The two films in this programme are from the BBC series of four film / poems by Tony Harrison made under the title Loving Memory. The film / poems were produced and directed by Peter Symes and were broadcast by the BBC in July and August 1987.
“The beautiful and increasingly powerful series” – Nancy Banks-Smith, The Guardian
“Tony Harrison’s series will linger in the memory.” – Elizabeth Cowley, Daily Mail
Mimmo Perella non e piu (1987) 41 min
In a custom unique to Naples when you die you are buried, only to be dug up again two years later. The body is examined by the family and if it is dry, the remains are placed in one of the many marble lockers in the walls of the Poggioreale cemetery. The film / poem follows Mimmo Perrella and the many servants of the ceremony of death as he sets out on this unique voyage towards the final resting place, exploring what consolation belief in an afterlife gives to those who remain behind.
“Harrison’s compelling and hypnotic poem commentary.” – London Evening Standard
“He wove all the necessary information into his poem with impeccable craft, and at the same time struck exactly the right note.” – The Spectator
“Had me goggling at the box, my jaw dropped to knee level and my eyes bulging like chapel pegs.” – Sally Vincent, Today
Cheating The Void (1987) 40 min
‘Time running out for Europe, and for man …’
Our memory was given a new resource when film was invented – and a critic who first witnessed people moving on a screen in 1895 said: “Now death shall cease to be absolute”. But film was only one means used by 19th-century Europeans to reduce the impact of death.
In an age of rising prosperity, the rapidly expanding city populations spent lavishly on their tombs, vying with each other to build ambitious memorials.
In this film / poem Tony Harrison tours the great burial grounds of Europe, from Pere Lachaise in Paris to the Ohlsdorf in Hamburg. In each location he explores the struggle between memory and oblivion: what memory may have gained with every new resource it has to defend constantly against the greater powers of oblivion
“compelling and hypnotic” – Evening Standard
“A meditation among the tombstones of some celebrated burial grounds in which his mournful verses finally came into their own”– Philip Purser, Daily Mail.
“The verse was well-wrought and gently addictive” – Andrew Hislop, Times