Having recently moved to a new house, I was suddenly reminded of the film Dreams of a Life, but more on that later.
Dreams of a Life is a documentary about a woman who was found dead in her flat three years after she had died. The film then goes on to interview a number of people that were close to her in the past – she was well-liked, fun, had a lot of friends and a number of boyfriends, but then she fell of the grid. Nobody exactly knew why: she had some bad boyfriends, she moved around a lot, but then what?
She also used to be a singer so there are a number of jarring re-enactments which, I believe, are overdubbed with actual recordings of her. This may just be jarring for me as I’m not the biggest fan of re-enactment, singing or fun, but it does feel like it goes on for a bit long and it is mostly being used as filler as there isn’t enough content. Then again, it may just be to add a bit of variety to the film. Ah, documentary theory.
Of course, the main takeaway point from this film is “how can someone be dead for three years without anyone noticing?” Considering I watched this film two years ago and still remember it quite vividly goes to show that it really does stick with you. The interviewees all, understandably, seemed very guilty that they lost touch with her and were sad/surprised to hear that this was how she was found dead.
Today it’s seemingly more difficult than ever to really go off the grid because of the good old internet, but, almost paradoxically, it can become easier to go off the grid as people no longer want to make the effort to remain friends as there is such an immediacy to social media, etc. What? As there is such a saturation of information available about people that you know, people are less likely to actively search you out. Likewise, social media is predominantly about promoting your own personal brand and so people are becoming more self-involved (HISTORY FACT: people have always been self-involved but there are now more platforms for people to exercise this trait) and thus less concerned about other people. I can see how it would be possible for someone to completely fall off the grid and lose touch with all their friends and family, but maybe that says more about me and explains why this film stuck with me so much as I can see myself dying that way.
From memory, they never actually find out how she died as the body was too badly decomposed, and the TV was still on when they found her. It was bailiffs that found her. Direct debits had been going out of her account for three years (I guess it doesn’t pay to save) and finally went looking when the payments stopped coming. I wonder if there’s anyone living out there now who is super rich and aren’t found for fifty years because of the steady flow of direct debits coupled with having no-one to care for them.
Here is the house that I can see from my back window. Terraced housing is a treat. I miss the view of fields and woods from my parents’ house. As you can see, this house is not a very attractive house. I have no idea why it has a double wooden back gate that is three times the size of everyone else’s; the windows and doors look like it’s trying to stop the world from seeing a cheap meth lab and it’s moderately terrifying that they have cages outside the windows. It could just be a poorly kept house, but what is particularly concerning is that the two pairs of trousers on the washing line have been there since I moved in several weeks ago. Is someone living there? Is someone dead? Did someone just move out and leave their trousers? The trousers really aren’t that bad. I wouldn’t leave them: waste not, want not.
Last time I thought that someone might be dead – they were lying on the street not moving in the middle of the day – it turned out they were just drunk and I felt guilty about wasting an ambulance’s time. So while the thought has crossed my mind that I should phone the council (is that the right person to phone??) I’m scared that they’ll call me a busybody, I’ll be wrong and it’s just some dirty old man, or that they actually will find a dead person. People like to keep to themselves, and maybe a couple of years from now it will turn out to be a dead person there as a person braver than myself reports the above.
I don’t know if Dreams of a Life really has a lesson to take from it. Maybe it’s “love each other”. Maybe it’s “keep in touch”. Maybe it’s “is your neighbour dead?”. Either way, I haven’t learned anything.
6.5/10 – worth a watch as it’s an interesting story. Not the best-executed documentary in the world.
Dreams of a Life is available to stream on Netflix and 4OD.
EDIT: Yesterday when breaking styrofoam and putting it in the bin I saw someone looking from behind the curtain of the decrepit house. Opposite neighbour may be a curtain twitcher, but they are definitely alive. It freaked me the hell out. At least they aren’t dead and I didn’t call the council.