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The Witnesses are Gone

by Joel Lane

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Martin Swann moves into an old house and finds a box of video cassettes in the garden shed. One of them is a bootleg copy of a morbid and disturbing film by little-known French director, Jean Rien. Martin begins a search for the director's other films, and for a way to understand Rien's filmography, drawing him away from his home and his lover into a shadowy realm of secrets, rituals and creeping decay. An encounter with a crazed film journalist in Gravesend leads to drug-fuelled visions in Paris - and finally to the Mexican desert where a grim revelation awaits.… (more)
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“if the truth of our lives is nothing, then the only reality is the one we bring to life”

The Witnesses are Gone is a seriously weird read in a really good way. It feels like you’re reading in the world between wakefulness and sleep with a touch of drug induced haze. I found it really interesting in its exploration of the way that obsession can colour how we see our lives. It’s a short story, 96 pages in the paperback ARC into a life of depression, obsession and later drug haze.

Martin discovers some old videos in his shed, which he watches. (I would do exactly the same) One of them is a movie by a French movie director Jean Rien who specialises into the weird and surrealist, and the movie ends up taking over his life. Martin starts to loose touch with the reality around him, and see things from the movie in his real life, and has an altered perception of things that are happening. In the middle of the book, Martin and his girlfriend Judith went to Scotland to find the village were one of the Rien movies was reportedly filmed, and on the way back a train crash leads to the death of Judith which Martin blames on his obsession and ultimately Rien. From there, he hands in his notice at work, sells his house and gets on a boat to Mexico following the death of an Mexican director that seemed to be Rien. On the boat out he meets a woman who is also looking for information regarding a Rien movie her and her late boyfriend were in. They take a LOT of heroin together, and this ends with the woman collapsing into nothing, just bones and a dress. Martin collapses, found on the road by locals and taken to a hospital. Martin uses this experience to reconstruct how he views the world, and reality, which leads to the quote at the top.

Obviously, this is only a quick summation and has left out a lot of details about the book but it is an incredible read. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I really enjoyed it. ( )
  AlwaysTurninPages | Jul 17, 2022 |
The Witnesses Are Gone by Joel Lane is a horror novella which is based on a short story by an unknown author. Martin moves in an old house and finds some video cassettes. And decides to watch one of them (haven't he ever watched a horror movie?). It turns out to be from a French director - Jean Rien. And this guy turns out to be the mystery of the century - he is mentioned in some movie magazines and his films are rumors about but it looks like anyone involved with them disappears or worse and most people prefer not even to believe that he exists. And Martin starts on a crusade for searching the films and the director that lead him around the world, almost shatters his life and finally manages to shatter it... Maybe it had been a coincidence, maybe not. The title of the novella is the title of a film which a lot of people had heard about but noone had seen. And at the same time a warning for what will happen if someone tries to find the secret. Or is all this the same thing? It was a nice story about a man finding the meaning of life... and at the same time something just did not work for me - it was following the genre standards so closely that it was clear where everything will lead... if not the details on how. ( )
  AnnieMod | Jul 13, 2009 |
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Martin Swann moves into an old house and finds a box of video cassettes in the garden shed. One of them is a bootleg copy of a morbid and disturbing film by little-known French director, Jean Rien. Martin begins a search for the director's other films, and for a way to understand Rien's filmography, drawing him away from his home and his lover into a shadowy realm of secrets, rituals and creeping decay. An encounter with a crazed film journalist in Gravesend leads to drug-fuelled visions in Paris - and finally to the Mexican desert where a grim revelation awaits.

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