Paul's concerned, frightened parents attempt desperately to reach their son, to pull the boy back to their reality, but the ubiquitous snow -- an all-consuming yet strangely intimate mental blizzard -- buries Paul's mind inside itself. This progression towards isolation continues until Paul is simply...unreachable.
"Silent Snow, Secret Snow" was dramatized on radio in the 1950s and also very memorably on Rod Serling's Night Gallery in 1971. It's one of my all-time favorite installments of Night Gallery, actually. It's very, very disturbing, but also beautiful.
Whether you view this Night Gallery tale and young Paul's plight as a metaphor for autism or for schizophrenia, it's a terrifying journey. "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" taps into a universal parental fear of losing your grip on your child; of losing him (or her) to something insidious that you can't control.
Orson Welles narrates this distinctive segment of Night Gallery, and his mellifluous voice captures some strange, artistic quality about this story. As scary as Paul's turn "inward" remains, the narration reads like fine, lyrical poetry; and the visuals are dynamic, glorious and well-chosen.
As the story commences, Welles' recounts for us how Paul's unusual journey into mental illness originated; how his descent into the the never ending snow started simply as "nothing...just an idea.
In keeping with this visual theme of "whiteness" symbolizing purity, there are moments in the episode in which the audience sees Paul drinking milk (notably also white), or glaring at a glass chandelier, which promptly transforms into ice-laden tree branches. Everything Paul sees is soon affected by the unique filter (his filter) of snow.
In a despairing, unhappy denouement, Paul finally turns away from the "inquisition" of the outside world for another place, an interior dwelling that "no one will ever again be able to enter."
In this white blizzard, the snow beckons more strongly than before, promising to tell Paul a beautiful story. It is a tale that gets "smaller and smaller," like a "flower that blooms into a seed."
Mental illness can blot out life's colors. It can blot out life's vibrancy and nuance, creating a kind of obsessive blindness, and .here it is visualized as a snow blindness.