bring out your dead!
charlie kaufman caught my eye last month. i had never seen adaptation or anything else by him, but i did it, and i enjoyed the writing very much. in fact, adaptation struck me as odd in that i really thought the story was well-written, and i really liked the characters, but i really kind of hated nicolas cage's incredibly flat and vapid acting. in synecdoche, new york, philip seymour hoffmann plays the same guy, a writer suffering the creative pains that writers have suffered since learning their abc's and minding their p's and q's 6 or 8 thousand years ago. but hoffmann is much better at it than cage.
the nice thing about the two films is that kaufman manages to address the basic firmament of literary theory repeatedly and with a dark, sharp, biting wit that entertains and frightens. this is not the stuff of post-modernism's counter-revolutionary obfuscations, it cuts to the real heart of the scribbler's craft, raising issues that go back to socrates and plato to determine what -- if anything -- gives the written word its gravity. kaufman's reliance on the ubiquitous specter of death draws on a fundamental perspective i do not personally share, but he succeeds at exhausting the notion deftly and without stumble or stint. rather than give too much away, assuming someone who reads this wants to see the film in the theater, i offer a synecdoche from my own experience the day before i saw it.
the 7 year old member of my household held up a skull toy and said "norman, scary..."
i said, "no, not scary. it's a skull. the reason people think that skulls are scary is that they've been encouraged to think that way. this is just a confirmation of the larger notion of which the fear of skulls is a part, and that's the fear of death. the fear of a death is a part of the fear of the unknown. of course, if people stopped to think, they would realize that we know all we need to know of death, which is that it's only a transformation. after death, we go on, being. because we are already wholly whole -- each one of us a part of the whole that is the infinite and eternal life of mutable but constant energy -- we would know death best by knowing it is not the end of life, but the most obvious indication of the incessant rebirthing of life. the concept of death as an ending is a very useful tool for the arbiters of power and authority. they use the death as a threat, adding on to the catalog of fears that validates their claim to power, the insinuation that you and i and your family and friends need protection. in fact, you have a skull of your very own every minute of your life. there, in your head, is a skull that surrounds your brain. and your brain holds the seed of your mind, which is a root on the tree of life's total mind of beingness. don't let anyone encourage you to live like a numbskull, controlled by the ridiculous fear which claims -- as george bernard shaw's joan of arc says to her judges and inquisitors -- "you think that life is only that which is not dead."
of course, we know that "life is the only thing worth living for!"
okay. gotta go now. see ya, love ya, bye!