice behind the iconic ‘Mind the gap’ announcement for the London Underground Northern Line. Althought it was recorded in 1969, the announcement could still be heard well into the new millenium.
Oswald died in 2007 and Margaret McCollum explains how she would often wait at Embankment station to hear his voice. But then one day something terrible happened. The voice had been replaced. Stunned, Margaret approached Transport for London to see whether she could get a copy of the announcement. Staff at the station were so moved by the story that they not only gave her a copy on CD but also restored  the announcement at Embankment Station.

There’s something about this story that we can all relate to. We all have an inherent need to keep a bond with our departed, to maintain a connection.

Pictures are a great away to keep the memory of the person alive, but what about a recording of their voice? There’s something very powerful about listening to the voice of a loved one who’s no longer with us. Perhaps more so than looking at their picture. Why?

First, an image is a passive recording of the light a person reflects, whereas the voice is the result of a voluntary effort on their part. Also, what we see in the picture is detached from us, at a distance. But voice, on the other hand, produces mechanical waves in the air that touch our bodies and connect us physically with the person emitting the sound. It is a more participatory experience altogether, a form of communion. Through voice, the person talking shares with us both thoughts and feelings, which can be communicated verbally and non-verbally.

But there’s yet something even more profound about the voice. Our voices are carried by our breath, and breath, as most spiritual traditions will tell you, is life itself. Without it, we can’t exist. This is perhaps why nothing brings more to life a departed one than their voice.

Moments like the one experienced by Margaret have  undoubtedly great cinematic potential. One film that springs to mind is Brighton Rock (2010).

In this film, the main character, Pinky Brown, marries Rose so that she won’t have to give evidence against him (although deep inside he does love her). It’s a very troublesome relationship, mostly because of the sadistic-catholic nature of Pinky. That’s fine by Rose. In fact, she seems to be thrilled by his dangerous personality. Still, she wishes that from time to time he was nice to her and did small things like saying ‘I love you’.

This is what happens during one of their strolls along the pier:



Eventually, Pinky dies and Rosy, who’s pregnant with Pinky’s child, seeks refuge in a  convent. And this happens at the end of the film:



Powerful, isn’t it?

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