By Olivia Williams
12:15PM BST 23 Jul 2013
In her monthly column, Olivia Williams reflects on a summer spent juggling David Cronenberg and Sir David Hare.
I am spending the summer juggling The Two Davids, Hare and Cronenberg, who have taken two hugely different paths to their places in the Movie-Making Hall of Fame. Sir David, knighted for his state-of-the-nation political plays and beautiful screen adaptations, is a wordsmith with a passion for the nuances of film-making while Cronenberg, honoured by the Légion d’honneur and our own dear Queen with a Diamond Jubilee medal, is known for his pioneering work in the genre of 'venereal horror’ and his masterful realisations of tricky texts like Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method.
I am alternating on the two sets; a couple of days in Nether Winchendon with Sir David, a week in a Toronto insane asylum for Cronenberg. A titled newspaper editor for Sir David, a pyromaniacal Hollywood mom for Cronenberg. However, the two men are not millions of miles apart in their working conditions. Both sets are calm and diligent, productive and creative. Cronenberg’s has a feeling of Zen monasticism, Hare’s the low hum of the rare books room in a groovy university library.
Contrary to what you might expect from an auteur who has depicted some of the most dysfunctional aspects of human congress, Cronenberg’s set-up is a family affair. His sister designs the costumes, his daughter, Caitlin, takes the still photographs. As a parent, I’m encouraged to find an unconventional career choice hasn’t resulted in family breakdown and teenage delinquency, so over lunch I ask Caitlin how her father instilled discipline. She recalls he said it was fine for her to have as many piercings as she pleased, wherever she pleased, as long as he could film it – and it was an effective deterrent.
So when I get home and my children ask if they can re-enact the scene from The Parent Trap where one twin attempts to drown the other in a water trough, I say, “Only if I can film it”. The result? I have a pretty good remake of The Parent Trap on my iPhone and a very wet bathroom. Guess it doesn’t work every time…
I have discovered that unspoilt natural loveliness is still to be found three hours north of Toronto. As I took my morning skinny-dip in Lake Muskoka I couldn’t help abbreviating John Donne’s To His Mistress Going To Bed:
“Oh my America, my new-found-land/ How am I blessed in this discovering thee!”
Donne aficionados will tell me that I have no understanding of metaphor; geographers, that I am in Canada, not America, and Ontario, not Newfoundland. But, in my defence, this heavenly “land” is “new-found” to me and, like all good metaphors, Donne’s cuts both ways.