© 2012 by James Clark
Robert Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest is a masterful exploration of a shattering marvel tenaciously hidden within our going about our business. As physical entities we find ourselves absorbed within skills (business) necessary for survival, but not necessarily conducive to lucidity in a wider sense we might want to discount but in all seriousness cannot. There is a film, namely, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), which likewise engages the rarity of discernment in its interpersonal implications. But instead of being an instance of “facing up to it” (as the old priest would rally the awkward beginner as to clerical business as usual), the recent instalment comes to grips with taking care of business in the absence of those sensitivities primed by an endeavor (namely, Christianity) concerning lucidity beyond that bolstering creature comforts, sensitivities, that is, touching (however numbly) upon an exigency of comprehensive love.
Even so, Antichrist begins with a couple copulating in their shower in a filmic aura of deliciously textured grey scale, slow-motion and choral sheen—Handel’s aria, “Let Me Weep,” (“Let me weep for my cruel fate and that I long for freedom”), as given an unearthly topspin by a mezzo soprano approximating the original castrato register—serving to impress upon us that a measure of uncanniness, of lucidity abnormal in rational world history, graces their experience. Suggestive that, as with the young celibate in Bresson’s film, visiting uncanniness is not the same as inhabiting it, their exploratory toddler plunges to his death from the upstairs window during their rapture, as if he were a baby bird taking its early exit. Likewise wrapped in very slow-motion, this misstep comes to be enfolded in a caress of delicate snowflakes, first floating into the place of ecstasy and then accompanying the one-way, downward proceeding, as also accompanied by the victim’s winsome little teddy bear, plopping into a cushion of snow, and bouncing, as if onto a forgiving trampoline. In the trajectory streaming along from this strange episode of domestic primality (their cyclical laundry machine, installed beside that shower comes to a halt at about the same moment tumescence ends), after he has strangled his wife after suffering nearly unspeakable injuries at her hands, the father, dragging himself homeward through a thick forest—in a reprise of the shimmering visual register just described (and a second rendition by that castrato manqué, now closer to him than ever)—encounters the mist-enshrouded presences of a deer, a fox and a bird, having, like the little bear, transcended harsh treatment, and in their pristine beauty, composure and (above all) penetrating equilibrium, affording a trace of sound discovery so remarkably rare in this saga so acutely mindful of Bresson’s nightmares.
The almost universal opprobrium swirling about this daring and wise work necessitates emphasis that its concerns are as far from adolescent sensationalism as those of Bresson, or Cocteau. Far closer, in a cinematic sense, to the latter than to the former, Antichrist unleashes a lavish cataract of sonic and visual evocations (soon to be specified) of the deadliness of conscious action. As such, it unfortunately tempts less than wide awake viewers to enthuse, “Hot damn! A horror movie!” Well, yes; and no. What seems to have been lost in the tingling and the shadows is its demonstrably sophisticated screenplay by von Trier, which cues the sensual thrills in such a way as to include (as against gore as junk food) the exigency of elevation. We must then, I think, approach this edifying nightmare by way of its reflective affinities to Diary of a Country Priest and that latter film’s immersion in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (the doctrinal propensities of which are put on special notice by the jist of this twenty-first century film). That strategy meets not simply the need to behold the powers of von Trier’s effort in themselves, but as a dialogue with Bresson and Cocteau for the sake of enlarging the scope of their endeavors. Antichrist, like all of von Trier’s films, is an arresting sensuous adventure. Characteristic, also, is its dramatic, physical upshot, which could be covered by Bresson’s Duchess’ exclamation, “You have left nothing standing.” We must now attempt to comprehend how such devastation simultaneously feels the thrum of something lively and new.
