TOA/V: Home (J. G. Ballard’s The Enormous Space)

HOME (2003)

An adaptation of JG Ballard‘s “The Enormous Space,” written and directed by Richard Curson Smith, with Antony Sher. A disturbing, darkly comic tale of a man who attempts to sever all contact with the outside world, by simply staying at home. As Gerald Ballantyne rids himself of the surface clutter in his life he is lead to a startling discovery; a mystery about the house begins to reveal itself, though possibly only in his fevered mind. The changes begin to obsess and take control of Ballantyne, bring his experiment to a chilling climax.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper immediately comes to mind on seeing this; her protagonist gets forced into isolation while Ballard’s seems to choose his, but both suffer peculiar and disorienting effects of it. Both stories also illuminate the effects of gender on perceptions of isolation. Gilman’s narrator suffers from having her agency (and creativity) denied. Expressing herself is bad! Ballard’s modern man Ballantyne (a banker in the short story, an advertising creative in the film) ‘chooses’ to cut himself off instead of returning to work after a traumatic crash and the departure of his wife.

Ballantyne’s reaction to the implicit failure in the loss of control of his car and his wife is to try to maintain total control over his environment. So he stays home, the front door the absolute limit of his world. The thing is no one questions him much. The neighbour who notices his car running unattended, the wife who needs his signature on forms, the co-worker who covers for his lengthening absence — none of them really feel as if they have any right to tell this man what to do. No one questions him. And he goes slowly mad — or madder.When your home is your world, it expands to hold all your interest.

I’d love to see close-ups of the pictures/charts/psychotic art on the walls.

Because resources are limited, he has to get creative with his ‘experiment’ and of course this eventually leads to crime of various kinds as we plunge into the world of horror. The assurance of the credits that “no animals were harmed in the making of this film” may not be enough for more sensitive folks. Really good work on sets and design!

It’s a little bit long. I think it could have had the same impact if trimmed a little. There’s a strong supporting cast especially Mathilda Ziegler as Paula, his co-worker, but this is pretty much Antony Sher’s show and he’s mesmerising.

Here’s a music compilation inspired by the story.

Check out Todd’s blog for all your overlooked A/V gems.

2 thoughts on “TOA/V: Home (J. G. Ballard’s The Enormous Space)

  1. A tweet from K.A. Laity brought me to your site. I find it interesting that Ballard’s landscapes could be paintings by Ernst – they both explored the mythologies of the psyche. Ballard was also able to capture the subliminal which is obvious in THE DROWNED WORLD. I am fascinated by his recurring motifs – empty airfields, drained lakes. Thanks for posting the BBC film as I’d never seen it before.

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