Songs That Need To Be Movies: ‘Keep it Dark’ by Genesis
When a man has an encounter that changes his view of life itself, he finds that he must lie about it order for anyone to believe what happened. Does living in a world where a lie is more believable than the truth make it a better place to be?
Keep it Dark is the fourth song on Side One of Abacab, the eleventh studio album from the English rock band Genesis. A haunting tune marked by arresting guitar work and drummer/lead singer Phil Collins‘ emotional falsetto voice, the story tells of a man who is abducted by aliens and taken to a futuristic world where there is only joy and happiness. When he is returned to Earth, he feels his experience will never be believed and so instead concocts a story where he was kidnapped by thieves who thought he was rich but let go when they get no money from him. He spends the remainder of the story wishing he could tell his wife and kids of the wonders he’s seen. The chorus sings of his dilemma:
I wish that I could really tell you
All the things that happened to me
And all that I have seen.
A world full of people their hearts full of joy,
Cities of light with no fear of war,
And thousands of creatures with happier lives,
And dreams of a future with meaning and no need to hide.
The irony of the man’s experience is the centerpiece of the song, where we live in a jaded, cynical world where hope for universal peace and love are only found in fiction. So sheltered is the human race, the thought of a world beyond where something better might exist is only met with scoff. So we have a man who knows a truth that can relieve humanity of all its burden, but because of that burden it can never accept the truth. It’s prime fodder for a film.
After making sure the title of the movie stays Keep it Dark, the first and most important direction an adaptation would need to take is to leave much of the meaning to audience interpretation. We live in a time when too many films spoon-feed with exposition and narration, never trusting the viewer to make judgments on their own. This story is about a man with a singular experience that should be less defined and more ambiguous. What did he see? Where was it? Is it even real? For that reason, the first choice for writer and director is young filmmaker Jeff Nichols, who’s produced a short but staggeringly effective number of movies that are challenging and yet accessible. His recent Midnight Special is practically an audition tape for this project. He could take the story and craft a deeply meaningful statement about apathy and inspiration.
The lead is a split. A knee-jerk reaction is a powerfully emotive actor named Logan Marshall-Green, a relative newcomer to films but one that should be getting a lot more attention soon. His work in Karyn Kusama‘s The Invitation is enough to sell anyone that this is the guy for this part. Quiet, introspective, questioning and magnetic, he already looks like a man who’s seen something we haven’t.
But then, with a little more thought, while Marshal-Green remains the first choice, remember Jim Carrey in Michel Gondry‘s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Here’s a transcending performance that draws us deeply into a character faced with losing everything important in his life. Carrey is perfect for the part, one who could bring a tortured depth to the central figure, able to project that total transformation the part would need.
Keep it Dark is a powerfully affecting song that lingers in your mind long after you’ve listened. Decades after its release, it continues to haunt and raise questions about complacency and suppression of dreams. A film adaptation of Keep it Dark could really give this concept some great depth, focusing on the man’s previous life, one of normality that seems authentic and genuinely happy, but when compared to the nirvana he witnesses during his abduction, is bitterly soiled by repression, fear, and guilt. Playing with the realities of what he actually experiences is the biggest and most intriguing challenge of making the film, and one that could make this a great achievement. Keep it Dark. Let’s get this in theaters.