To make up for lost time, we’re posting two Mockingbird At The Movies columns this week. The first one comes to us from John “Stampdog” Stamper:
PZ explained to us that at the heart of every person is a Big Hurt, maybe more than one, and that one of art’s functions, at least from a pastoral Mbird point of view, is to let that suffering speak. When that happens, when we get to stop pretending that “I feel fine” (John Lennon), we are able to get to the reality of Good Friday and the core of human experience, which also means MY experience.
Because “around heah, every day is Good Friday” (Fitz Allison) and because that calendar day is actually almost upon us, I wanted to mention two movies which I promise you will enable you to abreact in a major fashion. Both are available from NetFlix.
King Lear is Shakespeare’s most penetrating look at the problem of being human. You will love it, I promise. It’s not high brow at all (if it was I probably wouldn’t like it). On the contrary, it is given in the form of a fairy tale: Once upon a time there was a very old king who had three daughters: one was good but two were bad of heart….
Lear is about what it means to think you are free, good, happy, wise, powerful, and together; then discover that in fact you were blind, foolish, weak, and wicked – and to discover this only in the crucible of suffering. Here’s a line from the play toward the end:
For I am bound upon a wheel of fire
That my own tears do scald like molten lead
Lear is about fathers, daughters, sons, hurt, rage, need, resentment. The plot is very simple (another reason I like it). Lear is so powerful that it was performed in Eastern Europe where no one spoke English and the audience immediately understood every moment in it. It is also about graceful loving (Cordelia and Kent).
There are two good versions of it on DVD: the 1998 Ian Holm production, and the 1984 film with Laurence Olivier and John Hurt. Those are the only two productions I really like (I can’t recommend the recent Ian McKellen film at all).
The Dresser (1983) is a very loose adaptation of Lear, with Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay. It’s about a company of Shakespeare actors who are struggling to hang on during the London blitz in the early 40s. Ironically, they decide to do King Lear. The real connection between Lear and The Dresser are the film’s two main characters, Sir and Norman: who are very much like Lear and the Fool in Shakespeare’s play. You might say that The Dresser is like a modern day Lear, only told from the point of view of the Fool rather than Lear.
The Dresser is poignant and touching and heartbreaking; and very funny in places too. Absolutely stunning performance by Tom Courtenay.
If you can get either one, and have a moment to see them before Good Friday, I can’t urge you strongly enough to watch one or both. Or see them next month, it doesn’t matter when. After all, as Fitz says, every day around heah….