Beowulf, Artifice, War
I awoke this morning with images from Beowulf erupting in my head, always a good sign with a film that it hit me at a primal level. The primal 'winner' of November to date remains Sean Penn's excellent Into the Wild, a truly great film that kept me awake for two nights afterwards (I could not shake the movie).
Beowulf's images that bubbled up front and center, though, were odd: it's not the story, the narrative peaks, that malinger. It's the crystalline clarity of digital imagery, the microscopic fidelity to manufactured reality, that seemed to most haunt my unconsciousness: the compelling intensity of the simulcrum, the virtual humunculi, that inhabit the film. The 'big moments' aren't what thrust themselves to the fore: it's the intimate details of Beowulf's face, of the simulation of flesh, that peppered my dreams.
All cinema is artifice. It's the nature of the medium, the persistence of vision we grow up with sustaining the alchemy of light, successive images projected at a proper frames-per-second rate, and our mind's fluid sustenance of that into movement. But Beowulf is a new artifice, the latest in the CGI realm's reinvention of invented realities, and the 3D viewing experience pushed that further on an organic, animal level for me.
Digital projection (and the creation of digital images) works differently, and my mind is reacting to seeing in a new way -- I'm referring to seeing in a new way as a biological function, not a response to Beowulf's vision or aesthetic, which is secondary to how my eye/mind is reacting to a sustained new viewing experience of a wholly new nature. I cannot react to Beowulf without acknowledging this more fundamental aspect of the new reality of seeing movies on the big screen:
The magic lantern, reinvented.
I was also awakened at one point last night dreaming about the night of my draft lottery back in the early '70s, amplified horribly. I fear for the resurrection of the draft, an inevitable consequence of how badly President Bush and his cronies have manhandled, misused and stretched the volunteer military to a break-point. The dream was likely prompted in part by Marge and I seeing Dartmouth's production of Hair in the Moore Theater, in part by my ongoing fears for my son and his generation: an old mirror restored, the new reality's urgency.
My son Dan's childhood friend Chris Whitney is in Iraq now, and has been for years; that's never far from my mind. "How did we allow this to happen again?" -- we have so shafted our sons and daughters with our shared complicity in this madness.
More evidence of our military straining under the gross (I would and have said 'abusive') incompetence of our Commander in Chief continues to simmer in the news, the first news story in que on the computer this AM.
It resonates with the splinters from that mid-morning dream; the signs on the highway en route to Neil's house offered hand-painted odes to "our troops," which Neil noted yesterday has changed many times in its wording over the past years. Here, in the idyll of Neil's wonderful home and hospitality, the heart of the mid-American continent, I wake and worry for my son and for Chris and their time in manufactured hell, present (Chris) and projected (Dan), compliments of our Commander in Chief and his cabal.
Have a great Saturday; we will, I hope... Neil's making pancakes, off I go to breakfast...