Semi-radiant at least while reaching a climax in her husband’s arms while her only child brings them a cruel end to another phase of love, when next we see her she staggers within her painful sense of loss behind the boy’s coffin in a funeral cortège verdantly positioned and designed in view of Washington State nature-worship not that far removed from their love-making (which pumps along in sync with that washing machine, the contents of which can be seen through its porthole, tumbling with a predictable cadence). The man strides there, too, crying copiously and self-dramatizingly. She collapses, there is some medical alert pandemonium (in silence, to ensure some detachment), and when next she appears she is lying in a hospital bed, and he enters her room with a small bouquet of blue flowers, perhaps indigenous to the forest nearby. Like an old-growth tree, she has been utterly dormant as to consciousness for a month. Both of them speak in a barely audible murmur, calm, as it happens, before a cataclysmic storm pouring forth from mountainous peaks of consciousness. Their conversation appears to be limited to easily recognizable treatment details, but the rancorous tuning of those whispers trails out to cries from the heart. Seemingly an unremarkable moment of local color, he decries the weighty regime of medication her doctor has challenged her body with. She’s for letting chemistry do what it can, and in that she casts a vote for inertia and kinesthesis, as against the potent culture of meditatively willing oneself to a happy face. In her demur to his complaint, we embark upon the state of being at loggerheads that animates the entirety of their marriage. (Such an impasse, however, in spite of that first [only apparent] obviousness, is remarkably complex and constitutes the perceptual payload of this sorely underestimated film.) “Stop it, please,” she demands, from out of a tiredness persisting on returning home, not completely derived from the recent crisis. “You’re trying to sound important… He just happens to be smarter than you.” He reaches for more pointed rhetoric in assuring her, “I’ve seen ten times as many mental patients as he has… I’m proud not to be a doctor when I meet a doctor like him.” Up in the Pacific Northwest, where folks in some quantity still derive satisfaction from pioneering do-it-yourself (under the auspices of tonics proliferating by way of inspiration from the Summer of Love), intuition counts for more than Big Business; and he strides into his wife’s lostness with a confidence transparently borne more by perceptual crudity and arrogance than by deftness and love. (Having actor, Willem Dafoe, on the loose here, reminds us of the writer/director’s penchant for drawing up casts including figures from key films of the past, in order to flesh out sensibilities and evoke filmic obsessions, thereby readying the audience for the expansive nature of the crises on the way. Dafoe had had, by the time Antichrist came onstream, a busy and distinguished career in films and stage plays that tended to disturb the peace as the status quo would have it. Nowhere, however, was he more disturbingly memorable than as Bobby Peru [“... like the country...”], in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. Tracing back to Bobby’s track record as a deviser of unorthodox schemes that can’t miss but somehow end very badly, we listen to the Washingtonian assuring her, “No therapist can know as much about you as I do,” and we are put on notice that, for all his state college rationalism, he’s still some kind of con man. [That in his later years he tended, with the right camera angle and lighting—the latter’s resort to a single, concentrated spotlight on their faces [in correspondence with the hush of their voices], as they slug it out in the post-trauma funk of their living space as reported, delivering large swatches of black shadow maintaining the uncanniness at the hidden heart of their canny dispute, and bringing to momentary salience ravaged features and still-powerful shoulders and [particularly her] leg muscles—to resemble Charlton Heston, further cues the viewer for questioning his bona fides as a contrarian discoverer.)
She of course is not buying any of it. “The doctor said I was getting better… You had to meddle…” Derived perhaps from his high school track coach, he turns out to be an exponent of the theory, “no pain, no gain,” and he’s eager to put her through a season of opening herself to “natural grief,” to the roots of her pronounced disarray, the essential fear that, as opaque, cripples her. (Though giving every cause to doubt his efficacy, he does thereby maintain some kind of priority for sensual/intentional efficacy, as against molecules, and that must caution us against giving him overly short shrift. His schema, about comprehension of the wellspring of fear leading to fearlessness, moots the questions of what kind of transparency and what kinds of composure are on