My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Sep 12

Honest art

Category: Life,Opinions

So, for various unimportant reasons, I watched 27 Dresses and Bridget Jones’s Diary, pretty much back to back. They’re “up” movies, “happy” movies, two movies I wouldn’t generally watch. So, I watched both, and they ended so well. A girl meets a guy, they don’t like each other at first, but then they realize that they’re so hopelessly in love. There are some funny moments. There’s a little valley of saddneess, a point where it looks like the two might not end up together. Of course, they do end up together, and they’re so happy, and they’re going to stay happy. At the end of movies like these, I always think to myself, “wow, that almost never happens.” These movies are plastic, fake. We all want that happy ending, we want it to be real. Maybe it is real, maybe it’s possible, but it’s definitely not so easy, and it’s absolutely not guaranteed.

It hit me that I can watch a movie like, Se7en, and when it’s over think to myself, “yes, that’s about right.” I think, “that’s fucked up, it’s awful, and it’s true.” Maybe my wife’s head won’t end up in a box, that almost never happens, but that feeling of loss happens to people everyday. Lovers die, lovers leave. People die alone, and regret things they almost had, or never had. Finding something amazing and keeping it for any length of time is so astonishingly difficult. The world, I think, is a really difficult, often shitty place. Finding misery, emptiness, that’s easy. Love, happiness, contentment, those things require so much struggle, and they’re absolutely not certain to anyone. Movies like Se7ven, in a bizarre sort of way, feel so much more honest to me. Se7en is a rather extreme look at the worst things people can experience, most people will never see that particular level of Hell, but to me the film’s basic message is very true. As bad as we can imagine the world, it can turn far worse. Life is difficult, with the capacity for so much pain, so much loss. As black as things can get, as pointless as it might feel to keep struggling, as easy as it might feel to quit, don’t. Not that things are certain to get better, not life will ever make sense. Don’t quit because there are good things in the world, and those things are worth the fight.

I’ve had my share of bad experiences, visited my own versions of Hell. I constantly question why I keep going. I’ve wanted to stop, but I don’t. For whatever reason, I don’t. Part of it, I think, is dark fiction, movies like Se7en. I often hear, “maybe if you don’t watch things that are so depressing, if you watched something funny for a change, you’ll feel better.” I get similar comments about music and books. The thing is, what I watch, and listen to, and read, isn’t depressing to me. Sad maybe, but to me, honest. I feel like my head isn’t being filled with candy-coated half-truths. Acknowledging so much ugliness, or pain, or sadness, helps me to appreciate the beauty that does exist, even when it seems so far away.  When a woman kisses me, or looks at me in that way that makes me forget how to type, I don’t take it for granted, because tomorrow something could take everything away. Art is a way to externalize, and at least try to understand, things that are awful and don’t make sense.


10 Comments so far

  1. Ginger September 12th, 2009 7:39 pm

    I wish everyone were as intelligent and honest as you seem to be in this blog.

  2. Jenn September 12th, 2009 7:42 pm

    I find that depressing movies cheer me up and visa versa.

  3. josh September 12th, 2009 8:31 pm

    You’re dead on, as usual. Escapism loses its appeal and, in some cases, becomes intolerable once the realization strikes that the arts are so much more fulfilling when there is something real fueling them.

  4. Katt September 12th, 2009 8:42 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. I think it’s part of the human condition to create things(as in movies)that we need or desire, because it is difficult to find otherwise. If every movie played out like real life, we would have nothing to hope for. On some level, even though the movies all have virtually the same plot, we still want to watch them to give ourselves a bit of hope that our life will turn out the same. But its easier to create fiction where everyone lives ‘happily ever after’ than to try and seek it out and make it work.

  5. Jay September 12th, 2009 10:26 pm

    The world needs movies like 27 Dresses. Is it puerile? Of course. I would never watch it, but I understand why people do. Same thing with ostensibly ‘honest’ art. I honestly don’t need ‘honest’ art in order to acknowledge that, well, shucks… life sucks! I think I had that figured out before Se7en hit the box office. I can enjoy Se7en on it’s own merits without having to lean on it in order to validate my own existential musings.

    And certainly advice like “quit marinating your psyche in honesty and darkness and ennui because it’s self-perpetuating” may not work for you but does for other people. Hey, if you want your “honesty”, go for it! Just let the people that want their 27 Dresses have at it too. If that’s their therapy, God bless ’em.



  6. michael September 13th, 2009 12:40 am

    Jay: I never said that people aren’t welcome to watch movies like 27 Dresses and love them. I also never said that I “need” anything other than my own experiences to know that life can be awful, I just said movies like Se7en help me feel better.

  7. Jen September 13th, 2009 1:27 pm

    Why is the worst possible thing the most true? Sure, 27 Dresses and most romantic comedies are outrageous, but that does not mean that happiness is a half truth. Se7en is just as much a fantasy of the worst possible thing as romantic comedies are of “the best” possible thing (although I am kind of bored by their version of “bestness”). Both stories could conceivably happen, but neither is how most of our lives go.

    You keep saying those things aren’t depressing to you, but you also say you are miserable a lot of the time. It just doesn’t seem that far-fetched that spending so much time absorbing yourself in sad things helps to make the world seem sadder. I am not saying “Cheer up, saddy.” I love how open you are about your pain. But I am saying maybe life is not as sad as you seem to assume it has to be.

    It is funny that I am saying this, because most of my favorite movies and books and music are all tinged with a lot of sadness. I almost don’t even notice it until someone brings it up. And just like you, I love it because it feels most honest, but it almost makes me happy, it makes my heart ache in a happy way, because here is a person putting all our experiences into words and pictures, saying the truest things about life, and isn’t it great that we are all together in our pain, isn’t the togetherness what we want? It is like in I Heart Huckabees, when the characters realize at the end that yes everything is connected, but it is through the manure of human trouble. Does Se7en make you happy? Really, I just wish you felt free to write the things you want to write and be the person you want to be. I don’t know why you keep feeling not-quite-able to write what you have to say, and why you keep finding yourself wanting to give up, but I hope you can see the pain and still love the whole thing.

  8. kelly September 14th, 2009 11:13 pm

    Happy movies depress me. I can’t relate to them. They only bring to my attention that I’m not happy. If I want to cheer myself up I watch a horror movie,drama or a dark comedy. Shit going wrong,things that are funny in a twisted way, that I can relate to.

  9. Marc Klempf September 16th, 2009 2:19 am

    Have you seen Gattaca? If not you should. Honest art at it’s best.

  10. ian September 21st, 2009 8:07 pm

    Hell yeah. I am not wordy today.