Stumbled upon a nice photo on Moviepedia. A new bronze sculpture by Norwegian artist Fredrik Raddum, titled The Galapagos Affair. The statue depicts a human being dragged across the ground by a bird, indicating immigration. Moviepedia page, one of the most beautiful and soulful movie sites today, has added the man “Me Strugling with Depression”, and the bird is “Cinema”.
I suddenly remembered some memories, more precisely memories. And memories that happen by chance always feel like a thousand light years have passed.
Everyone is attached to movies in their own way, with their own beginnings. I watched the movie from my childhood days, can’t remember when. All I know is that almost every night, I sit in front of the old TV, fascinated by the flickering images until late at night. It can be called the only time when I truly immersed myself in the film world, with pure emotions, without analysis, without judgment, nothing at all. Just characters and their stories, their experiences, their world.
But that was not the time when I was attached to movies. One cannot become attached to anything just for the sake of pleasure. Always have to be labor. Work hard and most of the time it’s more annoying than pleasant. Pleasures are quickly superseded, and passion – if it can be called – can only be formed over a long period of time. I am always grateful for the opportunity given to me when I was a student, to write about movies like real work and for many years. Without it, movies will forever be just a childhood hobby for me.
There was a time when my life was just movies, literally. Everyone will have to go through a period of being lost in adulthood. For me it was the middle of 2014, within 6 months, in a small room in Saigon. The city was strange then, cold and deep, and the days were dark, sleepless and uncertain. I closed the door to my room, didn’t meet anyone, pretended to be a ghost. I write about things like windows and mice. I lie down waiting for the rains, thinking about death.
In those days, I was alone with the movies. To the point of being able to call it us. Me and the movie, no other third parties. A truly personal relationship. Most of the time, I watch movie after movie in my room, crying and laughing with them. Occasionally, I would slip out of my room to go to the cinema, staying there for a few hours. Movies are also my lifeline, because my only connection to the outside is the emails that send the reviews, written from nights where my head hurts like hell.
Later, I found sympathy in Roger Ebert. Before that, I always thought he was in a desirable position and was smooth sailing from start to finish, with a Putlizer in his twenties. But it’s not like that. What can bind a person with hundreds of stories, hundreds of lives, fates every year, for a lifetime? When maybe more time in the cinema than in real life, with real people? What else is there to escape from reality? Ebert was addicted to alcohol for a long time, suffering from it. For both you and me, under different circumstances, but movies have the same role: A painkiller. When the doctor told Roger Ebert that he needed to go to alcohol rehab for several months, he exclaimed, “But, I have a job to do…”
Movies are painkillers, literally. The chemicals secreted in the back of the brain, when we enjoy a good movie scene, a beautiful movie, have a calming effect on the nerves. Feeling touched by something beautiful has always been the best feeling for me and is immediately recognizable from physical reactions. My chest sobbed, tears welled up and my surroundings seemed to be viewed through rose-colored glasses. I was supported through my darkest days by those emotional birds, as Moviepedia depicts. But every pain reliever in the world has side effects. The deeper you sink into that world, the more the real world becomes more distant and unreal. Anyone who has been or is going through this will understand what I mean. The real world becomes a fragmentary, dry, faded movie scene, sandwiched between the worlds where I actually live.
Many people get through that lost time thanks to other people. How wonderful that is. Some strong will stand up for themselves. For me, I rely on movies. Nothing to be proud of, but at least, I have peace of mind. A friend of mine is thanks to books. She said that, when no one is around, at least she has books. People can betray her and leave her, but books can’t. I could say the same thing about film, or art in general. Books, movies, plays, music, paintings… are all pieces of life that are crystallized, stories are told. Isn’t everything good stories? That is the core of art, for me, through other forms of transmission. Our ancestors used to tell stories by the warm fire, and we continue to tell when there are writing, drawings, and machines.
Therefore, I have never considered that cinema is superior to other genres, as many people think. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Cinema is popular because it combines and affects the two most direct human senses, sight and hearing, so it is the most receptive and impactful. But it is no substitute for books, or novels, which have a larger capacity for thinking. Clear and obvious. I do not deify cinema or view it as a religion to worship. Same goes for filmmakers, directors or actors… They’re just human beings trying to do their own thing. A movie is just a collection of many frames, embedded in audio frequencies. Just that, nothing more.
It is we who go through this life that choose to see and stick with everything else. Through experiences, happy or sad, through days, bright or dark. And in my loneliest days, I choose movies, perhaps from my childhood days in front of the TV screen. I love reading, but books can’t be my pain reliever, like the movies are. With my friend, it was the opposite, just because when she was a child, she only had books to be friends with.
Life goes on. I cannot say that the darkest days are over. If there’s anything I’ve learned from growing up, it’s that there’s never a pleasant milestone. Kind of like a milestone from then on, our life will be full of happiness, no more worries. Like the character Leon in the movie of the same name said, everything will remain the same, twenty, thirty or forty years old… nothing will change. But at least, I still have movies with me. To you I am books. The other is music. Perhaps everything would be much more difficult without art, its white wings, pulling us up in the dark days.