Philomena and Folie a Deux

Seen on the same day, these raised interesting questions about privacy and the media, and whether ordinary people can use the media successfully for their own purposes.  The original, real,  Philomena Lee, played in the film by Judy Dench, clearly ended up feeling that the end justified the means – without the journalist Martin Sixsmith she would never have found the story of her son. She must then have felt that her story served to further highlight the abuse of young women and girls by the Catholic Magdalen laundries and it was therefore right to have it made public.

It’s a little more difficult to understand the motives of the couple in Folie a Deux.  It chronicles the saga of two people who bought Gray’s Court in York with the idea of turning it into a luxury hotel.  I suppose they thought in the beginning the documentary film they commissioned (?) would be a glossy success story but it became a nightmare as legal disputes magnified with neighbours, the financial crash all but ruined them, and daily life with seven children, two dogs, a cat,  and two guinea pigs brought its own inevitable chaos.  And all those tensions changed the documentary into what became a much more dramatic piece.  But, given that what it shows is often not edifying and makes one marvel (not in a good way) at the way the protagonists went about achieving their goal, why did they persist in the filming.  Why put your private life out in the open like that? And what effect on everybody in the family did the presence of a film camera have?  Would the conflicts have been as extreme without it ? What general interest point is served by such a documentary? Or is its appeal merely voyeurism ?

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