This may be too ambitious. I may need to save a draft and come back, but hey.
As I may have touched on lightly before, I am intrigued by the timeline of the events that are and are not depicted in the film Melody. Not like I haven’t spoiled away without mentioning it before, but this is going to cover pretty much the entire film’s events. You can watch it free on YouTube, in some quality. I am going to get the DVD when and if I can manage it. I expect that to be a revelation, between the sound and picture quality and the viewing size.
First the three main characters are introduced. It isn’t a school day, which suggests perhaps a Saturday. I have other things to say about this sequence, but that’s a whole post.
It’s clearly not winter, or even the near outskirts of winter, even such as it might be in London, at any time. We are not seeing an entire school year, nor are we seeing the beginning of the school year. The kids in their level are clearly established and comfortable in their school. My understanding of the education system there would make it their first year in that school, with the first five years, equivalent to kindergarten through 4th grade, having been elsewhere.
The film having been written around First of May by the Bee Gees suggests that we could interpret the timing in general to have been around that part of the year, with the first itself maybe having been a significant date. I’d propose it to be the date they hung out after school and she took him home for tea, or else the date he fell in love with her when seeing her in dance class.
We have the introduction, which sparks the friendship with Ornshaw and gives us an idea what the three of them are like.
Then there’s a day when Daniel and Ornshaw hang out after school and we learn more about everyone, between that and scenes in school. Interestingly, we see that up until that afternoon, Daniel really isn’t in with, buddies with, the other boys in the school, almost as if he’s a newcomer.
The third day depicted is when Daniel sees and falls in love with Melody, then follows her after school, and finally shows up at Ornshaw’s humble abode to help with housekeeping.
Next day depicted we see an assembly. Ornshaw creates a whisper brigade when he sees Daniel staring at Melody, resulting in her looking back.
The following scene could be the same day, or a different one. I choose to call it a different day. Daniel drags his cello to the music room, finds her waiting to have a lesson or whatever, and plays a duet with her on recorder after her friend Rhoda gets called in by the teacher.
Still on the same day, in the evening, we see Daniel suffering a dinner party with his parents and their friends. We see Melody watching TV while eating dinner with her mother and grandmother. It turns out she forgot to pick up her pink dress at the cleaners. She blames it on the man in the raincoat at the cemetery, leading to an exchange in which we see that she is a smart-ass, and that she obviously likes Daniel a lot. We never see a scene like even a more subdued view of what she leads them on with, and it may or may not be based on anything at all.
Next day, the lunch scene. After he’s done reminding us he played Oliver, Daniel tries to sit with Melody in the cafeteria. She doesn’t say no, but just says her friend Maureen usually sits there. It’s possible she might have made room, but Ornshaw retrieves him and lots of kids laugh. She stares a little at Daniel across the room afterward, and makes a rude face at Ornshaw.
Then there’s a monthly dance. This strikes me as a Saturday thing, or a Friday thing. Kids have come to it in street clothes, rather than what they’d be expected to wear to school. It can’t be the same day as the lunch scene. She’s dancing enticingly. Daniel is hanging with Ornshaw and a bunch of other boys, mostly making fun of the dance. Daniel gets Ornshaw to go out on the floor and offer to dance with Melody’s friend Peggy while he dances with Melody, if they’re willing. It’s going great until Peggy revolts, insults Ornshaw’s dancing, and he kicks her. Afterward, still daytime, the boys gather to see the latest homemade explosive tested. Melody puts on makeup in the bathroom until her mother calls her for tea and she wipes it off, looking alarmed and sad.
The next scene is athletics day, what we might call field day in my neck of the woods. And if that works the same, it’s right at the end of the school year, in the last weeks, if not days. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the possible timing before. This is when they make unimaginably perfect use of the song To Love Somebody.
This segues into a new school day in which Daniel and Ornshaw get in trouble with the Latin teacher and have to go after school for a paddling. Afterward, Melody is waiting and despite her not saying a word and Ornshaw’s best efforts, Daniel goes with her. Cue the song that is their theme: First of May. This is the big day when they are officially together, such as it is at 11. They hang out all afternoon. She points out that if he’s been going around telling everyone he loves her, why not tell her. Then she reads a gravestone where the wife died after 50 years of happy marriage, and the husband followed her after only 2 months. This becomes perhaps the most famous dialog of the film. She asks if he’ll love her that long. He says yes. She doubts. He says “I’ve loved you for a whole week already, haven’t i?” They smile about it. They go to her flat. She opens the door, steps in, and when he hesitates, she pulls her in by his school tie. Too funny! They have tea with her family and she glares at her father a lot, as only a girl around that age can.
