Sunday, May 24, 2009

"A Thread of Grieving"

This morning, doing a little blog clean up, I came across a few notes I'd jotted down about this movie among my unpublished drafts. I'd written them months ago, after someone told me she thought my writings about my mother's suicide were "too emotionally remote."

I didn't agree.
I told her she was used to overly sentimental representations, packaged to sell. In my eyes, most representations of the aftermath of suicide crank the emotion too high. Not that I've done a thorough study, partly because I don't have much stomach for seeing suicide treated with mawkish reverence or clinical sterility or sexed up awe, and that's mostly what I've encountered.

So, she asked me what I'd recommend that matched my experience.
The only movie I've seen that, in my eyes, got it 100% spot on was Love Liza (2002), starring the phenomenal Philip Seymour Hoffman.

He plays Wilson, whose wife, Liza, commits suicide and leaves a note, which he can't bring himself to read. Instead, he spend most of the movie inhaling gasoline fumes, to the point of passing out, for some kind of fucked up comfort. This is exactly how I felt after my mother's death.

I was so astonished, so grateful to see my blasted self depicted on screen, I almost bought a DVD of the movie, except I never want to watch it again. When Wilson finally reads Liza's letter at the end, well, as my sister said, love's not enough to save you, but you've got to have it.

Philip's brother Gordy Hoffman wrote the Love Liza screenplay. It's not based on his experience of someone he knew committing suicide but on a general awareness of loss. Gordy said, "Life is always a thread of grieving that never ends. It's not that we are always depressed or sad, it's just life..."

Yeah. I found I could understand people's pain about almost anything so much better after I myself no longer had any firm ground to stand on. (Pain is pain, it just varies in degree.)

Btw, the movie poster is misleading. A bizarre humor attends horror--but I would hardly call it "comic."


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


Jennifer said...

"Life is always a thread of grieving that never ends. It's not that we are always depressed or sad, it's just life..."I love this quote a lot. A lot. And I agree with you about suffering. For a lot of people--all of us, even if we don't realize it, maybe?--suffering is nothing dramatic or sentimental, it's just...a fact of life. Part of the way life is. It's not something to exalt or make unusual, you know? I've experienced very little true suffering in my life, but from watching people going through it, I can say it's mostly getting up in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other (or not, sometimes).

Sorry to go on, but it's a topic that's been on my mind lately, so you risk sparking people off when you make interesting blog posts. :)

fresca said...

Sparking people to write interesting thoughts is, of course, my most dreaded fear!
No, thanks for your thoughts, Jen.
I see on my blog that the normalcy of suffering is one of my themes. It reflects not just my personal experience, but years of reading about the world. We Americans seem to think suffering is an outrage, but of course in most times and places, it's just life.
And yet, not just "alas"--there's a lot to be admired and learned in watching people get up and get dressed and put one foot in front of the other. It's not a reduction of human suffering to see it that way, it ennobles daily normal-person existence.

Oh my. Must stop thinking. Must write geography facts. Now.

momo said...

I do want to see this movie, some day. I will just need to be in the right emotional space for it.

fresca said...

Mmm, yeah. I went to bed for 24 hours afterward, just to digest it. It's not depressing, but it is a heavy meal.