tap. Her ridicule of his taking over the case strongly suggests that she perceives a glaring shortfall in his sense of that well-being she supposedly requires. “But you’re just so much smarter, aren’t you?” Lost indeed, though she regards him as a big mistake, she finds herself flushing bottles of pills into the toilet and listening to his melodramatic prescription, “There’s no way around it” (she seeing full well that he’s been avoiding real heat as long as she’s known him). Now discovering herself to be uncontrollably unravelling, she imagines that his repugnant regime just might cough up a breakthrough unintended by him. Indication of how wildly her craft is pitching here, she avers, “I want to die, too.” “No,” he goes, quietly but firmly. “I’m not gonna let you… It’ll change…”
Despite this hugely unpromising flirtation with adulterated courage, their body language is way ahead of the patter, their faces and voices showing a still operative (but non-functioning) fluency with the frisson they have absorbed but can’t carry forward. From that baseline of intimacy in murky light and ragged motion, they squander its largesse in fastening themselves evermore firmly (with the increasing weight of impasse) to matters of resentment and personal advantage. (This thrust, thereby, describes a retreat, by contrast with the battle staged by Bresson’s Priest and Duchess.) She declares that he’s always been “distant” as a husband and father, “terribly distant…indifferent. Bet you have a load of therapist crap about that.” He counters by recapping a trip she and the boy made to their hideaway in the woods, only to return home soon, the purpose of reviving her academic thesis, on demonizing women through history, not seriously pursued. He asks, “Why did you give up? It’s not like you…” She fires back that she soon came to agree with his long-standing assessment of the project as “glib.” “I never used that word,” the sensitivity-certified care-giver insists. “That’s what you meant,” she retorts, “…and all of a sudden it was glib… Even worse, you made it seem some kind of lie.” She hugs him in face of this bickering bleeding over toward formally declared war between them. Falling asleep, she dreams of a tangle of white tree trunks and branches in darkness where she thrashes about in a demonic frenzy. Waking with loud gasps she is held by him and then instructed, in order to quell the abysmal mystery possessing her, “Inhale while I count to 5… Follow me. Do it with me. I’m your teacher…” He presumes to know the ins and outs of her distress, and in so doing brings down on his head (though he doesn’t realize it) a phenomenon very unsuited to glib mastery. He announces that she’s entered upon a new stage of her mourning, namely, that of “anxiety” (Angst). She’s far from convinced that this is a small symptom. “It’s dangerous,” she declares, perhaps from out of painful experience, with a monstrously volatile power. “No it isn’t,” he maintains, as if he were Bobby calming down Sailor.
She rushes to mount him, tearing off her clothes, staging a revival of what sensual cogency she has managed to sustain. “Easy!” he says, reflexively going into emergency personnel precepts. “Never screw your therapist…It’s not good for you.” “Help me,” she pleads. “That’s what I’m doing,” he exaggerates. “You have to stay with what frightens you.” Implying to us that he’s oversimplifying the tangle of Angst, she admits, “I don’t know what I’m afraid of… Can’t I be afraid without a definite object?” (She very definitely, even at this early juncture, embraces a range of difficulties which he is professionally and personally determined to savage, however politely. As such he is unwittingly proceeding along a path the dangers of which he, being as essentially mainstream as those billions he thinks to surpass and as therefore operating within a seemingly impregnable juggernaut, has never contemplated. This coiling as by a rattlesnake comprises the dramatic pulse of the film.) She becomes hysterical within that interrogative bind, he tries to quieten her, they make love, and he exclaims, “This won’t do! It’s the stupidest thing!” Putting more structure into the cure, he asks, “Where are you afraid… the worst place…?” Coming from somewhere he doesn’t recognize as a valid state, she can’t readily define any mundane locale as the site of her anxiety. Her pausing here is, therefore, a fateful moment, a touching upon what could make a real difference (as with the Duchess). But unlike the daring, resolute (albeit bathos-prone) patrician as inspired by the likewise daring, resolute (and compromised) Priest, the protagonist here is without a daring ally and without the stomach to go it alone. In the absence of a flesh and blood associate, she would fantasize an army of (bathetic, compromised) soulmates, while in her face her tedious husband would inadvertently expose her essential grotesquerie. “The woods,” he proposes. “The woods, yes,” she capitulates.
