Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Reader, The Wrestler and Flight 1549...

If the universe is fractal, a family comprised of unique parts yet each related, then patterns can be found where none were directly intended. It's the nature of things.

How is that Marconi, Tesla, Popov, Lodge, Fessenden, Hertz, Dolbear, Loomis, Stubblefield and Maxwell all conceived of the radio and invented its necessary parts, separately and apart from each other at the same time? But it was Marconi who nailed it - he owns the radio - Tesla went on to other things, but Stubblefield? - Lost except to Google and 3 radio historians in a library somewhere.

In the movie, The Wrestler, Randy -The Ram - Robinson and his junto of wrestler/performers put on a show, an American show - staged, pure fakery - the ritual is more powerful than the reality.

In the movie, The Reader, Hannah Schmidt, is tried for the murder of 300 Jewish prisoners trapped in a burning church. The Defendants and Judges sit on stage - we know there is a deeper explanation than the evidence will admit but the Court will render its verdict - its ritual of punishment meted.

Two days before the inauguration of Barack Obama, flight 1549 is steered to safety by an unlikely hero, a rather standard issue guy who saves 155 lives just as Obama, an unlikely President, starts his attempt to steer the country to an economic soft landing in hopes of saving countless livelihoods. Sully, the pilot, is a seemingly reluctant hero, no interviews, no show, no ticker tape parade - just did his job and turns a respectful but cold shoulder to the limelight of the 24/7 cable TV spectacle. By nature more Stubblefield than Marconi, our pilot is more than brave - he is decent.

The Reader and The Wrestler - one refined and utterly sad, the other gritty and utterly sad. Two very different films but each bound by connective ligature to the pyramidal (and maybe particularly modern American) kernel of human isolation - that core inside all of us that our flight 1549 pilot seems to have (amazingly) excised from his DNA: the it's-the-outside-that-matters-not-the-inside gene; a/k/a longing for adoration; a/k/a pride - amour propre.

Hannah Schmidt (in the Reader), the former SS guard stands accused of murder and she is illiterate. Robin "Randy The Ram" Robinson, (in the Wrestler) the former wrestling headliner, stands all blond haired, steroid pumped, heart failed image and he is emotionally illiterate.

Hannah Schmidt has a "kid" (she calls her young lover - who reads to her before they make love - "kid") and Ram has a kid, a grown up daughter whom he has not seen in years. Hannah's kid, her lover, reads to her and teaches her heart-love and in return she teaches him fuck-love (he seems the better pupil than she) - but in the end - it's not enough. Ram's kid, his lost daughter, teaches Ram forgiveness - but in the end - it's not enough.

Hannah's pride, her refusal to admit her illiteracy, leads to her confinement without kid. The Wrestler's pride in his past glory and refusal to kick his addiction to the known commodity - impersonal fame (no matter how small time) for the unknown cold turkey love of one single woman -- who says to him all anyone can ask or give: "I'm here, aren't I?" - leads to his emotional imprisonment (without his kid too). She goes to jail. He remains confined in the isolation of the roar of the crowd. For both its a life sentence.

In the end, Hannah, still behind bars in her jail cell, climbs up a stack of shaky but carefully balanced books and from on high hangs herself. In the end, the Wrestler, behind the ropes in his jail cell of a wrestling ring, shakily climbs up the corner post, carefully balanced, and from on high throws himself down to the canvass for his last jump.

Two movies as related in their sadness and regret as Marconi and Stubblefield were in their invention. We shall see how Sully fares when the talk shows come calling. Its the nature of things.

1 comment:

  1. The Wrestler and The Reader are fictions; they're two versions of how we imagine ourselves in the world. Like the vast majority of our stories both of them trade in the pathos of individuality, its terrors, defeats, and ultimate solitude.
    Flight 1549 was an event that yielded a great story, or stories. But as you point out, Sully held the narrative machinery of the media at arm's length. He didn't want to be made into a story, and that's one of the things people noted and appreciated about him. He seemed to escape with his individuality -- one richly connected to his work and his colleagues and passengers -- intact.
    So here's the question: is it possible that are our lives are better, richer, than the stories we tell about them? In our need for story, do we simplify things into, for example, us and them? Do all our stories tilt toward the melodramatic, the pathetic, even more than our lives? In one sense, of course they do. Stories are condensations of the most dramatic and meaningful parts of our lives. But I wonder if the structural demands of story telling, at least the way we do it in the 21st Century first world, make us seem more like poor, isolated, imperiled dumb fucks than we really are. Of course, one of the reasons we watch movies about people like Randy the Ram is to assure ourselves that we don’t have it that bad. “See ya – don’t wanna be ya.” But what if watching the movies, taking them too seriously, does to us what Sully was trying so hard to avoid? What if they leave us with an impoverished vocabulary for describing the true relationship between our world creating selves and the worlds in us?



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