Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reverie, part 2: In My Skin

I recognized my hell recorded by G.H. G.H. belongs to Clarice Lispector. The Passion According to G.H.—is the greatest disposition, a proliferation of reveries, each page continually opening itself to me and opens me. My emptiness learns that it is seeking vastness. My neutrality recognizes itself as need. The hellish fury in me is impatience for the moment to burst open. My waiting is full. These are her reveries; I have taken them for my own. But punishment for my self is also my forgetfulness. I keep forgetting the lessons I learn. I always have to relearn everything. Maybe that’s what Helene means when she tells of an ancient knowledge within herself that is invoked by another? Like the lessons I learn from Lispector, for example. I had learned it already with Pham Thi Hoai’s Crystal Messenger, then with Bachelard, and just yesterday, with Nguyen Khai: Vì hắn không có cá tính mạnh, không có bản sắc rõ ràng, chỉ là cái rỗng không nhưng cái rỗng không ấy lại có sức mạnh hút vào nó mọi màu sắc của cuộc sống mà chỉ một kẻ nhút nhát yếu đuối có nhiều khát vọng dang dở mới cảm nhận được. Because he doesn’t have a strong character or a personality, only an emptiness, but that emptiness has the ability to suck into itself all the colors of life, something that only a weak and spineless person with too many unrealized dreams is capable of doing. Nguyen Khai writes, through (and in) his writing, he searches for his ideal. He takes a part of a story he heard, some random person he meets on the street, a comrade’s mother or wife, and blindly feels their existence before taking them out of their reality and weave for them an entirely new universe from his imagination, where their newly spun selves become a part of him, with characteristics of his ideal self. A literary character is his different self and never his own self. A specie of humans in the dream world, not the real world, because his self in the real world is so bland and boring, he can’t possibly put into writing.

I must always take a break from the continuous singularity of time and space. To turn away, detour of some kind, slightly off a foot or half. It doesn’t matter. Those moments when I do not wait, when I decide to stop waiting. To decide, yes, that’s the juncture between one wait to the next. A reprieve.

Tonight’s reprieve is a circular and visual disappointment. I went to see The Machinist, hoping that a movie about obsessions and madness, in all its glorious clichés, will give me reprieve from my own. But no. I forgot that it is an American movie of madness. American movies of madness are often about the beauty of life, about going back to life, the human insistence on life. Such a life-driven force is banal at best. I don't know what I was hoping to see, but I remember In My Skin, a French movie written, directed, and starred by Marina de Van, in which the main character accidentally discovers an odd (morbid) taste (tsk tsk) for self-mutilation. This desire to self-mutilate gradually increases, resulting in more severe and extreme self-mutilations, leading finally to auto-cannibalism. It was disturbing to say the least, but it was somehow oddly familiar. I recognized that deeply not-normal (and yet so identifiable) obsession with one's body, first wanting to see inside it, to look at it from a distanced eye like it is not mine, and could understand why the film merges this twisted curiosity with desire and eroticism until the film climax, when reasons and explanations and judgments on her self-mutilations no longer matter, when what causes her to be like so and do like so and who sees her and won't understand why (she kept having to hide her self-mutilations as accidents, like when she purposely runs barefoot straight through a yard full of barbwires and other sharp objects). When the movie climax with its auto-erotic ending, when the movie is left to itself because we the viewers have stopped trying to make sense of the horror, we've given up on understanding it, when the movie is left to itself we see the character alone by herself in her hotel room. This is when her desire for her body has also reached its climax, and she must, must, must, be alone so she can finally finally do the absolute unthinkable: eat her own body. At that moment, in that space alone by herself, she no longer has to hide or pretend. She is no longer seen (by her own self, with judgments coming from the larger social more) as a victim or object of a psychological defect. The infliction, the sickness of which she is the object of, has become her own desire. She now owns her condition. She owns it, wants it, and needs it. It is this moment, when the object becomes subject, when sickness becomes desire, that victim becomes victor, and we, the eyes that watch and measure, are totally alienated from the experience. That's what makes the movie so good and so satisfying. It takes you to the edge and push you over. Not like The Machinist, that very American movie that takes you half way to the edge and leads you by hand back down the slope. Ending rất có hậu.

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