The meat of this film concerns their bid for powerful discovery at the former scene of “some kind of lie.” In her nearly prostrate condition on not being able to proceed from strength from out of what still appears to us a manageable setback, she subjects herself to his patently lower-drawer social science as if she were buying a lottery ticket. The run-up to occupying that supposedly fertile territory of self-awareness comprises his attempt to evoke crystalline definiteness about an exercise that she knows in her gut to be more diffuse than that. He asks, tell me what you think is supposed to happen in the woods,” as if perhaps trigger-happy hunters were bugging her. In the course of his wanting her to fix upon a particular patch of forest as quintessentially horrific, he nudges her toward considering the region of their vacation home, named, Eden (and it’s no big puzzle which of them would have come up with that bit of simplism). She changes the subject by trying to get down to her preferred earthiness, pulling off his clothes, but in the course of the struggle she accidentally elbows him, bringing the effort to a frustrating conclusion. On the train ride out to Eden the Boot Camp, the lush green countryside flashing by with ominous ferocity, he pumps her about what’s, in her view, to come at that supposedly pristine springboard. She remarks that the bridge to be crossed in getting there would be a difficult factor. On dozing off, her dream pertains to that structure, and we see her from a distance as a silvery sylph, crossing in super slo-mo and thick fog while all around the buoyant, piercingly wild foliage tends to contradict the designs of decadence, the rush of weird winds, and the heavy darkness that comes early there. He interrupts this by asking what she thinks of a place near Eden, where an elderly couple go about their business of communing with nature. She offers, “I can’t really tell. It’s like walking through mud.” He goes on to have her imagining approaching the cabin, lying down outside of it (“What’s it like?”/ “Green. It’s so very green”), and concentrating on fear (“Let fear come if it likes”). (The young priest had counselled the old aristocrat to let love come.)
Having set the scene in the key of skittishness, he finds her sliding into a role of wilfulness that somewhat unnerves him. As they hike with heavy packs through a setting laboriously conjured (not, as it happens, for the first time) to be demonic, she exclaims, “The ground is burning!” He slips into the register of exorcist to quickly dispense with a gambit not useful in scientific healing. “The ground is not burning.” She has to lie down, and, while strolling in what he liked to believe was the health-supportive Garden, he comes upon a doe, which, on turning to retreat (in slow-motion enhancing her already breath-taking beauty), reveals a dead fetus hanging from her uterus. This leaves him uncharacteristically troubled, not only in view of its affront to his antiseptic and sunny cruising speed, but in regard to the likewise uncanny aspect of her complaint about burning at the ground of motion, in its link to her now-discarded but far from buried feminist researches about the history of burning at the stake supposed witches. (As entering upon the rarely revealed essence of fear, von Trier’s work hearkens to Bresson’s precept that the “most hidden” dimension of his kind of film is crucial.)
In light of this unexpected reversal, on entering the aptly antiquated division point of the tale, titled, “Chaos Reigns,” we have not merely one purveyor of academic impertinence, but two such unreliable devotees, brought into desperate conflict. The first night out there, she dreams of searching the woods for her child, driven to frenzy by his vaguely accusatory screams erupting hither and yon. Her lips move but no sound emerges. He wakens with one arm stretched beyond the ledge of an open window. To his further dismay, his skin exposed to the elements is covered with leech-like organisms, which, as he frantically tears them off, appear to be acorn shells. Many acorns pelting on the tin roof complete the prefatory motif of a world of myriad woes the effective engagement of which should not be expected from dabblers. He goes on to put her through a drill of walking between two headstone-like markers in such a composed way as to “feel the grass.” She suffers mightily in doing this. He gives her guidance about counting by fives and breathing accordingly. And he encourages her at the end of the class: “You learned something. You did beautifully!” (She cries bitterly.) That night she, for the first time in this narrative, wants to talk about her thesis. She remarks that now she realizes she had stopped writing it due to fear (not, mind, due to being seized by the prospect of glibness and some kind of lie). He proposes that her overwhelming fear places her in a “fight or flight” disposition. She snarls, “You’re just so damn arrogant! But this may not last. Have you thought of that? An oak tree may only produce one offspring in a hundred years. That fascinates me… the cry of all the things that are to die… I understand that everything that we take to be beautiful is hideous!” Stung by this nebulous and sardonic allusion to fight or flight, his forbearance slips, and, though he doesn’t realize it, he becomes a marked man. “That’s all very touching… if it was a children’s book… [Her thesis’ title, introduced to us moments before, namely, Gynocide, refers not only to genocide, but also to gynecocracy, the supremacy of women]… That’s what fear is. It distorts reality.” Thereby, what was heretofore elusive about the friction between them unequivocally enters the arena of ideological hatred. She quickly marshals the most thuggish aspects of her sensualist enthusiasms. “Satan’s Church…Nature is Satan’s Church…” (If he’s going to come on like a snotty professor, she’ll come on like a bloodthirsty biker, and let’s see who’ll see tomorrow.)
