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Spring Term 2003 at Lansdowne Road

Walter Carrington at Work

DVD-R, 121 minutes, produced by Hella Linkmeyer. €37.00. Available in UK from Bernard Vetter Tel: 0207 226 2158; available in other countries from Hella Linkmeyer, e-mail hella.linkmeyer(at)freenet.de

Review by Clarissa Palmer (first published in StatNews, May 2009)

 


In his prime’ is a phrase I cannot imagine using with regard to Walter Carrington for, like all the best things in life, the ageing process was for him one of refinement and depth. Hella Linkmeyer’s intelligent two-hour DVD of her term at Lansdowne Road in 2003 gives us an opportunity to see how this wise man, then aged 88, continued to teach and inspire as effectively as ever. The film opens with a view of Hella exiting Holland Park tube station and confronting the roar of traffic on this busy London thoroughfare. As she progresses towards The Constructive Teaching Centre this everyday bustle gives way to birdsong and spring flowers. Walter Carrington opens his front door with a welcome that takes Hella, and us, into his more peaceable and thoughtful world where time is on our side if we are prepared to take it. With insight and sensitivity Hella Linkmeyer allows the events to unroll at their own pace as though the camera were not there, and she cleverly reduces any authorial explanations to a few well-judged and attractive titles.

The film proceeds through various key moments in a typical term at Lansdowne Road. There are scenes of Walter Carrington exploring F. M. Alexander’s texts; of him demonstrating ‘games’; giving ‘turns’; teaching a private lesson; plus two brief scenes of colleagues Ruth Murray and Alan Philps teaching groups of students. Hella Linkmeyer surely took hours of footage during her term at Lansdowne Road, and difficult choices must have been made to compress it down to this two-hour film. Because the DVD features Walter Carrington almost exclusively, I feel that the title is somewhat misrepresentative: Spring Term might have included more interaction with fellow students, or shown more of the wealth of talent that other teachers brought to the school. The subtitle Walter Carrington at Work is more accurate. Sadly, due to ill health during the making of the film, Dilys Carrington was not recorded; her absence from the film is a palpable loss to anyone familiar with Lansdowne Road.

Unfortunately the post-production values do not do justice to the film or its subject; minor strobing at the bottom of the screen (when viewed on a computer screen but not on a television) distracts the eye from the picture, and the audio could be cleaner. Making the point that Walter Carrington masterfully ignores a ringing telephone while giving a talk is a good lesson in inhibition but, in general, I found the high levels of background noise excessive. In his creative stillness Walter Carrington taught fundamental truths about the Alexander Technique; my only serious criticism of the film is that the intrusive background noise makes it harder than need be to enter into this quiet place. A minor criticism is that the weakness of the pound against the euro makes the purchase price of €37 so expensive: a shame, because this DVD represents a committed and personal investment on the part of Hella Linkmeyer.

Anyone who trained at Lansdowne Road and enjoyed the experience will relish this film. Anyone interested in and familiar with the Alexander Technique will find it an absorbing document recording one of the great teachers of the Work. A beginner to the Technique who watched it for me found it, to my surprise, quite compelling despite being irritated by the sound quality. Personally, I loved the film and am grateful to Hella Linkmeyer for her hands-off approach that allows Walter Carrington to be present in his own inimitable way. I should state my probable bias: twenty-four years ago, as a mother of young children, I trained at Lansdowne Road and found there a calm and stimulating refuge from the chaos of early parenthood. Now, due to the death of my parents, I am again plunged into a chaotic and difficult time. To sit quietly for a few hours with Walter at Lansdowne Road felt like a great privilege.

© Clarissa Palmer 2009

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