Number 30, Wellington Square, SW3 looks like another Chelsea house, but this one is different, for this one was once home to a man, who was a friend of Ian Fleming, and upon whom, allegedly, the character James Bond was based. Deep down, every aspiring novelist hopes to create the next Bond, but as a beginner in the world of fiction, I fear I’m going to disappoint in that respect. However if I can’t find Bond in my own work, I can enjoy his presence vicariously in today’s pick from last week’s trip to La belle France.
On the Set of James Bond’s SPECTRE by Anderson & Low Hon FRPS
There is an old adage that says you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, @adage, I beg to differ. To misquote another saying, the cover of this book is an invitation to a treat, and it is an invitation that should be accepted because the treat is intense and flawless. Through the outstanding photography of the seamless Anderson & Low, the reader is taken on a mesmerising journey, which is convincingly real, and yet simultaneously both surreal and hyperreal. Film sets are, by their very nature, hyperreal; we are convinced by them because they resemble our perceived world far more than they resemble our experiential world. We see this clearly from the first image, Secret Room, Tangier Hotel, which sets the tableau for the book. The framing welcomes the viewer in such a way that we feel as though we too are in the heart of that secret room, but then out of the corner of the eye, we notice something even more real – a glimpse of the film’s lighting equipment; an alert that all is not what it seems. We realise that this small corner is the reality and that the secret room was the illusion. The ingenious play on the viewer’s perception of reality continues throughout. Some images highlight the illusion of the real. For example, the chilling simplicity of the memorial of those who have died in service, with Bond’s name spray-painted in blood-red. In other images, the reality and the hyperreal are evenly matched, such as in Oberhauser’s Observatory, Morocco or the Palazzo, Rome. The volume’s finale emphasises the juxtaposition between the reality of filming and the unreality of the film-set by showing the extensive equipment required to create the illusion. Here, reality is foregrounded and the 007 component now plays a supporting role. It is not dissimilar to the hypnotist’s clicking fingers signalling that we are about to emerge from our pleasurable escape and will shortly be arriving back into our normal lives. And as with all enjoyable journeys, once you’ve finished, you just feel compelled to go back to the beginning and do it all over again.
And if any of my fellow NaNo novelists are struggling with their voice, take solace from the fact that the great Ian Fleming had many, most notably, one for Bond and one for Truly Scrumptious … but that will be the subject of another post for another day.
Masters of Illusion from The Masquerade Overture by Pendragon