Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bad Boy Bubby

Hi there! This is the first blog post of 2013, I hope you all had a great New Year with plenty of food and booze!

"Bad Boy Bubby" is an experimental film made in 1993, and was written and directed by Rolf de Heer (who made the equally experimental "Alexandra's Project" in 2003).

Bubby (Nicholas Hope) is a man who has been kept inside the same room for 35 years, as long as he's been alive really. His mother, an overweight, quite repulsive woman, has brainwashed Bubby into believing that the outside world is horrible. To keep Bubby from being too adventurous, she tells him the air outside is poison, and has a gas mask hanging beside the door that she puts on when she wants to leave the house. Whenever she leaves, to keep Bubby still and well behaved, the quite literally put's the fear of God into him. There is a cross hanging from the wall that his mother says is always watching him, and if he misbehaves, God will beat him brainless. At nights, his mother sleeps with him and says he's a good boy.

Bubby's only way of learning is from mimicry. He has a pet cat in a cage that he abuses on a daily basis. Bubby pretends that he is his mother and pretends that the cat is him. One day he asks his mother what it's like when you can't breath, so she put's her hand's over his nose and mouth to show him. He becomes obsessed with this concept, using cling film to cover his face. Eventually he experiments by using the cling film on the cat and killing it, learning a valuable lesson about life and death in the process.

One day when he's alone, there is a knock on the door from a man who shouts a few things through the door and that he'll be back. Bubby gets quite excited! This is the first time he has had any interaction with a human apart from his mother. She comes back home from whatever she's been doing, and Bubby mimics what the man shouted through the door, making her slightly nervous. Eventually the man does come back, and the mother lets him in. He's a scruffy man dressed like a priest, and it ends up that he's Bubby's father.

Pretty soon, his dad has pretty much came to the conclusion that his son is some sort of wierdo (due in part to the fact Bubby always mimics him), and his mother starts to neglect him (more so than usual). One day his mum and dad leave the house, and he wears his dad's priest uniform and goes around pretending to be him (whenever he does this, he always seems to remind me of Nick Cave!).

Eventually his mum and dad come in drunk and kick him out the house, which doesn't go down well at all! His mother throws the gas mask out into the close so he can breathe. When he gets back into the flat, he destroys everything in a rage, and when his mum and dad come back in again from their drunken antics, he disposes of them with cling film while they are sleeping.

After a couple of days of not being fed, he starts to get hungry and decides to venture out into the great outdoors. He quickly finds out the world is nothing like his mother described, and that the air is not poisoned. Throughout the rest of the film, Bubby gets into all sorts of different situations. He joins a rock band (which ends up very popular), gets a girlfriend, has children, but also learns some harsh life lessons along the way. He starts off his journey into the unknown like a child, mimicking everything he sees, but matures as the film goes on. At the end of the film, things seem to be going all right for him.

The film has had it's fair share of controversy throughout the years, and upon release generated a lot of anger mostly from animal rights activists and the press, due to some very convincing scenes of animal cruelty towards cats (and quite deservedly so). It was only passed uncut in the UK in 2007, and the blu ray which I own has a booklet pretty much dedicated to detailing how the director dealt with the BBFC in respect to these scenes of alleged cruelty. This booklet has the letters which de Heer wrote to the BBFC and an Italian animal welfare group, which are convincing enough to me, and apparently to everyone else that read them, that the animals were well looked after and not put under too much stress.

I do have to admit, the films first act is pitch black in tone. These scenes are where most of the controversy lies. Violence, incest, animal cruelty, and a few other taboos are dealt with in these scenes. Once Bubby gets outside, the films tone lightens up quite a bit. In my screwed up mind, I see this film as an alternative feel good movie. Even someone as messed up as Bubby, can end up happy in the end.

As I said before, this is an experimental film. Director Rolf de Heer implemented some strange techniques while making the film. Microphones used to pick up dialogue were placed behind in main actor Nicholas Hope's wig behind his ears to give the impression that you're hearing things through Bubby's ears. The room that Bubby lives in for the first 35 years of his life starts off large, but ends up getting smaller by the end of the first act, to show Bubby's psychological state. There were 31 different directors of photography used in the film. When Bubby goes into the real world, a different director of photography is used to give each new thing that he sees a sense of individuality. In my eyes, de Heer is mostly successful in his techniques.

The film also won four awards in 1994 from the Australian Film Institute. Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.

I hope you have enjoyed what you've read. Please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on the film. If you haven't seen it before, I hope I've highlighted it as a film you should watch soon. It's worth a watch!

Thank you,



  1. Pretty good film in spite of the dead cat. You also need to check out the two "Walter" movies with Ian McKellen in for more of the same. Channel Four got in loads of trouble over those!

  2. Wow, I've never heard of those. Thanks for the tip! This was back in the day when Channel 4 actually made worthwhile shows I assume?

    1. "Walter" (also called "Loving Walter" in its edited US version) was the first film Channel Four showed when it started back in 1982. Most people could barely get decent reception and we all had to buy new aerials. Suffice it to say that it dealt with mental health problems just like "Bad Boy Bubby". Kids imitated it at school (along with Joey Deacon) and the Mary Whitehouse brigade went mad! LOL

  3. Well, I need to see this now! Censorship and the Mary Whitehouse brigade were at their peak back then. I was happy when she died, the floodgates opened up in regard to films dealing in controversial issues.

    Though there seems to be a censorship rennaisance going on just now in the UK by all these well to do Daily Mail journalists and readers.