By Graham Brunstrom
I’ve just watched Emily Cook’s film “Unkept” which is a collection of people’s secrets, anonymously collected and read out, face to camera, by actors. This concept enables each secret to remain as such as although spoken out loud, they’re not attributed to the owner of each particular secret. This, apart from keeping the anonymity, can also vastly alter the watcher’s perspective of each short statement lending more pathos or enlightenment to a particular ‘secret’ in some cases or bending your interpretation of what has been confided than if they were simply written words.
My initial feeling after the first watch of this film was how isolated each secret appears to be, how alone we can all be in a crowd by the deepest fear’s or secrets we keep to ourselves. The beautiful concept of the film in ‘outing’ each secret and yet protecting the owner of the thought and thereby keeping the secret intact and unspoken left me feeling unobtrusive and yet still a little voyeuristic in being party to ‘someone’s inner thoughts. The second time I watched it I wondered if there was a thread because I noted a couple of innocent child like ‘secret’s to begin with and yet near the end one that remained with me was the mature lady explaining that ‘she’ (he?) was afraid of being forgotten by people who were close to her (him?). I don’t know what order Emily created, or if any, each of the secrets could have been attributed to any of the actors, or more specifically and generically, any of us. Who knows what goes on in the heads of people that you pass in the street, at airports and train stations. What interesting ‘baggage’ we all carry around with us, thank goodness we don’t have to declare it along with the other items we do. Although I first thought of the piece as being sombre, dark perhaps, the isolation in each thought.
Thinking of the film afterwards I kept returning to the secrets that appeared sad through regret, of not leaving a legacy, the thought of being forgotten, not being able to tell someone they loved them, and at that moment it made me think that perhaps the film is more inspiring because each small spoken item contained nothing that couldn’t be overcome or dissipated by having others around an indulging in each other, helping one another. By living in the moment and not giving a breeding ground to the worry gene.
I remember form when I was young, something every mother tells an adolescent perhaps, the phrase “a problem shared is a problem halved”, that doesn’t necessarily make any secret a ‘problem’ but the little worries or thoughts we have and hold to ourselves can grow, nurtured by a fear, of rejection, of judgement perhaps, of revealing ourselves too much maybe? Watching this film reminds me we’re all so similar. I wonder would these secrets have been different if recorded from the occupants in a thriving metropolis, a tribal village in the Congo, a sheep station in the desert or a high rise block of flats in Glasgow. Perhaps the material images would but perhaps the main hopes, regrets, fears would remain the same. I do think it’s quite an uplifting film in that sense, that listening and watching Emily’s film should encourage us to live in the moment, to seize what we want and to say what we feel, to out our secrets and in letting them be truly “unkept”, free ourselves. Mind you, if anyone asks me about this film I’m keeping that a secret so they have to buy it from Emily herself to find out.