Hobby to Obsession to Place of Worship ('Bleeder' (1999) dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)

I've never been to a proper old fashioned video shop, the type with stacks upon stacks of vhs tapes displayed cover outwards, and a secret porno backroom like the one in 'Bleeder'. A mock-retro video store did open up near me sometime last year as a promotional stunt by Netflix for the 'Fear Street' franchise, but I never went in. Then, by the time I realised that I actually did want to go in, that it was the coolest thing ever and that I might be willing to fall for a marketing ploy, the place had packed up. Now, the closest thing to a video store where I live in the UK would be a good, old-fashioned CeX. Rows of used DVDs, little facets of people's previous passions, short-lived attempts at trying something new, or movies people have loathed so much that they have dumped (CeX will only pay you 0.01p for most DVD trade-ins, unless you have something a bit rarer).

CeX is wonderful, but- woe is me- I've found that whenever you go in with a specific title in mind, and money in hand, they never have it. Then, when you're mooching around with no money and no goals in mind, they have seven of the wildest titles you've ever seen, all of your favourite films, and movies you've never seen for sale anywhere. Since I'm a horror fan primarily, there are other places I frequent; a market stall with a key-cutting shop on one side of it and a butchers on the other that inexplicably sells J-Horror (that is, until I get home and find that the boxes have no disks inside them). There's also a highstreet shop which specialises in rare DVDs, comics, and vinyl, but the guy who owns it runs to his own schedule and only opens when he feels like it. This is in part due to the fact that, despite its location, he is clearly selling out of his living room. So, yeah, it's the mythological Randy Meek's 'Scream' video stores that I sigh wistfully over, missing them desperately.

'Bleeder's' Lenny is a very lucky man to be able to combine his foremost passion of film with his work. He can make money surrounded by the thing he is obsessed with. He goes to work and can watch whatever takes his fancy on the personal TV behind the counter of his video store. It's like a private oasis, even better because he's getting paid to be there. His overall character isn't much to talk about, but he's solidified by the set design of that video shop. He doesn't really need to be a fully fleshed-out character because he's mercifully saved by being defined by his occupation. It's like when the father in a horror movie ignores his wife and children when they claim the house is haunted. The father's real concern is that they cant move because all their money is tied up in the house. All of Lenny's personality is tied up in the visual cues of the video store.

He is framed by the shelves of tapes that function almost as stained glass window backlighting. Behind the counter, he is boxed in, but not trapped. He recites the names of directors and genres to a customer like gospel. How often do you go into a dvd shop and hope to strike up a conversation with whoever is behind the counter, the priest. Would he gain sainthood for years of service? Lenny has dedicated so many years of his life to his passion, and the labyrinth of shelves which he can traverse with ease become his place of worship. Actually, I love that there are a few scenes in the video store where a copy of 'Scream' is on display- Randy Meeks would approve, fanatic that he was.

In 'Bleeder', it's a reocurring theme that the settings in which characters frequent show much of their personalities and passions. Similarly to Lenny, Lea in her bookshop, surrounded by yellowing pages. I'm proud to admit that I have been in a bookshop like this, with haphazard displays, wall to wall stacks. A layout that makes you anxious to take a book out lest the whole shop topple over. In a scene, she sits surrounded by books, completely composed. She's enraptured in her own personal church.

Characters in Bleeder with smaller altars to their obsessions include the violent Leo. Unlike Lenny and Lea, he only has one or two shelves in his cramped flat to display his passions. When his girlfriend Louise moves Leo's stuff around in order to make space for the baby they have on the way, he views this act almost as an act of desecration, flying off the handle and beating her.

I think about scenes in film and tv that show the mind palace. There's a part of 'Doctor Sleep' where Rose the Hat brags that hers is like a cathedral, while the much younger Abra has a mind palace that resembles her bedroom. I like the idea of building a holy place in the mind that reflects all facets of previous and current obsessions, a combination of everywhere you've been. For Lenny and Lea, these are real places, not a retreat into the psyche. They are stable. For Leo, a character with a frantic life, hopping from whim to whim, he only has a shelf, no distinct personality, which is possibly why when it is threatened he loses all semblance of morality.

What I'm really trying to say is that more films should take the 'Bleeder' approach in set design; make characteristsics visual locations, show shortcomings and conflict through a lack of these spaces. Make the mind palace a reality. Give characters absolute power and ethos over the spaces they inhabit, to let us know, when they are in unfurnished areas, that they are out of their depth. I want floorplans that represent the inner workings of a character's mind, more trophy cabinets, more trinkets. Overall, more characters with hobbies that swallow up the scene