Director: David Sington. UK, 2015, 96min
Director David Sington says in his director’s statement about The Fear Of 13: “Over the years I have come to understand a simple but profound truth: we live the events of our lives as experience, but we recall them as stories. And since, in some sense, we are our memories, we are also really the sum of the stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves and to other people. And that idea is the theme of The Fear Of 13.”
A drama, a thriller, a crime story, a true-life epic and a documentary, The Fear Of 13 is unlike anything that has come before it. It is a touching and provocative story: a monologue told by Nick, a convict who has been on death row for 23 years. At first he talks about his treatment in prison, what it is like being kept in solitary confinement, the long silences, the other prisoners and the guards around him. His world is suddenly cut down to a small number of rooms where he is treated brutally and cruelly. But as the film goes on and the audience becomes more comfortable with Nick, it becomes clear that his story isn’t necessarily what it seems. As more is revealed, the audience is pulled in as they gradually learn what happened next.
Having been convicted as a murderer and after two decades in prison, Nick makes one final plea. No more appeals, no more trying to right any wrongs, instead he makes a call: he petitions the court for the date of his execution. This is no life, sitting from one day to the next waiting for the day that he’ll either be killed by another man in the prison – prisoner or guard – or by the chair. This final act is his last attempt to take control of his own life, and it unearths new evidence that could turn everything around.
What makes The Fear Of 13 so vital is that the story the film tells ultimately rings true with anyone who watches it: it is about the human condition, being comfortable in our own skin and learning what makes us tick. Along the way, Nick falls in love – once with a woman who visits weekly to hear about the troubles of the prisoners and a second time with literature after a guard gives him some books. It is the power of these loves that keeps him going for so many years.
The Fear Of 13 is a story told directly, succinctly and truthfully.
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