Nobody lives in the present—it can’t be done. By the time we perceive a moment, it’s already the past, leaving us to plot our next miniscule future. In fact, the present is the only abstract in our concept of time, no matter how we try to dismiss the future as unknown. If the present exists at all, it’s only as an asterisk to remind us of the moments we’ve experienced before we plunge headfirst into the next moment. As much as we like to think we walk down a path that leads to that resolution we knew we deserved, we’re always trying to catch up.
See, time isn’t a river that we raft through, and it’s not a quantum field. For humans, it’s more like a mist that shrouds us, breaking only in moments of lucidity or regret. What we were and what we are cohabit the same space, playfully sparring to determine who we are, and who we will ultimately be. The British mini-series Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, newly released on DVD by Acorn Media, and based on the 1956 novel by Angus Means, brilliantly explores time as a series of decisions and their consequences. In the process, it skewers the hypocrisy of several cherished social mores.
Gerald Middleton (Richard Johnson) is the central character of Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, an aging historian of "stiff upper lip" demeanor haunted by the errors of his past. In 1912, he was witness to the celebrated unearthing of a pagan fertility idol at an archaeological dig, buried with an early Christian bishop. It wasn’t long after that he discovered that overly endowed figure may have been a fake, planted there by the son of the expedition’s leader. And somewhere around that time, he began an affair with Dolly (Tara Fitzgerald) the fiancée of the roguish son (portrayed by a young, pre-Bond Daniel Craig.)
Forty some-odd years later, time has changed everything. Middleton married, not to his true love, Dolly, but to a shrewish Danish woman, Inge (Elizabeth Spriggs) whose seemingly frivolous eccentricities mask her dominating nature. Despite her frigid sexuality, they managed to spawn three offspring, all of whom go through their lives blissfully unaware of the little disasters they perpetrate. Gerald and Inge divorced eventually, but remained entangled in each other’s lives.