I am writing this essay to answer questions from the story side of the film, not the technical. For things that might be understood, or for those who want the writers explanation, I will try to cover most of it here. This document will contain spoilers of the highest magnitude! I will try to answer it in a question/answer way, so that you can skip to the bits that might be of interest.
How does an agoraphobic casually, without anxiety, walk to the Granary?
I’ve been agoraphobic for 30 years, and I have often casually walked or cycled to places. Reasons include having a good day, going to a place or taking a route you’re comfortable with, that is within your limits, having something else on your mind besides anxiety, and generally grinning and bearing it and becoming – at most times – the master of hiding it. This should be understood by anyone who suffers with anxiety or depression. By trying to be normal, it helps you to believe you’re normal. Sometimes you have to tell yourself you’re going to be alright, and behave as if you were, in order to stop breaking down. In the case of Pan, the reasons are different altogether – thus:
Why does Pan go to the Granary in the first place?
Major spoilers begin henceforth. He doesn’t go out of anxiety and agoraphobia – which you might think so initially before seeing the twists at the end. Although be believes his curse is behind everything that’s happened – he goes there spontaneously to commit suicide by whatever means he might find. Either by guessing what might be up there, or walking past it every day during his self therapy (as I did for over 10 years down that exact path), or by just taking a chance and finding somewhere abandoned to lock himself away in. It’s open to interpretation.
Why did he try to commit suicide?
Because he blamed himself for Jimmy’s death, which was something that must have happened very recently, maybe even a couple of days ago. He went for a walk, and snapped, or he was predetermined to do something about it.
Why does he blame himself for Jimmy’s Death?
Jimmy took him for drives in Brighton. Pan wanted to go out en femme there, but wasn’t ready. Jimmy suggested going out in the local town – which although fictional, is going to be pretty close to East Grinstead. In doing so, Pan was approached by bigots, got really unlucky and got abuse for the way they dressed. Jimmy tried to stick up for Pan, but other bullies showed up, got the wrong idea, and attacked him. In Pan’s eyes, if he never made him/herself a target by dressing a certain way, he/she wouldn’t have been asking for it. A similar principle to people who believe women are “asking for it” when they dress a certain way, and then accepting blame for being raped, which of course, is the rapist’s doing, not the victims.
What’s with The Granary and the subject of Mental Illness?
Although I don’t suffer from everything listed, as an art film, and as something written to relate to people who might feel they’re suffering alone, I wanted to include aspects of many mental illnesses, not just anxiety and agoraphobia, as kind of ‘easter eggs’ for people to spot. For example, talking to an imaginary doctor could be one.
Who was the Doctor?
His name in the credits was Dr. Reason, as he was a metaphor, or imaginary friend, or a representation of Pan’s inner thoughts and conflicts. He was quite simply, the voice of reason. When a person suffers with fear, they often ask themselves questions and try to battle emotions vs reason. This is pretty much the relationship he has with the doctor.
Another subtle bit is in the first scene with the doctor. When the doctor says “I never said a word”, Pan continues to answer questions that were never asked. This is a hint from the start that the doctor doesn’t really exist, and a double barreled example of a possible personality disorder, or even paranoia and assumption. Pan answers questions that weren’t asked, and elaborates on matters that were never suggested. It also implies that he is already working things out, or already knows the answer, or has temporarily forgotten that he created the doctor in the first place, by being distracted by yet more thought. Hard to explain, but it’s there.
Who was the knight?
He was quite simply, fear, or the voice or presence of fear itself. He oozed negativity, and gave Pan suggestions and thoughts that fear generally would.
Why was knight’s face Jimmy under the helmet?
In the original script, the knight was going to be Pan himself. But as things evolved, and as Xander was in the suit regardless, I came up with that idea later along the line, as the story clicked over time. The knight is Jimmy because his fears have been manifested and focused onto what happened with Jimmy. Fears is the most powerful influence over Pan, thus, Jimmy must be the most powerful influence over him.
What did the knight mean by ‘My Sword is Yours?’
Pan stood up to fear for a moment, after a brief discussion about the burglars. He knew that fear is universal and can affect anyone, so he someone got the courage – possibly by hearing it through the inspiring words of the Jimmy image – to face the burglars instead of running. Fight or flight. However, it comes at a price – anger. He beat the burglars by trying to become fear himself – and pass the fear into them, which maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but anger is usually short-lived.
Why did Pan attack the Doctor?
This scene, and the lecture with the burglar before, is important because it shows a stage of anxiety which is quite simply anger. It’s also part of a grieving stage for many. He used anger to temporarily overcome fear, to confront the burglars and fight them. He was already psyched up, and of course, defied and attacked reason. Since the doctor isn’t real, the fight is within himself, so no harm done!
Why did Pan change his mind about killing himself?
