TV and Movies

Stranger Things: A trip down memory lane without any irony

Niall McCann


Niall McCann

Stranger Things: A trip down memory lane without any irony

In an interview with Moviemaker Magazine in 2004, the American independent film maker Jim Jarmusch pronounced:

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.'"

If you want a great example of this idea in action you would be hard pressed to find better than the new Netflix series Stranger Things by.

One of the buzz shows at the moment, Stranger Things is indeed that, quite a strange thing, though this statement holds true more about the form, style and aesthetic of the series than it has to do with content and narrative.

Almost Immediately after you start watching you will be struck by a strange familiarity, a strange closeness to what's happening and to the characters on screen.

Created by the Duffer brothers, (I guess Damian had to do something else after football), Stranger Things is like what one would expect to get if they asked a bunch of adults who grew up in the eighties to recall the television shows they loved.

There is a bit of everything from everywhere in Stranger Things: storyline, characters, the world it inhabits, theme music, haircuts, you name it and it will remind you of something else you have seen or read.

This is in part the most fun to be found in the show.

The plot follows the disappearance of a young boy, and a telekinetic girl who helps his friends in their search, while the boy's older brother, mother, and the town police chief start their own investigations.

It has a strong cast featuring amongst other: Winona Ryder (reliably annoying here but that's the role, so it works), Caleb McLaughlin and Matthew Modine.

The show is set in 1980s Indiana and is a homage to all that was good and great about 80's pop culture, inspired and aesthetically informed by the works of again amongst many others; Spielberg, Carpenter, Stephen King, and films and shows like the Goonies, X- Files, Eerie Indiana, amongst many many others.

The show is something akin to a repeat of all the best bits from US entertainment of the 1980's.

Every possible cultural reference point is here and anyone who remembers the movies and television of their youth will spot a gazillion more and have fun doing so.

Spielberg's ET is the most obvious, from Matthew Modines bad guy government scientist with his white hair and white space/ jump suits whom along with his army of evil honchos invade the small town in vans straight out of the end of that movie, to the mysterious girl '11', who is found and hidden by the group of boys and who has supernatural powers of her own.

I have no idea if the show's creators the Duffer brothers are trying to tell us that there is nothing we can say anymore because it's all been said, though judging by the non-cynical nature of the programme and it's genuine warmth I very much doubt that.

Rather this is a very enjoyable trip down memory lane, and it stands as a sort of tribute to a now passed time, it's all here: Weekends cycling with your friends for hours, staying out past your curfew, huge conspiracies only you and your mates know about, bullies, the endless imagination of youth, boogey men, young love, parallel worlds and monsters.

The whole thing has an innocence and lack of irony that is nice for a change and though as the season moves towards it finality the story does, somewhat inevitably descend into silliness, it's hard to expect it not to, given the obviously "silly" premise and there is nothing wrong with being a bit silly.

I won't give away too much of the plot because watching for reference points and cultural signifiers is part of the fun.

The whole thing is like the staccato dreams of American television of the 1980's, covered in a soundtrack featuring the best of that decade, Stranger Things manages in the end to be that most comforting of things, familiar.

(Don't) Stop me if you think that you heard that one before.

In cinemas this week is the new film from Todd Solandz and it's brilliant. Weiner Dog follows the adventure of a Daschund from whom the film takes its name and the different owners he encounters.

It's hilarious and sad and honest and true.

A must see.