Updated: Aug 22
A mysterious young man moves to a new town to work in a low level job in an isolated hotel, run by an unsympathetic bully who has deadly secrets of his own.
This radical ‘indie’ film was shot in England in 2019 – out in the streets, in real locations using modern lightweight camera gear. The story follows the life of Matt, an expert in cyber technology who uses his skills to infiltrate the systems of a suspected murderer.
Director: James Smith
Writers: James Smith (Story), Caroline Spence (screenplay)
Stars: Gavin Gordon, Domenic Tiberius Russo, Emily Haigh, Mark Peachey
As a psychotherapist I thought to take the Cyberlante storyline and link to related psychotherapeutic experience and theory to explore the psychopathology of the hotel owner and Matt. The Hotel Owner has been introduced in a previous blog.
Here, I want to explore Matt – who has troubled past and has relocated to this area to take up a low-level job in an isolated hotel.
As a Gestalt psychotherapist, my approach is to nor predefine anyone that comes to see. Also, in line with Gestalt thinking, I recognise the impossibility of not making an assessment, or imagining possibilities that brought someone to me for therapy. Importantly, I am aware of the need to hold back with any preconceived notions and allow the person with me to outline and describe their world. This task of withholding preconceptions is practiced over time and involves serious self-reflection, study and therapy on my part. This ensures I am avoiding as much imposing my own worldview.
What, though might I make of a young man described as having a troubled past and has (needed) to move towns and take low level employment under the mentorship of an older adult? Also, in the background, is he is working for someone that is bullying and unsympathetic. This latter information might play out a recurring, albeit out of awareness, pattern for Matt. Is his past littered with unsympathetic authority figures?
With the inevitability of interpretation, I want to make an initial assessment of Matt.
As a young man Matt is learning to negotiate and navigate life; where are the adults to guide Matt; what social structure is providing a setting that allows this young man to explore and experiment with growing in a safe and secure manner?
Matt is cyber-aware and for all this generation the world is being perceived in a radically different way to all previous generations because of the technology of this cyber world. What for previous generations was science fiction is for this generation reality and fact. Unfortunately, Matt and his generation were born into a world in which information and explanations were the socially dominant mechanisms to impart information and thus what you learnt. This does not fit well with the cyber generation where information is both immediately available and from multiple sources along with varying explanations. The cyber generation are not satisfied with the older generations and does not correlate with the curious and investigative mind of the cyber generation. Most explanations given to our children is done with honesty but probably mostly misleading now that more information sources are available. Indeed, it is perhaps that this generation does not require direct imparting of information from their elders and I am sure this plays out in current social dynamics. What is required now is a more relational experience and learning environment.
A saying I like to hold onto is that children require more of an experience rather than an explanation. This generation seems so much more disillusioned and sceptical of the explanations meted out over their lifetime; the explaining does not meet their experiences nor relational needs.
I am curious to see in this film what, if any, disillusion Matt has towards his parenting generation. What we do know is Matt has been relocated. Was Matt too much trouble in his previous home? Is Matt not worthy of any trust and has a ‘keeper’ in the guise of a mentor?
Relocation indicates a separation that may not have been wanted, and possibly not anticipated. Thus, Matt is experiencing separation and possibly abandonment by authority figures (his mentor?) in the old environment. There has been a failing in that old environment; a failing of containment and security; a failing of valuing and acceptance of Matt; a failing of relating to Matt. The societal system requires Matt to change and yet most probably this relocation represents a societal failing in respecting, accepting and allowing Matt’s uniqueness. Notice I am emphasising the failing in the environment, not a failing in Matt.
In Gestalt therapy there is a recognition that each of us is part of more; we are a part of those people we are in relations with and we are also a part of the environment we are in. Thus, there is often a desire to leave behind where we are – to emigrate, to move to another part of the country. The extreme leaving behind is suicide; an act that removes the person from all failings (of the environment). In working with suicide situations I explore what part of the person wants to leave. There is a part of the person that wants to kill off something. This something can always be traced back to an environmental situation. Most often it is the environment that is not functioning alongside and with, the person not functioning well. Both ultimately need to be addressed.
Relocating is an act that breaks a previous commitment, whether it was deliberate or not Matt had a commitment to his previous situation – his previous life – and this has been abandoned.
In my work I have often dealt with relationship difficulties in which the person expresses the desire to move away – “it’s time for me to move on”.
A common dream and thought includes a move to emigrate, or to a different place, where the person can start again, start afresh without the complications, or miseries, of the past.
Sometimes this works, mostly only for a short time though. Eventually the same patterns emerge because no amount of relocating allows the person to leave their own person – their own self – behind; you always take you with you.
Matt may have been able to remove himself from an environment that was not functioning in a healthy way for him but he is still the Matt of before and so there remains some aspects of his personality that destine Matt to, in some way, experience the same feelings from repeated behaviours and thoughts; unless there is a supportive, safe and responsive input in which to relate with.
Matt is observant and curious. No doubt his curiosity has created some, if not all, of the troubles he has had in the past. I suspect that being full of curiosity Matt-the-child was faced with discouragement rather than support. Such discouragement diminished his spirit forcing his curiosity to be hidden. Perhaps it is apt in today’s world that his curiosity is expressed ‘behind the scenes’ over the hidden network of the world wide web.
The process of hiding his curiosity requires certain action to take place. In the first instant (child) Matt recognises that to express curiosity has result in discouragement – unpleasant responses from others that might include ridicule and criticism; possibly physical harm and pain; and occurring over a period of time. So, he suppresses his outward expression of curiosity; supressing his excitement of discovery. With the adrenaline beginning its surge into his muscles to allow the bodily expression of excitement and wonder Matt needs to physically hold back and supress this body movement to avoid it being seen and being attacked.
The very act of suppressing excitement leads to increased anxiety and manifests as asthmatic symptoms due to shortening breathing which holds the excited breathing in the chest cavity. Yet there is another action that might hide the curiosity that utilises the excitement differently. Rather than suppressing, the response is to act out the energy differently, like becoming loud and even aggressive in voice and body. Both redirect the excitement and the key here is Matt learns how to not be fully and immediately excited but instead becomes a loud, excessive, and maybe aggressive individual, or he becomes restricted in breath which tightens in his chest and in his posture and he is (more) silent and passive.
No amount of relocating is going to resolve this. Matt needs to recover his capacity to be excited in the moment and there is the need for his curiosity to be positively nurtured and acknowledged as a potent and positive part of his character.
Other characteristics will also be at play, and how Matt has adjusted to life will give him the strength to survive and provide motivation in his actions that I expect we will see unfold in the film. Let us wait and see…
Coming soon: exploring the no ordinary vigilante character ....