The sausage looks like bacon, but it’s fresher than the pepperoni. I carry my slice along the Galway cobblestone and nibble while I walk. Plate in hand, I negotiate the crowds of people. Patio-bound patrons lounge, gazing around edges of pint glasses, and taking comfort in the esteem of people-watching. We are the great observed. I get a few sideways glances from my fellow fish, “Where did you find your food?” I think the curry and chips at the off-street, street-food restaurant are a better investment.
I’m early so I check the bar; it’s packed. I walk back down the stairs, cross the street, and stroll to the water’s edge. There’s a perfect ledge, so I sit and watch the gulls hopping along the bright green moss. I scan the horizon, feel the cool air for the first time in a while, and see misty hills, pink sky overhead. In the foreground there are as many swans as gulls.
I think, “Swans on the Water sounds like Smoke on the Water.”
Grounded, peaceful decisiveness has settled into my body. I’ve accepted exhaustion at tomorrow’s masterclass and revel in the rebellion of being the tired guy. I’ll finish editing my resumé after the masterclass, in the pale of screenwriting inspiration or desperation.
Thanks mom, for the cover letter feedback, I needed the positive reinforcement. It was a long morning, writing and getting distracted and writing again. Thank goodness for Tess, she brought me out of the grey. I smile inwardly, “It’s nice when a day turns, on a conversation.”
Briefly, the pipe, to the back of the head, from Behold My Heart, flashes in my mind. I wonder what life will be like when I lose a parent someday? I must be really calm; my heart isn’t sinking like it usually does.
This film is going to be edgy, I think. I’m reminded of how I felt after seeing The Commune, with Lyndsay, at TIFF, two years ago (find this, see it, you have to). I wonder if We will feel like that? I’m drawn by an expectation, a hope, that this is going to confront questions head on. It’s Dutch, so it should, right? Will it ask that next question, push the boundaries, make us feel uncomfortable for wanting to know the answers?
I take the folded paper plate out of my back pocket, slide my computer into my backpack, and walk towards the theatre. The tickets have arrived from the Town Hall Theatre. I buy a ticket and walk up to theatre 2; this is becoming a pattern. I sit in the back row, so that the subtitles are at the perfect height. There aren’t that many of us here.
The credits start to role and people start to leave. The couple that didn’t want me to have to sit on my own bounce up and out of the theatre. I can’t flip a switch like that. I need the credits to roll so that I can marinate. My mind whirrs. I stand up, as the last credit hits the centre of the screen. “We need a different scale,” the woman tells the Fleadh volunteer. I couldn’t agree more. I’m disturbed, but do I describe it as good, very good, or excellent? I haven’t a clue. I’m never going to forget it, so I rip the ‘5’, the highest possible score, and hand the ballot over.
There’s a line outside of the bathroom. I don’t intend to use it, but I need to say words to someone. I pause, in an ambiguous spot in the hallway, somewhere between bathroom line and waiting for an invisible crowd to clear. The two women that I’ve made eye contact with are speaking in half-sentences, trailing off as they approach anything definitive. I ask, “What do we do with that film?” I don’t really know what I mean, but I want to join in the half-sentence emoting. They oblige and say something that I can’t remember. The bathroom line gets smaller and we inch forward. I try another question, “Why do you write a film like that? What motivates you?” One of the women, the one with the close-cropped blonde hair, gives it a shot, “Maybe because this stuff happens?”
She cites a news report about young women being groomed then pauses, “What was the point of the men anyway?”
“Good question,” I sigh. There’s probably an answer, but I’m not ready for it.
I make my exit and wobble down the stairs, out onto the street. I turn right, for a different route home. The apartment balconies freak me out, I can hear people arguing in different languages, just like in the movie. I hope everyone is okay.
I’m in police-son mode. It’s late, my head is on a swivel, everyone who walks by is examined, every alley peered down. I really want to listen to Baseball Central. Kevin Barker is an antidote to everything. I finally succumb to a bit of daring and put an earphone in. By the time I reach the park, lights long since turned off, I have both headphones in. I casually let one fall out of my ear, I’m more alert that way.
I’m at Tess’s place, sitting cross-legged on the bed, like a teen in a WB Network series.
I write, “How far are you willing to push yourself to feel alive?”
One of the girls in the movie says something like, “Anything that you record is art.” She makes reality-art, she wants to feel alive, she isn’t one of the ones who dies.
I’m remembering scenes, vividly, by feeling.
A deep sigh, at the titles from each section, names constructed out of neon city lights and junk.
A noticeable, double flinch, when he jabs her with the icicle and when she hits her head. I was so drawn to her. I guess that’s why she had to die.
A full body recoiling, against the screen, in that awful moment when she gets punched in the stomach, then the head, then someone steps in.
My brain kicks into gear.
What does it mean to be a psychopath?
Morality is so unstable, who cares, in a way, if he was abused?
He’s awful, maybe, I think. It’s hard to decide.
Then there’s that haunting scene, near the end, where they look at the carnage and choose, actively, not to accept any responsibility. There’s a word for that kind of active denial of truth. Maybe it’s kind of like gaslighting? Or is it a hyper-individuality that justifies everything? Shouldn’t the driver have been looking at the road, instead of the naked girls? The film asks the last one, not me. Well, actually, maybe I do to, I don’t know, yet, what I’m asking.
I think that a woman makes different choices if she directs this film. I don’t think that’s a criticism, yet, but it seems like truth.
Six days later, I’m in a sitting room in Scotland, glass birds perched on a shelf, dog toy to my right. The film hangs, suspended, in a special cavern of my mind, to be called upon when fundamental questions about life are posed. I hesitate and imagine recommending it broadly. I don’t think that I will, but I do think that Matt Ross and Micah Richardson need to see it. It occurs to me that this is selfish; I want to talk with them about it. Actually, let me rephrase, I want to talk to them about the questions it raises. That’s why it’s still in my mind. The questions are beyond the film.
Questions, as Tess might say, about truth.