Offret (The Sacrifice): An Evening with Tarkovsky – Part 2

A deep exhaustion bathed my body after watching Andrei Rublev. Too late to have anymore caffeinated tea, a hidden determination scratched my brain enough to seek out another operatic entry in Andrei Tarkovsky’s oeuvre. Offret, or The Sacrifice, was the filmmaker’s ultimate piece.

Maybe because the film is in the Swedish language do I believe this, but it is obvious there was a dialogue of influence Tarkovsky between himself and director Ingmar Bergman. His mastery extends over contemporaneous legends like Terrence Malick, Michael Haneke, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

Tarkovsky’s Offret begins with Alexander and his mute son “Little Man” planting a dead tree, anchored by a ring of stones, on the oceanside. As Alexander’s friends begin to arrive for his birthday celebration, bearing stories and gifts of 16th century European maps, we learn more about him. Alexander is a retired actor, married to an actress, with a teenage daughter and a young son who cannot speak, all of whom reside in their seaside home. It is a sparsely furnished home with creaky wood floors, and windows and cabinet doors that can’t (or won’t) stay shut–you might assume their world is on a tilt.

A thunderous sound permeates Alexander’s contemplative, verbose celebration, and a weary mood sets in. Sitting in front of a dim blue light, the party watches an authoritative, faceless voice address a country on the brink of a devastating nuclear war. Mortality, regret, repentance, and shame dig in. Tarkovsky’s gray and gloomy world becomes grayer and darker. Alexander, at first more introspective, now panicked, prays to God, offering up everything he loves in exchange for God’s deliverance.

After awaking from a dream, Alexander sets his house ablaze. Tarkovsky does not offer any clues on whether or not Alexander has dreamed the entire ordeal. And so, Offret is an enigmatic reverie of sorts. Tarkovsky takes immense joy from watching his characters struggle with the ephemeral under the lens of that which is inexplicable and obscure. Always with an eye towards the omniscient, Alexander never finds a way to cope, neither in a dreamlike state nor in reality, and neither do we, for that matter.

Composer Ovchinnikov’s music from the final scene of Andrei Rublev

Andrei Rublev: An Evening with Tarkovksy – Part 1

I dug my heels into an evening with Tarkovsky. A white mug of Earl Grey tea, cooled down with vanilla almond milk accompanied me as I delved into Tarkovsky’s Soviet censored epic, Andrei Rublev. The film, based on the eponymous painter of Russian Orthodox frescoes and icons, was a meditative eulogy on the artist and the political and religious struggles of 15th century Russia. An attempt at an authentic and realistic portrayal of Russia in the 1400′s, Tarkovsky’s Rublev deliberates on the life of the painter through eight chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. Perhaps a series of long vignettes, each one a soliloquy imbued with myriad monologues, Rublev’s journey from traveling monk to a self-defeated artist under a vow of silence is an odyssey against the backdrop of the violent scenery of an unforgiving Russia. A prolonged and detailed Tatar raid against the town of Vladimir singes into the mind unforgettable images of cows set ablaze and speared horses–violence and injury between and against animals are a recurring theme, one that submits a single eye’s attention.

Tarkovsky isn’t as concerned with the truth-telling of Rublev’s life, but the ruminations of a devout man in an oppressive world. It is not only the tyrants’ oppression that Rublev succumbs to, but the artists’ self-doubt and one man’s conscience before his god. A meditation on unsuccessful attempts at humanity’s repentance and the lingering fight against impurity, Andrei Rublev represents humankind’s unrelenting failures and habitual moral perseverance.

Tarkovksy’s epilogue is the only color sequence, a bejeweled survey of Rublev’s religious scenes. Reds and azures glow while film composer Ovchinnikov’s ecclesial Rachmaninoffian choir swells and ebbs the “ah” vowel over his dramatic symphony. It is the shocking final page in one of film’s greatest novels.

Wintry Apathy

It’s not fitting, nor is it irrelevant, that Bach’s “Air” shuffles its toes onto my speakers while it snows for the third day.

Winter is not so depressing as it is embracing, a translucent, corked vial of emotion and thoughtless haze. I’m not sad, per se. It’s bright outside. What little light shines through the clouds reflects with ease off of the snow. The white slats of the blinds give off a bold reflection, lighting the high ceilings, sparse white walls, and light-hued wood floors, made of a wood that I don’t know, and don’t really care to know. Craftsmanship has never interested me, and wintry apathy has done nothing to redirect my interests.

I’ll go earn money now and you most likely won’t. I’ll greet 150 bodies and you’ll greet 150 commercials. I’ll sanitize a gray-speckled beige counter and a rubber belt and you’ll wipe the salt off of your orange fingers, and then you’ll make fun of me because I wrote this.

Incomplete Nosh (Antonymous)

I’m not sure about the rest of my world, but when I meet a new human being, I meet them under the predication that they have existed before our eyes have met and will continue to exist thereafter (the extent of ‘after’ being undetermined for reasons to which I am not privy). In the topsy-turvy world of retail, a regretful world teeming with holistic egos, lesser-thans, and self-perpetuating, self-inflicted humiliation, there lieth capitalism’s firm psychosomatic foundation of manipulation, favoritism, and greed. I spend each day walking the fine line between convincing strangers that I am to be trusted with an array of problems–varying from recipe suggestions to consolations for a lost loved-one–while simultaneously not ruining their day by using the wrong inflection in a greeting, or smiling too similarly to a politician, or using correct grammar, an ingredient that some complain makes for a pretentious stew.