We observe him replacing “Nature” with “Satan” on the apex of the schematic pyramid he’s been using to chart her recovery. Then he has a nightmare/reverie, whereby acorns smash into the cabin like bombs, and plants shoot out of the earth like ground-to-air missiles—a sign that his rational priorities become blunted at the frontier of fantastical causality. The battle about to begin in earnest, then, features, when all is said and done, two branches of classical rationalism, this-worldly mechanics and other-worldly mechanics. That is clearly a far cry from the strife-become-mutual-elevation shown by the young man and the old woman in the aura of Beauty and the Beast. It is very distinct, also, from another circuitry coming to bear on this drama of loss, clannish delusion and abrasiveness, namely Jacques Demy’s queasy comedy, A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973). By and large a screwball romp wherein a very limited man comes to be convinced by his wife’s flakey GP (always dressed for the cocktail hour) that he is pregnant, it is nevertheless a gentle mockery of the reflexive, conformist-contrarian self-satisfaction of inhabitants of the Montparnasse quartier of Paris. Its briefly celebrated protagonists (the wife, played by Catherine Deneuve, a chic Mom to a little boy, in addition to being with-it concerning the latest styles, and a chronically confused feminist; the husband, played by Marcello Mastroianni, being a driving instructor whose little car and breathless vocal delivery recall Jacques Tati’s M. Hulot—the two of them, in those days constituting a formidable Power Couple), come to a season of disarray and a little crisis of feeling like fools on being struck by facticity and thus “losing” their much-bruited child. (At one point she slips out of the prescribed register and cries out, “Something always ruins it!”) But their primary temperament of affection for each other, and a “whatever” reflex, as sustained by the cool neighborhood, carry them, while hardly missing a beat, past the abyss of coming up short. “The Most Important Event Since Man Walked On The Moon” is Demy’s facetious subtitle. And von Trier wants us to see what can happen when slackers take themselves way too seriously.
The morning after the elliptical declaration of war, he remarks, “You look fantastic!” She smiles as we have not seen her do, and with just a trace of contrivance replies, “I love you, Darling…” A bit ominously, however, in interrupting his admitting to having had “some crazy dreams,” she tosses out the little joke pertaining to his scientism, “Freud is dead, isn’t he?” “Yeah,” he agrees, missing the point, as usual. Her claiming to be cured, though, does discountenance him. “You’re so clever,” she chirps. I’m fine.” This game face chills him. He takes a curative walk in the woods, encounters an irate fox having mangled his mate and her babies, and thinks to hear him say, “Chaos reigns!” That night (in the omnipresent darkness now taking a turn for the worse), while she sleeps a sleep of the righteously wild, he reads through the manuscript she had abandoned for good reasons, and he almost stops breathing in assimilating her rationale for satanic predation upon him and his ilk. Becoming incensed, he wakes her up and announces a new regime with a view to her reconstruction. “I’m Nature, all the things you call Nature.” She mocks him, “OK, Mr. Nature, what do you want?” He wants, as it happens, to regain the upper hand by exposing the bankruptcy of her resentment; but he doesn’t have the perceptive resources to manage the imbroglio she has placed herself in. He begins with intimidation, along lines of her own violence: “I want to hurt you as much as I can… By killing you… I’m nature outside, and the nature of all human beings.” “Oh, that kind of nature,” she pretends to be unfamiliar with, taken aback by his apparent fluency with her range. Then he has something of a panic attack, and he exclaims, “I can’t work with you now!” She cries and calls upon him to help her focus, “Hit me! Hit me, please!” He refuses, she accuses him of not loving her and he agrees. She rushes into the woods, we see her lying on the forest floor, masturbating; he catches up with her and slaps her. “Again!” she orders, “Again!” They are copulating by a big tree, the roots of which sprout arms and hands reaching out to embrace (a startling reno of Bête’s palace). The next day he lectures her that, “Good and evil don’t enter into therapy… You’ve taken the historical outrage of demonizing women, and gone ahead to insist that women are demonic.” “I know,” she whispers, with some embarrassment. “It’s just I sometimes forget…” Seizing what he imagines to be a clear window of opportunity, he demands, “You don’t have to understand [his circumscribing the range of valid experience]. Just trust me.” Soon that secure footing is shattered again, by his getting around to the autopsy report, which notes some deformity to the boy’s feet. Checking photos of him during the abortive bid to revive the thesis, he realizes she had put his shoes on the wrong feet in order to produce some kind of cloven-hoofed entity.
