Lonely Planet :: It’s Only a Film

I wrote this yesterday afternoon:


I watched a great short film today by a man named Julian Rosefeldt. Lonely Planet was part of an exhibition at La Caixa called ‘The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image’. I liked most of the exhibition but Rosefeldt’s film was my favourite. It followed an American-looking backpacker as he flip-flopped his way though India. First he’s the tramping lonely foreigner, stared and pointed at, then suddenly he’s a figure on a cinema screen, then an extra in a Bollywood-style pop video. In one scene, our point-of-view camera pulls back to reveal a crane-camera tracking the backpacker as he trudges out of shot.

The film is all about the nature of reality. You know, what’s real, what’s not – all that, but it made me think how great it would be if you could summon that crane in real life; if you could step out of reality at any moment and become merely an actor in a film.

I think it particularly struck me because when you’re walking around foreign cities on your own, there is a recurring sense that you are in a film. The strangeness of your environment, the not-quite-rightness of life in a country where everyone is speaking and nothing they say is being understood – it’s slightly unreal. It’s like a weird film. Like the ones they used to show on Channel 4 in the early days. But there is no cameraman. And there is no make-up.

So I joined Couchsurfer a week or so ago and wrote to a few people here in Madrid. Only two of them got back to me and they both had people staying this week. One of them, however, said she’d like to meet up with me for a drink and I should drop her a line when I got here. So I did. But she must have changed her mind, because she didn’t get back to me. Which, I must admit, is a little disappointing. It’s only been a couple of days, but I need to talk to some people soon, or I’ll start to feel sad.

Speaking of sad, the wifi at this hostel is abysmal. It simply doesn’t work. At least not for me. The fact that it works for other people makes me think that perhaps my laptop is closer to dying on me that I had hoped. If it starts to refuse to connect to the internet, it really is worse than useless. I guess I’ll find out in Bologna. For now, I’ll probably upload this to the tiny memory stick I have and take it to an internet café.

Another slightly disappointing thing about this hostel is that it’s cold. I trusted to their blankets last night. This was a mistake. Tonight I’ll be getting in the bag.

Tomorrow night of course, if the buses don’t let me down and I manage to get to Almonicad del Marquesado, the chances are I’ll be sleeping outside somewhere. (There will be no couchsurfers there, believe me. There is nothing there.) I’ll be wearing three or four t-shirts and two hoodies too, so I should probably survive the night, but it’ll still be cold, I’m sure. It’s much nicer than London here during the day – even though it’s cold, the days are sunny and Spring-like – the nights, however, are just as cold. It was definitely less than zero last night.

I was thinking earlier that there must be a police station and that maybe they’ll let have a cell for the night. If they don’t, I suppose there’s always the option of drinking too much and shouting and swearing a lot, and maybe threatening to fight people and falling down a fair bit. It used to work for my dad when I was a kid. He was often treated to a night in the cells for his ugliness. Unfortunately I’m not sure they’d let me out in time for my 8am bus back to Madrid.

I keep waiting for one of those travel book moments, when fate smiles on me and someone to whom I mention the festival says: ‘La Endiablada? But I’m driving there myself! Let’s go!’ But it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe just mentioning it will bring it into existence. Maybe not. I got to go find something to eat now. And hopefully someone to talk to. The hostel I’m at is full of children. They eye me suspiciously. Actually that’s not true. They just look through me. Little cunts.

Pardon my Spanish.



Now it’s today and I’m off to catch the bus.

Aaaaaaand… action!

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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