The “loved you a week already line” is a clue that it’s been a week since the day he fell, which definitely means my thinking later about two things being the same day would be right.
The state of vegetation at this point, visible particularly in the cemetery, would indicate it’s pretty late in spring or getting into summer. British school goes much longer than in the US, so near the end of the school year would actually be in July. That would make this not May 1st, and would mean substantial time had already passed if the meet cute happened on May 1st. Probably that’s a red herring, an artifact of the song used in and toward the concept for the movie. Conversely, filming could simply have gone on long enough for me to think it’s later in the year than is being depicted. We know filming was taking place in and around May 1970, since Tracy Hyde turned 11 on the set in May. I don’t know when it started or just how long it took. They used the large number of child extras for mob scenes early and then moved on to scenes with fewer people.
The next day that is shown is the day the two of them skip school and go to the amusement park and seaside on a train. There is no way they planned that and did it the very next day. I just don’t buy it. Sure, it’s possible, but they’d effectively just gotten together. There’s a clue later that there are days of life before that we don’t see because you don’t show every detail of everything on film.
The next day, beyond a doubt the actual next day, is when they face the headmaster’s wrath for skipping school. Now, they tell him they want to get married. Well, Daniel does, and she looks startled. Somehow, when they each get to class, the classmates know or extrapolate their desire to marry. They have a very bad day. This leads to the famously heartbreaking scene of them sitting in the cemetery in the rain, her head on his shoulders, him holding his satchel over their heads to try to keep some of the rain off. That day ends with her sad, frustrated parents not doing a good job with why she can’t get married and what maybe should actually happen next. Her father makes it clear that Daniel has come home for tea with her a number of times, and they really like him. That points to some number of days and amount of time spent hanging out together that we don’t see on screen. Daniel is in bed, fidgeting thoughtfully. I have to write about the differences between the respective parents and families sometime.
Finally, the last day shown also seems like one that might not have been planned until later, so might not be the very next day. All the more so because of the reaction the classmates initially had toward them wanting to be married. Now the classmates are helping, even if some are still amused or think it’s a lark. It seems like the rebellion had to have taken some planning. However, this might have been possible earlier in the school day and during break, since the kids actually left school during morning break and didn’t return. I am inclined to place this the very next day, but would believe it if I were told it was later.
So how many days were we shown? Let’s see…
We are shown 12 days for sure, if I counted right scrolling through the above, and we can add in a pair of Sundays, for 14 days.
If they go consecutively to that point, Friday is the duet, unless it’s on the same day as the assembly. It could be. She and Rhoda seem like they might be talking about Daniel staring at her. If that’s Friday, we skip a weekend until the next school day, and the lunch scene can’t be until Monday. If not, lunch scene could be Friday. If we’re going for the most compact timeline possible, that’s Friday and the dance is Saturday, so something happened 6 days that week, 1 day the prior week, and we’ve covered two Sundays.
That makes athletics day the Monday after the dance. I am taking that to be a standalone day, devoted to that stuff.
Tuesday would be the big day when they get together officially and have tea with her family. We are shown him going to tea then. It is implied by her father that he went to tea some number of times afterward. That’s the black box. All that came before could be back to back, but there’s the implication that there’s a gap before the next day we are shown, or her father phrases poorly. Since he fumbles for words in other ways, that’s possible. Daniel having loved her a week already, if he’s being exact, measures from the Tuesday before, which would indeed have been the day it happened. That’s a straight shot of consecutive days, and makes sense to me based on the extent to which I have been there in my youth.
On some subsequent day, not likely the next one, the kids skip school for the seaside. If it’s consecutive, then it’s Wednesday., day 12. Definitely the next day after that is the bad day of fallout, day 13, a Thursday. If it’s all consecutive, without those extra days of the relationship building and taking him home for tea, the final day is Friday, day 14. If I figured it right.
I’m figuring life happens, and it needed some build to get from the establishment of the relationship to the day at the seaside, so it could have been as long as weeks before then, but afterward the whole thing wraps quickly. The timeframe from meeting the characters to the end is probably not much more than a month, even if it’s more than 14 days.
All of this really makes me want to post a commentary about the parents. It’s late for bed, so not now. I thought this would be quicker, but I got too descriptive. There was a reason for the blog name, way back in the day. I’ll have to review this tomorrow and edit if I typed anything wrong or goofed in other ways.
I just started looking at this post way after the fact and noticed that I might have had the school years wrong. Subsequently I did figure out that “first form” was equivalent to American 6th grade, and that it placed the kids firmly at age 11 going on 12 any minute.