Friday, May 18, 2007

Misery Loves Company

So I'm not going through the easiest time right now, I won't go into why, just know that it is one of those things where your emotions are on a rickety roller-coaster ride all day. Self-pity, loathing, fear and resentment are interrupted with unexpected moments of buoyancy and hope. Distrust of my fellow man can be extinguished in a moment by a chat with a total stranger. My Karma is doing a drunken version of the Virginia Reel.

So what did I go and do to help this condition? I went out and rented the movie that everyone told me was the saddest movie they had ever seen, Pan's Labyrinth. Well, it just might have been the right thing to do, because whatever hell I'm going through now is a walk in the seven gardens of the palace compared to what these folks dealt with. I kept saying to myself " I might have it bad, but at least I'm not getting my face stabbed off with an icepick," or, "things seem rough, but it's better than being chased down a hall by a strange demon with eyeballs in his hands," or, " hmmm, today wasn't so hot but at least I don't have to stitch my face together or watch a giant frog turn inside out."

If I'm giving too much away I apologise. But I could also be writing this as a warning, to those who don't particularly like watching the most gruesome situations that a movie-maker can get away with. I don't know if I'm qualified to judge whether violence is gratuitous or not but this film, to me, pushed it a bit. I was drawn in by its spectacle, and it is a haunting experience--possibly the closest someone has come to capturing the true fantasy of a real nightmare. (please excuse the confusing double oxymoron).

This movie is a contradiction in terms, fantasy-realism, and the horror lies much more in the realism aspects than in the fantasy. The movie produced in me a feeling I haven't had in a long time, true hatred for the antagonist. I was verbally calling for a long slow death for this villain, and my dog, Booker, cocked his head at my blood lust. I used to get this way when I watched evil Nazis, especially the one In Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the scriptwriter, director and actor created a snivelling sadist who's demise is like watching your team make a eighty-yard run to win the game as the clock runs out. Same emotion.

Oh yea, and they were right, it is sad. Sad, sad, sad, sad, sad. I seemed to manage the sad parts pretty well, like I said, this misery trumped mine by a mile. Another emotion this sadness brought was a need to believe in redemption, and the film delivers this in a way. A movie often is, after all, a portal to the human condition. What strikes me though is that after this fantasy was over I realized that these terrible things actually happened to people and are still happening. The realist bits, not the fantasy. Well, maybe that too.

4 comments:

linser said...

It's hard to come up with words that describe that movie without sounding like one of those bad novel introductions: beautiful and strange, haunting and horrific, profoundly heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time (see what I mean?). But your description of your reaction to it is the best I've heard so far.

Emily Barton said...

God, am I ever familiar with the "I might have it bad, but it's better than getting my face stabbed off with an icepick" sorts of thoughts. Funny we should handle difficult times in the same way. When I'm really, really depressed, I either grab something guaranteed to make me laugh (like Three Men in a Boat or something devastating like Thomas Hardy). Hang in there, and please call (or come visit!) anytime you feel like talking.

Froshty said...

My problem during hard times is to think "Hmmm, I guess this is what it's like to be tortured at the secret CIA detention center in Syria." I'll have to try the happier point of view from now on. As for the movie, my older daughter said, "No way would you ever want to watch a movie that sad, Mommy," when I suggested that we might rent it. She's probably right.

Litlove said...

Woah - that is NOT a movie I will ever rent. I couldn't even bear Holly Hunter having her finger chopped off in The Piano. But you're right that it probably made a nice juxtaposition to more mundane cares. Whatever the problems, dear Ian, do remember all your blog friends out in the big wide cyberworld are very ready to entertain and distract you in any way they can. But perhaps not by furning frogs inside out...