From the archives: 28/12/2010

Why didn’t I publish this? I found this post in draft form. It was dated December 28, 2010 – really, another lifetime away.

It’s not the best post I’ve ever written, but reading it now these years later it has a weight and context it didn’t have then. It’s worth publishing, for the record. There are more I may do the same for.

December 28, 2010

On Christmas night I came home after the usual festivities and with nothing better to do switched on the TV. Showing was a movie, Nine, a remake of Fellini’s famous movie 8 1/2, which I sat down to watch.

8 1/2 is a fascinating movie, a journey into the frenetic life and complex memories of a famous Italian movie director as he prepares to make his next movie. He is undergoing a crisis of sorts, searching for meaning and inspiration. In his search he recalls key moments in his life from when he was boy onwards, and the women who have played a role in his development, from his mother to his many lovers. The movie is an extravagant kaleidoscope of images and cameos; it jumps from scene to memory, from present day crisis in the life of the urbane director (played by Marcello Mastroianni) and to the memories and fantasies he retreats into. It’s a great movie.

Nine isn’t a great movie, if only because the memories of 8 1/2 have become entertaining but shallow vaudeville scenes in Nine. It is less a journey than a melange of colourful and picturesque moments without the soul and anguish to underpin it. I switched off after 45 minutes.

As I lay in bed that night at the end of another Christmas day I recalled the original 8 1/2. It had been a tough day for me. I had woken sad after dreaming of my mum’s death and felt it weigh me down all day in what was a kind of existential anguish that went beyond my mother. I was leaden, but as always managed to be professionally affable over lunch and with my cousins. I smiled and joked, I picked up threads of conversations started the last time I saw them, I was as I would want to be – but all the while I felt something dark and heavy in me.

Real life is like that in 8 1/2 I thought. We’re not making movies, our memories don’t break out into song, yet for me at least life is a kaleidoscope of memories and sensations. In terms of time life is perfectly linear, we can’t go back. And yet in our minds we go back all the time, in our dreams and random recollections we loop backwards and forwards, driving us on and taking us back, tilting, slanting, warping perspective from one day to the next. Sure, it’s not as melodramatic as an Italian movie from 50 years ago, but it’s true. We are at any given moment the product of all that has come before.

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