Rebecca Jane Arthur

Hit Him on the Head with a Hard, Heavy Hammer

Hit Him on the Head with a Hard, Heavy Hammer is an experimental film project beginning with ruptures—war, evacuation, separation—and departing from a handwritten memoir. Reflecting on the notion Thomas Hardy termed ‘The Self-Unseeing’ in his eponymous 1901 poem, the film returns to childhood and the matters that harden us: upbringing, social status, education, labour, and familial love and loss. The text weaves into the film as both a reflection on mortality and an illustration of fading memory, reflecting on how we pen our pasts and how they can be re-told.

Title: Start with a Bang

‘Hit Him on the Head with a Hard, Heavy Hammer’ was a phrase used in London’s elementary schools to correct the missing ‘h’ so typical of the cockney accent and to teach children to pronounce aspirated consonants. The saying describes a threat intended to ‘persuade’ another. Every effort was made to encourage children to neutralize any accents that would portray their working-class backgrounds. I chose this title, taken from the memoir, because it points to the systems that shape us. Beyond education, class systems, poverty, labour, in this film I look at the harsh realities of a family living in wartime. The title also relates to the place where the writer of the memoir was evacuated: a steel producing village in South Wales.