Here’s another old article of mine which I didn’t get the chance to post here on this site before. Been pretty busy with the semester coming to a close and in writing my short story as well (completed 10 handwritten pages –rewrote it three times). I’ll write a post about it soon. So enjoy the next few minutes of guilty reading pleasure as I dive headfirst into exploring the truth of life behind the lens of fiction. WARNING: Spoilers about the plots are given. You’ve been warned.
The Truth of Life through Fiction
The woman had nice brown hair. While singing, she was lifted up by various men like a holy sacrificial maiden to her funeral pyre. Viewing her amongst the myriads of rapt faces was a bald man and a young woman with an angelic face.
I in turn watched them from my television set.
Talk to Her won the Oscar in 2003 for best original screenplay. Set in Spain, it features a bisexual man named Benigno who is obsessed with a promising dancer, Alicia. The film also tells the story of bald Marco who is in love with a bullfighter, Lydia. Both women fall into a coma and that’s how these two men met. Lydia dies and Alicia gets pregnant. Benigno, who is her nurse is locked up and he rots in his cell without his paraphernalia of his beloved patient to hold till one night a bottle of pills ensured his reunion with her. Only Alicia isn’t asleep anymore. She has awakened except for her child who had died as a fetus. Marco knew this but couldn’t bring to tell his friend, fearful of the consequences it might bring until it was too late. While enjoying the theater, he and Alicia managed to lock unto each others’ eyes. Though they’ve never as much said hello, inside they knew the threads of fate bound tightly around them—woven in an intricate web.
* * * * * *
“I will not cry,” swore Richelle.
“Daaady!!” the little girl screamed, prolonging the vowels in a long high sharp wail.
At my left Richelle started sobbing.
Amy was the alternative to the highly anticipated (to me at least) and scandalized The Sum of Us, a tale of a man finding Mr. Right. Many gay men went home disappointed but my friends and I decided to stick it out in the Australian film fest. Why waste a free flick? It’s seldom bread fell from the heavens.
Amy is the young protagonist’s name to this endearing movie. She’s seen her father burned to ashes in his concert and because of that she refused to talk or hear anything. Fleeing from welfare, she and her mother moved to a quite unsettling neighborhood. Due to a musician who lives nearby, Amy at last came out of her shell. The one glitch: she can only hear and communicate through singing. Through the help of a psychologist, the root of her trauma was unearthed. The reason was a misdirected memory where the child thought she had caused her father’s death when all the while she had stayed in her mother’s arms.
* * * * * *
To watch a critically acclaimed film is enough to cast an impact on your life but to watch two?
And yet I must add one more element to the gathering stimuli that happened to hit me on that same day.
Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda was described as “the stuff of shimmering, transparent fantasy” says the blurb from Time magazine. The novel won a Booker in 1988. It had left a profound effect in me when I came to the last page. There is nothing short of ordinary in a story of two gamblers who made a bet to transport a glass church all the way across the Outback. Never mind that one of them is a servant of God and the other is a headstrong woman who owns a glasswork factory (something you don’t see often in the 19th century —- a period still in shock from Darwin’s publication of his “Origin of the Species.”). As the circumstances come to a close, Oscar murders a man and Lucinda becomes a factory worker.
Now these events of the stories do naught but add to the universal theme that everything is reduced to a simple tossing of a coin. The laws of probability states that it can only fall in two ways —heads or tails. It rarely lands upright. It is amusing to note that life is an exception of such rules of statistics. It always pulls the rug underneath you and you find yourself on your back — dazed and surprised. You can never predict what’s going to happen next. Nobody knew Alicia would wake up after two years being a vegetable. Nobody could guess that Amy could in time interact through singing. And of course nobody could ascertain that Oscar would undergo his lifelong phobia of water and drown in a glass chamber that was his cage.
We have something in common with these tragedy figures of books and films. Our lives too are ensnared in Fate’s treacherous web and we can do nothing except follow our course till she – venomous weaver of a spider cuts our precious lines and spins a new one along.
Are we controlled by destiny or are we the masters of it? Like Oscar and Lucinda they made their own choices about the bet but never predicted it’s outcomes. Benigno and Marco decided on the women they love but could never keep them in the future. Amy chose to make her own world and live in it but when the truth became known she had to finally emerge. Life is a game of chance and choices. Just as you throw the dice and hope it’ll be a six so as you make a decision and hope it’s the right one. Eventually you’ll never win nor will you ever lose.
* * * * * *
The final scene of the festive neighborhood filled the enormous screen.
My fingers strayed on the remote as the credits appeared alongside the theater.
My hand flipped over to the last page.
As the two persons entwined by unfortunate fates shared a meaningful look….
As a young girl is hugged by her joyful mother….
As a glass church gradually descends to be embraced by the chilly arms of the waters while inside a man screams — a ripple of sound — unheard and unsnatched by the drifting melodies of the breeze, swallowed by the sea….
Little by little these three separate spaces of time come together and there convulsed in me a growing fountain of foreign emotions, tossed back and forth, angry frothy waves gathering momentum and in an exuberant amount of force bursts in a strong enormous jet up and I was thrown backwards from such revelations.
Slowly tears flowed down, streaming gently past my face — caressing me like droplets of soft rain. Suddenly I felt I was so small and the entire universe lay before me in its glorious magnificent vastness. I wept for our decaying humanity, the hopelessness of wasted lives, of lost dreams, of unhappy endings. I cried for Benigno who never knew the single joy of his life was awake, for Amy having witnessed the brutal death of her father, for Oscar who died in the place where his God lived amidst the elements of his greatest fear.
The man’s and woman’s gazes locked.
The young girl smiled.
The last tip of glass disappeared.
In the end we become nothing but specks of dust blown by the wind, to be forever lost in the cold infinite space yet our memories are imprinted in the hearts of men and for that we shall continue to live.