blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Striving for betterment

Es irrt der Mensch, so lang er strebt! says The Lord, in the Prologue to Goethe's Faust (= the human errs as long as he strives). Does that mean that whatever you try to do, you're bound to make mistakes and go astray? Or does it mean that your constant struggle to improve things is itself a mistake?

Be that as it may, popular western culture has it that in order to live well, you should learn something new every day, do something that scares you every day and other such clichés, all the while being considerate to the other people in your life. Maybe that's why it sometimes seems such a relief to sit in the dark by yourself watching a film on the big screen, with your mobile device(s) switched off.

Last night I watched a film at the National Art Gallery, called Life Classes––it was set in 1980s Halifax and on Cape Breton Island, about a girl who posed nude for a class of art students and eventually became an artist herself.

Just lately I've also seen two French films that made an impression on me. One was Claude Miller's Thérèse Desqueroux, the recent setting of Mauriac's novel of the 1920s, which I studied intensely, once upon a time, about the young wife who attempts to poison her husband because she feels stifled. (I should add that I studied it because it was on the syllabus, not because I wanted tips for poisoning my husband!) To avert a scandal, her in-laws save her from the guillotine by telling lies in court, but then stifle Thérèse good and proper until she almost dies of their attentions herself. In the end though, she's set free to live her own life. She's a monstrous criminal, like Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles or Humbert in Nabokov's Lolitawith whom you, as reader, are forced to empathise. In theme and purpose, the book was way ahead of its time and won its author the Nobel Prize for Literature. The film, as I'd anticipated, played down the religious undertones of the novel (Mauriac was a devout Catholic and created some of his fictional sinners as potential saints), but was closer to the original than I'd dared to hope. Audrey Tautou as Thérèse was wonderful. The other film was Des hommes et des Dieux, the story of the last days of a group of Trappist monks during the 1990s Algerian civil war, striving to maintain their faith and their integrity in the face of fear and destruction. Another very moving film.

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