When I first moved to London I was overwhelmed by a contradictory sensation. On the one hand, a feeling of irreality; the city I had so many times watched, read or sung out loud was now the scenario of my everyday life. On the other hand, an undeniable sense of dullness. Mary Popin’s playground appeared to be likewise a place of misery. I was stroke by the charm of old London, but also by the extreme classism of British society. Financial sharks and inmigrants from all around the world seemed to be part of the same beehive.
By the time I wrote The Fetch I used to live in a Council tower block of seventeen floors that was, funny enough, within a ten-minute walk from the Bank of England. That’s what I call contrast. That was also the moment when I incidentally started to read Flann O’Brien’s cult novel, The third policeman. And suddenly I found the model to understand the magic of the beehive.
In the cover of “Harper Perennial Modern Classics”, The third policeman is described as “a murder thriller, a hilarious comic satire about and archetypical village police force, a surrealistic vision of eternity” as well as an “unrequited love affair about a man and his bicycle”. But I never dared to adapt the plot of the novel to a short film. My idea was rather to adopt its philosophy: the narrator’s flickering between an awareness that he is a character trapped within a fictional order and his realist belief that he is a ‘real-life’ person. A chaplinesque comedy: in parts, extremely amusing, but with an overall effect anything but funny. I looked around me and I found out that London was full of bicycles and thought that those bicycles were maybe the only thing in common between the City sharks and my neighbours in the Council block. What if those bicycles were the gate to a mysterious world, to a parallel reality where totally unrelated people had more to do with each other than they had ever thought?… What if my poorest neighbour and some pompous gentleman out of the many I came across everyday in my way to Bank tube station happened somehow to be the same person?
A “Fetch” is a supernatural double or apparition of a living person in Irish folklore, whose appearance is regarded as threatening. Noel and Martin are each other’s fetch, and their bicycles are the hole in the ground through which Alice enters Wonderland. The wheels announce the eternal return, the absolute contemporarity of all times, the coincidence of all places. Race is a lie, social status is a lie. Deep inside, Noel Farage (a joke about the right extremist leader of UKIP) and Martin Finnucane (a tribute to O’Brien’s one-legged bandit) are definitely the same person. Like the characters of Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, there is an invisible link that keeps them together. They can only break the rope when they admit they’re identical. They can only walk away from each other when they unveil their most tender, innocent (and yet utterly cruel) secret. But the wheel spins around and around…