Sunday, 16 September 2007

Atonement, the weeping woman and Roy Orbison on Earwaxharvester

Let me preface this post with the proviso that there is much to make me cry about the real world, cause for real tears and real distress but I take that as a given. If anyone attempts to lecture me on the total fake sentimentality engineered by the media and others I refuse to go and stand in the corner with the emotional dunce’s hat on.

I went to see Atonement on Friday and predictably I cried at the end; the whole packet of tissues, snivelling and deeply unattractive snotty kind of crying much like that of Juliet Stevenson in Truly Madly Deeply. Friend had to pat and stroke my arm in the sort of way one would try and calm a howling Great Dane.

I am a total sucker for those film directors and writers who know how to push the right buttons. I can even weep in foreign languages and subtitles, (note to self good title for a novel or a poem. The Woman Who Wept in Subtitles.. a bit like sub textual grief but in a larger font) Of course I know I am being manipulated, even when I know what the ending is going to be, as in this case. I can, despite this, still come out of the cinema with damp mascara wandering down my cheeks and the hung over panda look. I am that specific person they think of when they are creating the weepy buttons.

My intellect can reel off words like cliché, predictable, smaltzy, lowest common emotional denominator, trite and formulaic but there I am with the tissues piling up around me like a small white nest. There is nothing wrong with a good cry, very cathartic, very cleansing. Nothing better than a wet cold Sunday afternoon and an old black and white film, Mr Chips dying, Ingrid Bergman marching those Chinese children over the mountains and getting there. Plus you can hurl all your small and inconsequential minor and even ancient miseries into this one permitted blubbering pot. I can rest safe in the knowledge that I can’t be regarded as self pitying when I am getting weepy over a mere film, a TV programme, a book etc.

So there I am weeping over fictional characters from a novel translated to celluloid. Here in this particular story of course is one of those human baseline prime regrets; the case of the life not lived, the road not taken and living with the knowledge that you have ripped choices away from others and yourself by your own actions. Hindsight, like water and fire is a good friend and a bad enemy. And then of course amidst all this emotional fest, turmoil and soggy tissues part of my brain is also thinking, how can they have travelled any road at all when they never had real legs or real choices in the first place? The only choices ever made were by the writer, the director or who ever is selling me the story. Thanks be to those who can perform such magic; the art of creating any narrative is always a form of manipulating the reader or the audience; the real talent may lie in how well it is disguised.

So I leave you with Roy crying and Celia trying not to sniffle too much

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