Review: The medium has a message for you all
'They treat us as if we're stupid people,' said Mavis. Up to this point she'd been Julie Walters in one of her more mumsy roles, a touch of genteel twee in the voice - she talked about people being 'poorleh'. Now, though, she was indignant. 'We're ordinary people who have a faculteh that everybody else has but for us it's developed to a great degree.' Gullibility, I assume. We're all credulous to a degree but mediums and their followers have exercised this human attribute until it is so muscular that it can bend iron bars.
Everyman placed its feet carefully here. Mediums are fair game on television but the grief and unhappiness that nourish them are not. You can trample all over the former but it looks very bad if you tread on the latter in the process - if you mistake excess of sorrow for feebleness of intellect, however similar the symptoms may be. So, while a priest offered some anecdotal evidence for the detrimental effects of spiritualism (it slows down the grieving process), for the most part Krishna Govender's film just paid very close attention to Mavis at work. Believers will have gone away with their faith untroubled, probably reinforced. The sceptical won't have missed the small print that revealed how Mavis achieves her effects.
There are no unwilling victims. Her clients want to believe so much that they will gladly convert a stab in the dark into a reverse-charge call from the other side. 'She said, 'I have a message from a boy called Paul,' ' one bereaved relative recalled with awe, oblivious to the fact that almost any name shouted into a crowded hall will find a target somewhere (if he'd been called Septimus, even I would have been impressed). Another woman explained that she hadn't gone to Mavis's sister Joyce, also a medium, because, well, Joyce was a friend and knew her too well. She was very struck, as most viewers will have been until this revelation, by Mavis's detailed knowledge of the drinking habits of the deceased. 'It was just as if she knew them,' she said without irony.
Most telling of all were the scenes in which prospective mediums were taken through the training procedure. 'Would I be right in saying you've lost your husband?' said David, a trainee who had come to spiritualism through the death of his son and who was visibly struggling with a lack of inspiration. 'No . . . he's not in the spirit world,' replied one of his fellow students, '. . . but we are divorced, so in a way he's gone.' 'Loveleh, super,' said Mavis hastily, her desire to encourage David leading her into tactlessness.
Earlier she had been more explicit still, jumping in when an over-eager apprentice had got tangled up in specific detail. 'If you're looking at Rose . . . you can see that Rose's body language is saying to you, 'I do not understand this contact' . . . and what you should do at that stage is stop,' she explained. A con man or a salesman would call this a 'tell', the unconscious sign that shows whether their pitch is working or not. With mediums it's called 'cold reading', a technique that harnesses the client's desperation that the medium to be right. Wrong guesses are discarded instantly as interference on the line, those that get a warmer response are dwelt on. In effect the client says, 'Just a little bit higher' or 'A little to the left', and before long the sensitive medium is scratching them just where it itches.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 5 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
These Harry Potter lipsticks are sparking all sorts of controversy with Hogwarts fans
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Hunted: Channel 4 to test 'surveillance Britain' by taking Big Brother to sinister new lengths
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs