We’ve just been watching Nosferatu, the classic silent vampire movie, and one little touch jumped out at me. The menu screen of the DVD shows the cover image, a stylised pastel portrait of the titular vampire, but with one small difference: every couple of minutes, he blinks. The sort of thing that: when you see it, you’re not sure if it really happened.
It got me thinking about the nature of fear; and, particularly, fear of images. When I was younger, I had a book* full of exciting information for children and suggestions for fun activities. It had everything from face painting and magic tricks, to the colour wheel and the platonic solids.** I loved it – but one page, I was terrified by. The page – well, double-spread – on toxic and dangerous animals. I didn’t really mind the tarantula, and I can’t even remember anything else on the page: but what terrified me was the picture of a piranha down in the corner. It scared me so much that I wouldn’t dare touch it, even though I knew it was only a picture. I’d find a different way to turn that page, without going near the piranha. I can’t explain why I found a picture, essentially a picture of a fish with big teeth, quite so frightening, but I wouldn’t touch that picture for years.
* A pedant writes: as I rarely get rid of books, I still have it, and it’s still on the primary Bedroom Shelves rather than relegated to storage somewhere.
** Tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron, I think. I might have missed one. My favourite part of the book was also the longest: a project to build your own electrical trivia game with questions about the solar system. I never did try to build it.