Archive for July 11th, 2012

© 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. (more…)

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