The whole point of the film is this. He changed his mind because he saw that Tom went through a frighteningly similar ordeal, and he didn’t find the courage to overcome it. Tom killed himself, which left his father, the farmer, devastated. It also broke Heather’s heart, which Pan had the fortune of meeting, and seeing her reason before his eyes. The inspiration of the damage suicide can do to loved ones was probably the biggest influence. And the medium in which to vent and express the energy of his problems was inspired by Tom and his forms of art. He changed his mind because he didn’t want to become another Tom, but at the same time, wanted to do it for Tom, to prove it could be done, perhaps.
When Pan wakes up from Brighton, how long had he actually been dreaming for?
It’s all in the dialogue about out of body experiences and dreaming. I filmed scenes for both endings. It’s all about the part where he wakes up and writes down the code 664321 on paper, then goes back to sleep.
He explained to the doctor that when he wakes up from a dream and writes ideas down, it usually means he’s still dreaming. This is totally blatant but overlooked. On the other hand, he also explains that if he wakes up from a dream, and can’t be bothered or struggles to find the drive to write anything down, it means he’s back in reality.
So I filmed this scene twice. Once with him writing it down, and the other (which wasn’t used) of him trying to wake up, getting the pen, and hopelessly throwing it across the room. Most of the crew are unaware of this. This was done for the original scripted ending – where Pan simply ends up in Brighton, and that’s it.
To answer the question though, in the final full version of the film, Pan was dreaming since the astral dream. He never woke up from that. This means that the burglar attack never happened, and that it was all part of a story Pan was writing in the notepad.
An additional thought is that he created the burglar story to inspire him, to make him feel heroic, another metaphor to get the courage to leave.
What more is there about the original and alternate endings?
The original ending (which hasn’t been used currently) is when Pan ends up in Brighton as usual, but doesn’t wake up. The film simply ends there.
This would have made the film a scene shorter, naturally, as the poem at the end was unscripted and completely hidden from the crew.
Although the original ending in Brighton might imply that he accomplished his goal of ending up in Brighton, it’s actually far darker. The nurse was scripted as overly friendly on purpose. Pan was uninjured and fully clothed on purpose, and he walked out of that hospital perfectly without anyone noticing him (besides the automatic door, but poetic license and all – bear with me). In a nutshell, he’s dead. He got hit by a car, died, and his ghost ended up in brighton. It would have been edited slightly differently perhaps, but that’s basically it. A dark, dark ending.
In addition to that, I considered a third ending, which I call the return of the jedi ending. This is when he’s at Brighton on the pebbles, and the final shot is Tom and Jimmy together – as ghosts, smiling and looking on in the distance. Tom walks off, and they both disappear – fading away – as if something is achieved and satisfied. In this version, I would say that Pan did not die and he really did make it to Brighton, but the way it happened was deemed too unrealistic. Again – the guy just got hit by a car, and waltzed out of there.
The final giveaway that its a dream in the final version is of course, how easily he walks out, with no fear. He states earlier that in his dreams, he feels “no fear, no aches and no pain”. This is another giveaway that it’s a dream.
What do scenes with Colour imply?
Any scene with colour is a dream, but parts of a dream aren’t necessarily in colour. During astral projection, it starts in colour, then fades back to black and white as the power of the projection subsides, and it becomes a regular dream. This is based on my experiences of astral projection, but instead of colour, it’s a feeling of almost static electricity, and control over lucid dreaming.
The idea at the end in Brighton was that it would fade into colour so slowly that people might not have noticed. Only when he wakes up does it really hit home and the beauty of the moment is completely stripped of everything.
Where did the poem come from?
I wrote the poem “I am not afraid” possibly in the late 90’s or early 2000’s inspired from my own experiences, in the Book of Confusion. I went through the book to find something, being too lazy to write anything new. There were two or three poems that I recorded a voice-over for. In the end, I used that one.
Another poem which wasn’t used was more spoken-word style than a poem. It was actually more intense, a letter to myself I wrote to walk out the door, saying things like You will never see the ocean again, but it didn’t fit as well, was too long, and didn’t have enough structure. The poem used in the final film had a couple of words changed, but was pretty much 99 percent as it was about 20 years ago.
As for the story, maybe Pan wrote the poem. Maybe that was his final push from all his writings that got him to leave.
Did Tom actually exist?
I’ve left that one unanswered. On one hand, it seemed he did, as everything was in place. On the other, Pan created Tom – hence why he was so similar in interests and skills – to be the “what if I died, what damage would I do?” inspiration. He might have seem objects around the Granary and wrote the story about it, or imagined things about it. I know that in the past, I’ve had to create heroic scenarios within myself to give me a different angle and outlook on the situation, in order to conquer a frightening task or event. If I can pretend I’m a different version of myself (not someone else, just a stronger me), in a different situation – or if I can pretend I’m facing this fear for someone else other than myself, it can sometimes place me outside of fear, and thus, make it more bearable.
Are there any deleted scenes?
There’s one that was not fully edited, but all the media is there. When the doctor says “How does one face their senses, head on?”, originally it cut to a sequence of a banquet around a table. All the five senses are there. They all talk in rhyme, and Pan helps them to satisfy their problems. It had green screen which I eventually got to work, almost, but the film was long enough already.