She immediately sees he’s unable to maintain his solicitous approach, and smashes him in the face. “You’re leaving me, aren’t you!” she screams, once again consumed with the ignominy that a pussy like him can presume to undo her discoveries about the sensual rigor of truth. She smashes him to the floor, opens his belt, mounts him, fucks him, and in response to his gasping, “I love you…” she growls, “I don’t fucking believe you!” She fetches a plank and slashes his groin with it. This chapter is named “Despair;” but as we behold its graphic primitiveness it is essential to engage it not as a free-standing dollop of horror but a heartfelt dialogue with overtures concerned with other, far less despairing (less firmly linked to entry upon a vortex of resentment and dominance) possibilities of discharging cogent historical dynamics. The doe’s dead fetus comes back to haunt their combat, and it does so in conjunction with the priority of pushing the frontiers of nature without rabid self-aggrandizement. (In Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Bête has to struggle with material demons driving him to devour the deer herd at his estate.)
She rips his penis, and then strokes it till it gushes blood. Then she heads for the grindstone in the yard, along the way providing herself with a large-bore screwdriver with which she dismantles the wheel, holding fast to its foot-long bolt. Her victim/patient still unconscious in a pool of blood, she performs a second phase of the operation, whereby she drives that shaft into his leg in the course of affixing to him the heavy fetus. She races out to the surrounding nature and flings the now-scarlet flesh-eater into its darkness. He regains consciousness and drags himself into the forest like a wounded turtle. On getting back to the OR and finding him way too frisky for consummate torture, she begins to look for this enemy in order to complete the solution (the rush to torture having taken precedence over quick slaughter). “Where are you? You bastard!” she howls into the night, putting startling body into her hitherto barely audible voice. (Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg gives a career performance throughout this picture.) That war cry (sometimes flipping into a child-like falsetto, “Where are you?”) resonates through the trees, ferns and grasses, and he frantically squeezes himself into a hole at the base of an ancient tree. As she comes over the fog-shrouded ridge nearby, he manages to disappear into the darkness of his small cave, his new haven. Lighting a match, he startles a resident raven and a noisy struggle ensues. He kills the bird but the noise has seemingly sealed his fate. She goes into a paroxysm of blood sport, kicking at his face as he tries to fend her off. He places a rock over the opening, she sprints off for a weapon, comes back with a shovel and flings herself into firing its blade into the barricade, her whole upper body, accented by gale-force twisting of her mane of sweat-filled, black hair, lurching wildly, as she shrieks, “Get out! You bastard! How dare you leave me! Bastard!”
They are at the cabin and her fury has abated, replaced by the shocked despair she revealed on unearthing him at the cave. The volatility of her cutting-edge discernment pitches across the heavy shadows of this scene. “You want to kill me…” he rasps. “Not yet,” she snaps. “When the three beggars arrive, someone must die.” The fox scuttles past them. She cries and embraces him, her shredded purchase upon dignity. She drones, “A crying woman is a scheming woman.” Her face hardens. She lies with him on the floor, and places his fingers in her vagina. Her reverie, in that black and white slow motion in total silence, discloses that during coitus she watches the child padding about, and does nothing to intercept his going to his death. “Hold me!” she cries. He does, but she lunges for a pair of extra-large scissors and cuts off her clitoris (perhaps a measured variant of the fed-up sister in Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers). She shrieks, more from despair than the bloody wound. In the forest, the deer is startled by her cry. She runs out, unsuccessfully looking for the tool to release him; then she returns and falls asleep by his side. He finds a wrench by smashing the floorboards, and he pulls off the weight and pulls out the bolt, with much blood and screaming, as if in labor. She stabs him with the scissors, and then regards him with sadness. His eyes show nothing but hate, and he strangles her.
In an Epilogue, we’re back with the castrato and the grey scale, and the delicious grace of slow motion. He’s hobbling along on a primitive crutch, disoriented and prehistorically close to nature (stopping to avail himself of blackberries and a long history of such simple pleasures. The three beggars (deer, fox and raven) that appear on this path look far more evolved than he. Then hordes of complicit women pass by, like reinforcements, ascending the hill (Montparnasse coming to mind) as he heads downwards. Are we thereby left with the sense that no violence is destructive enough to kill the regenerative impulse of love?