Tag Archives: BFI

I am the spirit of dark and lonely water 

14 Apr

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a real and quite irrational fear of what I call ‘organised water’. This is basically water which has pooled or been channelled somewhere it shouldn’t be: a quarry, an aqueduct, a construction site, a canal, a reservoir. There’s no reason for it, I’ve never had a bad experience with water or known anyone who has.

ladybower sinkhole sink hole reservoir scarfolk. gemma critchley. blog

This fills me with dread. Image: FlickRiver.com

I suspect most people will have their own irrational fears. You might have stayed up after watching horror films, scared to go to sleep, listening out for noises that aren’t there. Maybe even years after watching, you remember feeling frightened and won’t revisit that particular film.

Turns out it’s not just horror films that do this. I recently discovered the BFI’s public information films collection: a treasure trove of sinister warnings, glittering darkly and crackling with the threat of doom.

One of the best examples of this is Lonely Water, a film that was designed to warn kids away from playing in unsafe water. I wasn’t even born until almost a decade after it was made, but I (think I) remember seeing this, or a variation of it at primary school as a kid.

The film was made in 1973, but it has all the hallmarks of what I’d consider to be an effective video for learning today:

  • The film’s approach is rooted in the Affective Context model. It makes you feel something; the Donald Pleasence voiceover is straight out of a Halloween film and the use of the hooded figure is just disturbing enough to jolt you out of your reality.
  • It has a clear objective: to stop children from drowning by showing the dangers of ‘lonely water’.
  • It understands its audience and appeals to their fears to make the message stick.
  • It’s short – under two minutes long: something many people forget the importance of today.
  • It has a compelling narrative and sub-story, separate to the voiceover: you want to know what happens to the boy who goes swimming.

In a time when filmmaking has never been more accessible, it’s good to take a step back and look at what makes a compelling, effective film, especially when it comes to creating film for learning. It’s refreshing to see that the stuff that was terrifying in 1973 works just as well at scaring the living daylights out of me today; and that somewhere along the line, the message from the film stuck with me. That’s Affective Context in action.

 
It’s hard to believe it wasn’t made by Scarfolk Council, but was instead produced by the UK government.

 

scarfolk council BFI public information film lonely water gemma critchley

Image: Scarfolk.blogspot.com

 

If you want to see more, the whole collection is available on the BFI Player.

Warning: may contain scenes that some viewers may find disturbing…

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