Friday, January 20, 2006

180 degree turn around
More thoughts on Leland, this time from my mother.

I think my response to "Leland" was too hasty. I needed to digest the film before spouting off to you, a typical Arian response. Also, I realize that, much as I love movies, the written word is more powerful and less likely to sway my emotions. Hence, for example, "Crime and Punishment" appealed to me on an intellectual level simply through the sheer power and genius of Dostoyevsky's prose, and therefore it "worked” - as does all great writing, whether one likes it or not. I do not, in fact, like the novel because I did not sympathize with Raskolnikov.

Am I making sense? I loved Leland, the boy, and not being able to understand him did not make him less lovable, but I feel that the film didn't work because it didn't convince me the way "Crime and Punishment" did, when I had no sympathy for the main character.

There needed to be some explanation for Leland's act. By comparison, "Donnie Darkie" was far easier to grasp. All I could see were all the people involved, floundering around in a sea of pain, made worse by the fact they will never, ever come through to any understanding.. You chose to see their pain as some sort of punishment for the mindless way they lead their lives, like God destroying Soddam and Gommarah. Actually, there is something rather biblical about the film.

Because you are very intellectual and you love theories, you tend to see or look for very complex, unexplainable reasons, whereas I look for the more prosaic and what makes sense for me. However, I think you are right when you suggest that I found the film too painful to truly appreciate and now, at some distance, I realize I loved it - albeit, still feeling it did not entirely work. It is a very poetic film.

The role of the father was surely very significant. Leland was as deeply wounded as the boy he killed; somewhere in his psyche he became confused between his own suffering and what he thought the boy was suffering, both of them alienated from life and neither of them understanding why. Leland was drawn to people who needed help - like the betrayed wife and his drug-addicted girl-friend - and his empathy overpowered him so that he couldn't separate himself from the "other" which lead him to his final act: he and the boy became one and in killing him he also killed himself. I don't think it was a coincidence that both Leland and the boy he killed were both very pretty and innocent looking.

My lasting memory of the film is the anguish of both mothers, neither ever being able to understand. Why? Yes, it is a very painful film.

I would love to meet the director.

Before we get off the subject and you become bored to death with me, I must add a bit more. It was not my intention, although it may have seemed like it, to knock Hoge by suggesting he was no Dostoyevsky, but to explain why I could understand "Crime and Punishment" without understanding or even liking Raskolnikov - because the written word is so powerful that the imagination takes over in a way a film may not.

However, "Leland" affected me much more powerfully than I realized. I had at first resisted being overwhelmed by the pain (as you rightly surmised) and, in fact, I let my brain take over at the expense of my emotions - which is what I said you were doing. . . . Working in the hospice helped me hugely to recognize that true empathy means such respect and compassion for the person suffering that one's own pain is not allowed to get in the way and distress the patient. A dying person does not want your tears, only your love and respect for the place he is at.
And however much one feels for that person one is not in that place.

Leland could not separate his feelings from another’s.

"If a sparrow alights upon my window-sill, I partake of his existence" John Keats

Did you not think the film showed that the murdered boy was much loved? Do we know he was unhappy or do we over-identify because we would hate to be him.

I have rented the film again.

I watched "Leland" again. I was more overwhelmed and, yet, also I felt I understood Leland, the boy more. How I wish I could talk to Hoge the way I am talking to you now.
What puzzles me is the boy's empathy, which is seemingly what destroyed him, and his detachment, which I think explains why his girl-friend left him.

His father didn't love him. What a betrayal. The boy he killed was loved, greatly loved, I would say. However, to me, the crux of the movie was: how could Leland possibly KNOW what was in the heart and the soul of that boy, who was he to judge that boy's pain. His problem, Leland's, was that he could not separate his own terrible pain from what he thought to be another's. He transferred his own pain onto others, not knowing what else to do .

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