I must have been about 10 and was at boarding school at Lawrence School, Lovedale. One of the highlights of boarding school life for me was when films were screened occasionally for us students. I would sit totally focussed on the events unfolding on the screen, happily ignoring the inconvenience of reel changes on the projector and other disturbances. In my early years at Lovedale, I remember watching movies like Rikki Tikki Tavi, Lorna Doone, An Office Affair and among others, Anne of the Thousand Days based on King Henry VIII and his relationship with his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
The last named was a special film for me. Having watched a British serial on Henry VIII and his six wives in the early days of television in the 1970s before I joined Lovedale, I was already somewhat familiar with the story of Anne Boleyn. Of course, I had absolutely no idea then that I was watching a film based on Maxwell Anderson’s play with big stars like Richard Burton (Henry VIII) and Genevieve Bujold (Ann Boleyn) playing the lead roles. And I didn’t care. But what I did feel was a sense of power watching the film as unlike most of my friends, I already knew what was to unfurl on the screen.
I knew that Anne was beheaded and my dark, psychotic side was feverishly waiting for this scene to see how they would show the head being severed from the body. As the moment came closer and closer, the suspense and excitement was unbearable…only for the film to cut elsewhere at the crucial moment… I didn’t know what had happened at the time but I do remember that I felt totally cheated and let down. And later on in years as I thought more and more about it, I felt it must have something to do with the way films were made. Thanks to that cutaway, my filmmaking journey had subconsciously begun!