Monday, January 28, 2008

Vanilla Sky

In case you find her beautiful: the photos on the net are nothing compared to how sparkling and irresistable Penelope Cruz appears in Vanilla Sky. How could anyone not fall in love with this girl?
It remains a very strange movie. I saw it again this evening, and began to understand it a bit better than the previous time, when I was utterly bewildered. Again a movie about reality and illusion (like eXistenZ, about which I wrote last month), and again that basic question "who is the dreamer, and where is he?" Essentially this is all about the confrontation with death: it begins and ends with the same line: "wake up!" (not by any chance, I think, the same words that start Neo's adventure in The Matrix). And when we see Tom Cruise jumping off a skyscraper at the very end, we're not sure what that means: waking up from the dream to reality, or from the dream that is reality? What is the psychological baseline? Or is the whole point that there is none? Jumping from the building like that means confronting what psychonauts refer to as "ego death". Very very scary...
What does it mean that so many recent movies are based upon this same theme?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Appointment

This evening I've been re-reading the first part of a short novel by the Dutch poet Adriaan Roland Holst, called De Afspraak (The Appointment, first published in 1925). Such a pity that such great literature is not accessible beyond this small country. I simply cannot imagine how the power of Roland Holst's language could possibly survive translation. The story begins with the author's strange, dreamlike memory of one evening when he was a child, and was traveling with his father. During dinner one of the guests at the table had given him two glasses of wine to drink. He watched the people at the party with a sense of heightened awareness and a deep certainty that he was on the verge of being initiated into the very essence of his life: this was the appointed evening when he was to be reminded of his true self and his true fatherland. A woman walks to the window and begins to sing. And in the middle of the enchantment, suddenly a man appears to have entered the room, who looks him in the eyes; and although he has never seen the man before, he knows that they have an appointment this evening, and the stranger will visit him in his room later that night. And that is what happens. The man sits on his bed, plays with the logs in the fire, and tells him for hours about his true fatherland: the place where he belongs and where he will return one day. Then come the many years in which this memory fades and he betrays his true self - until finally the realization comes back that that this mysterious evening was the key event in his life, which taught him the truth that he does not belong here "among the unwinged ones", and his never-ending nostalgia has always been nothing but the call for him to remember who he is and try and find the way back to his true home.
Perhaps one should not try to summarize such stories... It's the beautiful language that conveys the sense of deep mystery pervading this story. I don't know of anything quite like it in any other language.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Fallen Angel

"Fallen Angel" by Luis Royo. I came across it (and the artist, whom I didn't know) in Paris this Christmas. I find the image very moving: it expresses the tragedy of "the Fall" on several levels at once, and in a way that I suspect defies verbal expression. So I'll say no more.