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The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.


Monday, January 24, 2005
No Hero in Her Sky

And So it Is, the man sings at the beginning of the film. And so it is, that I have to write about "Closer" because Saiffuddin is so sick of arguing out the meaning of the story with me.

So now, I argue with you, yes?

First, you have to have seen the film. It's quite unlikely that Closer will see a general screening in Malaysia because of the adult content, and most importantly, because it's talky and cinema operators know the larger part of the population would not pay nine bucks to hear dialogue. Therefore, if you haven't already, I suggest you watch Closer in the comforts of your own sofa. (How? Cannot tell la, lest I get a bullet ricochet into my left shoulder while I'm eating kuay teow kari)

This is not a movie to hold hands over, and if you're going through issues in your current relationship, maybe you should skip Closer and watch something more reassuring, like "Meet the Fockers", for instance. (That's the mokcik talking) I won't attempt to review the film, you'll find better pundits elsewhere on the net. Like this one from the Rolling Stones.

Okay, here lies the point of no return. If you're reading beyond this paragraph, I will assume you have watched the film. Be forewarned, there will be spoilers.

My husband thinks I am reacting to Closer the same way I reacted to The English Patient, because I couldn't stop thinking about the story for days. There is a fundamental difference : like most women, I fell in love with all the characters in the Ondaatje novel, and subsequent film. In Closer, it is impossible to have a modicum of fondness for any of the people who inhabit the screen. Here are four people who utimately want not love, but control, or perhaps love they could control.

Here's the thing : we all want the kind of love we could control.

Anna, Alice, Dan and Larry may be reprehensible but what scared me was how familiar were the tricks that they turn, in order to reign over the one they love (or think they love). Okay, maybe not many of us would think of cross-merchandising when it comes to married acquaintances, but I think Philip Marber contrived the situation in order to illustrate a point.

It's the little, little things that get me. Alice and Dan attend Anna's exhibition, after which Dan is supposed to take a train to his father's funeral. Alice is not allowed to accompany him. They leave to take seperate cabs, she tells him to take the first one, "because you'll be late for your train". It seems kindly, but you know what she's doing - she wants to ensure that he actually gets on the train and not turn round and walk into Anna's arms. To a lesser extent, I own up to doing something similar -- suggest something that appears to be in my husband's best interest, because I want a certain outcome.

When you know you have influence over your loved one, how many times have you used that influence to get things done your way? Me? I do it on a daily basis -- from mundane things like getting the first go at the loo in the morning, to big decisions like the purchase of a car.

When you know a person like the back of your hand, how many times have you exploited that knowledge? Saiffuddin, for example, can second-guess me with unnerving accuracy, and "anticipation is what makes a great servant", said Mr Stevens in Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day. Saiffuddin is an extremely attentive husband, but is it only because he knows it makes him utterly indispensable?

In the film, Larry reminds his adulterous wife, Anna that he's "always kind", and when she compliments him on being wonderful, he tells her, with a smile, never to forget it. Larry peddles kindness, and extracts guilt from that kindness, if you can call it that, to ensnare Anna. In the end, Anna stays with her husband, despite having the option to a Jude Law who "tastes sweeter".

When we go through great lengths to please our significant other, are we doing it out of love, or out of our need to retain that love? Don't we always expect something in return? In my marriage, there certainly is an imaginary ledger of favours taken and promises to be encashed -- in a year, within a month, next week, by the end of the day.

Within the scope of this largesse, the biggest obligations are almost always about sex. In Closer, sex is a weapon, a shield, a tool, a bargaining chip. Stripped to its essence, this is what sex is in a marriage, or in any relationship. "Do you love me because you desire me?" is a question more sinister than "Do you think she's prettier?", because yes is at once, an answer you want and don't want.

Are the calculative characters in Closer, too close to home? Is that why I can't stop the images from churning and churning, long past finis? To me, it was a film that deconstructed the post-modern liaison, and the cruelty was a composite of the nastiness that, unfortunately, exists to a smaller or larger extent, in a subsisting relationship.

Saiffuddin of course, thinks I'm wrong about the film. In bits and pieces, there is always you in every story, he says. In bits and pieces, you could identify yourself with either Mussolini or Mother Teresa.

"Look at the whole picture", he explained, "it has a very moral tone". Really? Hard to believe when you have Queen Amidala doing a split beaver in a strip tease joint.

Saiffuddin didn't think that the characters represented EveryMan and his EveryWoman. "They're abnormal. People don't love like that". (Welcome to KL, I said)

The aim of Closer, according to my husband, is to illustrate that love has to be about selfless sacrifice. At the end of the film, Dan revisits a shrine dedicated to ordinary people who performed heroic acts, a place where he and Alice walked by when they first met. It was then that he realised that "Alice" was not her real name after all, but an epithet plucked from the dozens of epitaphs lined up on the wall. It so happened that the Alice she picked, gave up her life to save three children. Children who were strangers, which in the end was what his Alice was.

"Now juxtapose this with Anna, Alice, Dan and Larry, who knows nothing of sacrifice, because they think it's cool and hip to be self absorbed. This is set in Britain, and old, old state, where sacrifice, not lies, used to be the common currency. You were expected to die for God, King and Country. To be selfish is such an anomaly".

Okay, that could work. Won't stop me from thinking about the movie, though. Damien Rice sings in my head and I wonder if I'm sacrificing or sacrificial. Or a pupil in denial.

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky



........................................................................................................


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Itdidnt matter that they had stopped offering milk. Oh, shit.
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