The scene probably would have been at least 6 minutes long, and wasn’t worth it, I thought. It was however, the only chance to see Sight, as he is not seen in the final film, only Touch, Taste, Smell and Sound. I might finish the scene one day just to see how it would have turned out.
Another scene was driving in the car with Jimmy. Just as the knight was going to take off the helmet, it was going to cut to Jimmy in the car, from Pan’s POV, giving a motivational speech to push through life. We filmed lots of it, but I felt it might distract from the build-up of the helmet being removed, and the filming itself wasn’t to the same standard as most of the other footage.
What’s with the Paints-on-the-table Scene? Seems a bit vague.
It’s a nod to OCD, which is another thing that relates to agoraphobia. When you’re confined to a safe place, you want to keep it the same, and develop habits, and positions for items. Certain things have to be a certain way. He started to get comfortable with his new home, so he got fussy about how the paints should be arranged. In the end, he snapped out of it and just put them on the floor, denying himself the chance to get too attached. If I cut the film to a shorter version, this would have been the first scene to go, but I kept it in because paying for one BBFC certificate is enough for me. Changing even one frame and you have to pay it all over again, so it might as well be the full version. Plus, I thought maybe someone with OCD might get it. You never know.
What’s going on in these Astral Projection dreams? It’s all a bit weird…
I tried to express some elements from my own experiences of astral projection. Whenever I come out of my body, the first thing I usually do (if gravity is correct and not spinning) is go over the wall and expect a mirror there. I’ll look in it, and one eye will be cross-eyed and the other will be looking forward. The distorted eyeball can even be shifted inside the socket, making a gap visible with darkness. Pretty scary, but spectacular. This happens every time, without fail, even if I’m not thinking about it.
The waking up scene with the purring is what I call The Realm of Cats, which other people might know as Sleep Paralysis. It’s when you wake up in a half-way world which is identical to real life, but you’re paralysed. It’s actually more than that. I could be looking at a precise point in reality, and when I finally wake up, I’m still looking at that precise point, and everything is as it is (minus the demons, which I’ll get to in a bit).
This means that there are only two possibilities that are physically possible: 1) I’m sleeping with my eyes open, looking into reality which is being distorted by my dream process, or 2) I’m looking through my eyelids, so I couldn’t possibly know what’s in front of me, meaning that the spirit world must be real, as I’m seeing them with eyes (or maybe that distorted eye) that isn’t a part of my physical being.
The cat-like creatures, I came to conclusion, are demons. Good or bad, I’m not sure. But they’re always cat-like, and because I’m paralysed, I can’t even move my eyes to look at them. They are always in the corner of my eye, usually as a fluffy dark shadow. I can physically feel them on me sometimes, sometimes on my face or lap. When I don’t have vision, I assume the cat has wandered into my room and is sleeping on me. I shake myself out of the paralysis which is quite disturbing, but when I finally wake up, there’s no cat there. Never has been, the door is shut. It’s impossible, but the feeling of those cats is absolutely real.
I think I’ve sometimes felt their razor-like claws in the fur, which isn’t nice. But they haven’t harmed me. I believe it to be some kind of mid-way place between realms, perhaps.
The whispering is subtle on the film. It’s actually far more than that. Although when I went to what I thought was an astral plane, I had no body, and was spinning with no gravity. Weightless, with no aches or pains. Whispers to me in my own voice in different languages. It looked very similar to the shot in the film – the brief one where it’s all weird marble-effect kinda space. The only difference is that in my experience, it’s blue and white.
What I didn’t put into the film is the hearing of the radio or TV as I drift into the astral world. It can be any genre, or commentators, or pop music. I’ve woken up thinking I left the TV on, but again, I didn’t. I have written down lyrics and songs from this place that I believe I would have never created. I’ve googled specific lyrics and catchy pop tunes and never found anything to exist that’s come of it, leaving only these possibilities: 1) I’m tuning into a radio frequency some how, hearing someone’s songs but can’t find them (unlikely), or 2) I’m tuning into a radio from another dimension, from songs that could have been (it feels that way), or 3) which most will probably go for, the only purely scientifical one, it’s all in my subconscious mind, all from my brain, meaning that my ability to compose and process that level of detail is 1000 times more powerful asleep than when I’m awake. Either possibility fascinates me.
But enough about that, back to the film. To make everyone and everything look ever so slightly different in the astral dream scene, I flipped the picture horizontally. This would draw attention to imperfections on the opposite side of the face, giving it a “What’s different about them?” look, and also an alternate reality for the location.
The demons look nothing like Boglins in my dreams. We used them as a last resort, and a bit of an inside joke. Also as a tribute to the first time my brother and I ever had our hands on a camera – which was a Boglin puppet show in the living room around 1988.
Will there ever be a sequel?
No way. I’m currently living the sequel, technically. But I have had experiences that I’d like to get down to paper, such as the ones in Brighton. There might be a few loose ties in a second film as a sort of tribute or easter-egg, but it would be a stand-alone film with different characters, as I’d never like to play Pan ever again.
If there are any questions, just comment (if that’s even possible) on the blog and I’ll answer them, thank you for reading!