We Danced In Narrow Spaces

This film by Ash Akhtar was first premiered back in August at the Danny Boyle curated Shuffle Festival. I wrote the ‘script’ and as a couple of people have asked about it, here it is in full.

I came in a rush of foolish blood, swaddled in spent air. I had studied the floorplans of the building, sketched out like some vast heart, but still the size alarmed me. I would walk the corridors, some that seemed to stretch on forever. Occasionally, I would find a new conjunction of rooms, or a new atrium, bathed in light; I would rest my hands on the peeling paint walls. They felt sodden, damp with memories. Sometimes the noise was terrifying, especially at night, but it would pass, dissipating into the far reaches of the hospital.”

“Nights; nights were the worse time for them, I think – both the natural fall of sleep and the induced caverns of prolonged narcosis. In the mornings they would walk on tiptoes as if afraid to touch the earth. Stale and drawn, smudged by sleep, they looked cadaverous and exhausted, wracked by the haunted space of their dreams. “Wake up”, I would whisper, “wake up”. I’d watch them in their actions, actions that seemed aching and random; but over time, through the great density, I started to notice patterns, like water droplets in the whorls of a giant thumbprint.”

“In music therapy they would batter the Orff instruments with a peculiar intensity. I asked about the maps they carried. They were a long way from home. They told me this: “You stand on hills and wonder at the silence of things; you want to do an archaeology of that silence. An excavation. You try to speak words of water; to lose yourself in the spaces between the water. You walk often at night and by some design return to the banks of the same river. It is dark, but you can hear its voice in the dark. In spring, in spate, it wants to drown; in summer, in the sullen daze of summer, it holds, holds you, and you hold it.” They told me they wanted to go back. They asked if any of this made any sense? It did. Of course it did.

And now this. You would not think to dance in such a place, but it came, it came. With the music silenced, we washed in embers, and fathomless and unburdened, we walked, as signatures of the invisible, out into the welcoming wind.