Monday, February 25, 2008

Ultimate Road Trip Film: Wild Strawberries

This weekend I was watching the ultimate road trip film, Wild Strawberries by Ingmar Bergman. It was Saturday, and the morning sky looked like the sun was about to set. It was cold in my garret, the computer comfortingly warm sitting on my lap.

Watching the film made me think of many things. Although nowhere near the 78 years of the main character, Professor Isak Borg, and the actor as well (the wonderful Victor Sjöström), it made me reflect on my own life, of opportunities missed, loves lost. The wonderful thing about entering one of these nostalgic, indulgent reveries after a Bergman film is that his exemplar - nostalgic, but cleared-eyed and unsentimental - doesn't let you slip into self-indulgent slush. It's the nature of life: if you live, and if you remember, then you will regret. I suppose when you are 78 you can't do much more - no time left to change things - but at my 30-something age, time still to make changes for whatever things I think I have missed (or so I told myself, the mantra I repeated to myself again and again -- don't worry I was at home, not on the street!)

The film also made me think about great art and feeling , indeed great feeling. Though I love many cerebral masters of many art forms, there is something about great art that rouses great feeling, that is powerful, that makes you alive, that indeed adds a reason to live. And then I thought of - with pleasure and longing - the great films, music, poetry, novels, paintings, theatre that I had seen. And all their ideas and feelings were somehow concentrated into a powerful melancholia. I didn't want to cry, nor to sleep, nor to escape, but to create. Have you ever seen a beautiful color when you're out walking and wanted somehow to rub it on a piece of paper and capture its essence? That's want I wanted to do with this feeling. I was restless, and no song I put on could calm me.

I thought about all the art that I had created in the past in such moods - not great art perhaps, but art nonetheless - like leaves pressed between the pages of books on my shelf. They are beautiful, my creations, beautiful in their humanity, if not great in their imperfection.

* * *

"Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?" ~ John Keats.

* * *

"Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours' amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther." ~ John Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature


Planethalder said...

BB, do you still find time to paint?

Bombay Beauty said...

PH -- I've traveled a bit of an arc on this -- I used to mostly write, poetry and prose, so when I look back that's what I remember: when I was in these melancholic moods, I could draw some beauty from it by writing. Sometimes such writings are self-indulgent complaints, but other times they have nothing to do with one is feeling but instead about pinning down some feeling like a butterfly to a board, or a flower rubbed against the paper. It's the latter that I put into the category of art -- not great surely, but art nonetheless.

More recently, I have found myself visually inspired - sometimes with ink, sometimes abstract drawings - but would confess that objectively I'm probably awful. But that's the beauty of art, I think. When I speak to someone, I don't have to speak to Tagore or Einstein. Instead I want to speak to a friend, someone with whom I can connect. With art, I feel I need both - both great art, from masters, but then also just art that makes me feel something, whether it is great or not.



Anonymous said...

great post, BB.
And I'd like to add this poem - even if only indirectly related to your post, but somehow pertinent:

The Poems of Our Climate


Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations - one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.


Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one's torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.


There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

Wallace Stevens


Bombay Beauty said...

This is a lovely poem, Mia, thanks! It does relate very much to the feelings I had in mind (an oxymoron? that I felt in my heart?) This refrain "Still one would want more, one would need more" expresses exactly the restless yearning, the desire for something more - more what? not sure...

And this: "The imperfect is our paradise / Note that, in this bitterness, delight..." Yes, that is it, but it is the poem that sublimates the bitterness of imperfection into delight...

Wonderful way to start my day.

Thanks again.



Anonymous said...

I'm happy you liked it!
By the way, I was reading "Atonement" last night and these lines seemed significant:
"(...) beauty, she had discovered, occupied a narrow band. Ugliness, on the other hand, had infinite variation."
Again, not really pertinent, but almost so.

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