On the other side of the fence splays an umbered pasture and a dilapidated though impenetrable fortress on whose wrought iron gates there hangs a well-worn wooden sign, inset with chubby yellow letters: “Open Door Policy”. This farcical notion, a humor so cheap labor’s budget fears no hemorrhage, is guarded by a numb-green steel door. Halt! Do you know the flimsy metal keypad’s five digit code? Please knock instead and, if we’ve nothing better to do, we answer.

Often heard in junior high history courses and seen on dry History Channel documentaries bearing reenactments and animated red arrows on pale maps of World War II-era Europe, Hitler lost the war, but only because he fought two fronts: communist Russia and the democratic West. A morbid and unjustifiable comparison to some, I nevertheless suffer a similar fate. My ego and delightful sarcasm shape up to be my weakness against an army of hundreds patrons and a handful of walking power trips.

I spend my days–nearly every day–in the company of ignorance made flesh, a single entity, equal parts espionage and abomination.  On one front, democracy en masse, in denial; on the other, fascist communism–an extreme comparison, however, warranted.

Make no mistake, in the eyes of everyone else, I live and pay with my mental and emotional accounts, a reserve fast dwindling. I work for the very people I serve: a cache who, without regret, slight my entirety, all the while praising their own deceptive tones.

Cancel

Whenever I sit down to write I can’t do anything but compose a sentence and immediately delete it.  My self-hatred transcends my fingers.

I decided to give up on my love life the other day. What an arbitrary thing, I guess you’re thinking. I’m not really sure where to begin in order to make myself attractive or interesting to other gay men, and I’m not sure there is much I should be doing to get that attention. I’m not ugly, nor am I particularly unlikeable. I have the same qualified baggage as the next person and the same illusory criticisms and appraisals as anyone else. But there’s just something about me that doesn’t elicit affection, and if I’m the one who’s clueless to it, then I’m the one that’s in denial over it.

I’m not someone who is meant to be loved, and it is that simple.  It is not something I am completely sure of, but it is something that I feel in my gut.  It doesn’t make me particularly happy, but it certainly hurts less than anonymous dismissal.  And for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m in control again.

Now that I’ve written more than just a sentence I guess it’s not worth deleting.

Oslo, August 31st – An Intra-personal Reflection

I watched Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st last night.  Anders Danielsen Lie portrays with quiet intensity a man who receives a day’s leave from an addiction recovery center to return to Oslo, where he has a job interview for an associate editor position at an up-and-coming culture magazine.  He spends his time in Oslo visiting old friends, eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations, and undergoing the temptations a recovering addict would inevitably encounter on the first day in the real world in ten months.

Watching Lie’s performance of his character (with whom he shares a first name), you can see how emotionally vapid and simultaneously overwhelmed Anders feels.  For those of us who have suffered crippling depression born of apathy and fear, Lie’s performance is a terrifying, yet comforting mirror.  How many times have you sat in a coffee shop–no, how many times have I sat in a coffee shop–and listened, without shame, to others’ conversations, imagined what their lives are like, or how happy or sad they are?  How many times have I gone from smiling one moment, to remembering exactly how unhappy I am, as if being happy for just one second was a necessary reminder that no, I am unhappy.

Lie conveys so much in a performance that is mostly wordless, and when Anders does speak, he rarely communicates his emotions in ways that are easy to understand.  Anders is one massive miscommunication, lost in his depression, apathy, and recovery.  Trier’s film is wrought with the apathy that its main character embodies, reveling in intimate, lingering shots that feel both close and withdrawn, as if we are to watch Oslo objectively, sans compassion, which makes it that much harder to watch Anders struggle in the tempestuous 24 hours he spends in “the real world”.

I remember when…

I remember when I was younger I would write the most emotional, vague, word-filled Xanga posts that I thought were genius.  In them it was like I would tell everything but the truth–that gray area between a lie and what you really want to say.  Now, honesty is all I want to write about/for/from.

I’m mad.  Mad…

I’m mad.  Mad for everything and mat at everything.  I feel so strongly for all things, for all nouns.  And yet I feel nothing for the most transitive verbs.

Peoples’ histories, their families, their secrets, and their humilities.  I’ve never needed my own to be so guarded all at once so badly and so immediately.  And that feeling of protection that I crave should never be this severe.  I’m so safe that I’m exposed.

Also, the blinds.  Never pull up the blinds.  Keep the bars there.

“Don’t think….

“Don’t think.  Just do it,” he thought to himself.  Of course it would take Mozart’s Requiem to push himself to this kind of edge.  The movement?  Lacrimosa.  Latin for ‘tears’.  Or maybe Greek.  It feels as dead as Latin or as anemic as Greek.

It feels.  I feel–that’s what I meant.  I feel as dead as Latin or as anemic as Greek. 

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