Sir Ian McKellen‘s (@IanMckellen) newest film, Mr. Holmes (@MrHolmesMovie), is an interesting take on the all too familiar Sherlock Holmes tradition of super-sleuth-doing-super-sleuthing kind of stuff, albeit as he’s nearing the end of his life and suffering the effects of old age. However, having just watched the film, I’m left somewhat perplexed at the inclusion of a direct reference to the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m perplexed because I guess I’m meant to be. What I mean by this is that the film-makers obviously meant this aspect of the film to have such an effect, because it jars one’s sensibilities at the point of reference, causing one to perform a kind of cinematic double-take, where you’re sitting in your comfy cinema chair, feeling all caught up in the scenes of England-of-yesteryear, what with steam trains and old cars and men in hats and women in gloves and apiaries and stuff, and then you catch a glimpse of a Japanese woman with horrific scarring to her face, just before you see the sign for Hiroshima Station and the scorched landscape beyond.
And I guess my problem with feeling perplexed about this is that it’s just way too oblique as a reference, and as such can be readily disposed of before we set our minds to work on the purpose of its inclusion, and believe you me, there is a purpose to its inclusion, it’s just that it’s way too disjointed from the rest of the film to make itself known readily or to haunt us in the way that such an event should haunt us. Whilst still in the midst of my perplexity, I feel it’s a little too soon to come to any sort of conclusion (so watch this space), but wanted to give mention to a Hiroshima reference that works exactly as intended in describing the sense of horror that accompanies the senseless use of an horrific weapon on hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The reference to which I allude is Georges Bataille’s “Concerning the Accounts Given by Residents of Hiroshima” (1947), trans. Alan Keenan, in Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 221-235. Perhaps the film-makers should read it, then reflect on their use of such an event?