I watched 600 of Limmy's Vines back to back and saw the dark heart of man
It's a sad coincidence that shortly after this article's publication, Vine will be shut down.
Vine gave people the tools and space to give life to some of the most creative and innovative ideas on the internet, but due to owner Twitter's ongoing business difficulties, Vine is getting the axe.
One relatively early adopter of the platform was Scottish comedian Brian Limond (AKA Limmy), who produced hundreds of strange, insightful and funny Vines over a couple of years.
As part of the London Short Film Festival, a screening of Limmy's Vines - a one hour 'supercompliation', back-to-back in chronological order - was held at Picturehouse Central. Intrigued, I went along to check out The Vines of Limmy.
You can watch the supercompilation below, if you've got a spare hour and want to dip your toes into dark waters.
I don't know if you've ever sat through 600 of anything, even six-second videos, but it's an effort. The film was only around 60 minutes in length, but an hour-long TV show has carefully crafted peaks and troughs of intensity and calm; you need the quiet moments so that loud ones are even louder.
When Limmy started making Vines, his end goal was not to create an hour-long video that would be screened in front of hundreds of people, so on that basis I hope he'd forgive me for describing the experience as akin to having one's face simultaneously caressed and screamed in by a happily rabid Glaswegian.
The quiet moments in The Vines of Limmy are precious and few; the rest are loud, weird, and to English ears, frequently incomprehensible. Limmy is a comedian by trade, so the biggest question is if it was funny, which it was - it was very funny. If you're a fan of Limmy, you know there was never any reason to think otherwise.
But The Vines of Limmy was more than a bunch of short, funny videos. The show's programme notes said that Limmy's Vines "provide a unique and deliriously disturbing insight into the existential terrors of the 21st century, with paranoia, mental illness, sexuality, boredom and the internet all coming under scrutiny".
Many, if not most of Limmy's Vines are delivered with an uncompromising brutality; his characters are tinged with violence, deviancy and an ill state of mental health. Limmy himself suffers from depression and is teetotal after a bout of alcoholism. His Vines confront these issues head on, with the kind of immediacy you can only get by limiting yourself to six seconds.
Here you can see him throwing away his antidepressants, a decision he rationalises in a thread of tweets. It's a powerful handful of seconds on its own, but in the context of 599 other Vines it took on a new meaning: amongst all the screaming madness, one of the quietest moments actually spoke the loudest.
And then it was back to the screaming madness. Only Limmy knows if that's an apt metaphor for his life, but I hope it isn't.
What The Vines of Limmy rather brilliantly demonstrates is the process by which an idea is developed. The first 10 minutes, as well as having dodgy audio, were mainly unintelligible grunts and disturbing faces. This was Limmy getting to grips with the Vine format, experimenting with lighting and editing, as well as possibly exorcising some demons.
As the film progresses, Limmy finds a way to channel his swirling vortex of dark energy into coherent segments, and then into recognisable people. Fans of Limmy will be familiar with characters like The Plasterer, Frosty Jack's Guy and "That Accent", but these were often honed over a long period of time. In The Vines of Limmy, we see the birth, life (and in the case of The Plasterer, the sad demise) of these people in a matter of minutes.
The Vines of Limmy could easily have been titled The Life of Limmy. Though obviously filtered through his sense of humour and feverish imagination, Limmy's Vines are intimate snippets of life and dare to reveal things that many comedians would turn and hightail it from. Compacted together like this, in their raw and occasionally out-of-sync form, they're a personal assault on the senses.
I came away from The Vines of Limmy feeling tired, confused and sad.
Tired, because an hour of screaming madness is a lot to deal with (looking forward to having children, then). Confused, because at that moment I didn't know what to make of anything anymore. Sad, because Vine, the thing that made this glorious explosion of delirium possible, would soon be gone forever.