Arvo Pärt, Spiegel im Spiegel

“I could compare my music to white light which contains all colours. Only a prism can divide the colours and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener.”

-Arvo Pärt

The end credits of the movie Wit roll as this piece is playing. If you’ve seen the movie, then you’d know I’m already crying at the end as they show the split screen with Emma Thompson’s character, Professor Vivian Bearing, healthy, and her character deceased. I’m sobbing. And it all starts, really, 10 or 15 minutes before the end, when Ms. Bearing is so ill she can no longer speak. She lies in the hospital bed, letting the other characters exposit what’s going on. Her own college professor from many years ago, Professor Forster, comes to visit her, enters the scene; she’s in town to see a grandson and went to the university to ask for Vivian, and the faculty tells Ms. Forster she’s in the hospital.

Ms. Forster slides open the door. Vivian sees her and begins to cry. Her only friend, you see. Ms. Forster removes her shoes and lies next to Vivian and reads her Runaway Bunny, a children’s story, something that isn’t John Donne. Vivian cries herself to sleep. Ms. Forster kisses her tenderly on the head, fares her well, and leaves. This scene is so tender, so compassionate, so poignant, one can’t help but cry.

And 10 or 15 minutes later, the movie’s over.

Except it isn’t. See, it’s this piece that keeps me from turning off the DVD player. (Yes, I own this movie.) It doesn’t contain trills or glisses or fugal elements. Three-note repeating sequences on the piano with that gentle, bassy boom every so often at the left of the keyboard, and the cello sweeps along the progression with long, bowing tones. Two – TWO! – instruments. It seems like it could go forever – I want it to – but here, it lasts eight and a half minutes.

It’s powerful, it’s so simple it’s brilliant and it’s brilliant because the catharsis just happens, and like Mr. Pärt says, I can see all these colo(u)rs, and my life seems to gain all this depth and passion and … clarity. Colors. Definition. Meaning. If I had stopped that movie before the credits rolled seven years ago, I would have been fine, but since I didn’t, I can’t imagine its absence. It’s white light I can see.

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May’s Movie Review: Wit

May’s synopsis: The writing really appealed to me; the actors delivered. Very effective, very powerful. Very Emma Thompson. So sad, but SO good.

May’s scale rating:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

 

This movie was taken from a play by the same name. It’s about a professor (Emma Thompson) who has terminal cancer. Christopher Lloyd is her doctor, and he prescribes a pretty intense treatment regimen. He connects her to a flux capacitor and streams about 80 jigawatts through her body.

Wait. Almost.

This movie comes off very much like a play with various switches between scenes. The dialogues between Emma Thompson’s monologues are well-placed. The flashbacks are particularly poignant. The story progresses slowly, if painfully, but that’s what it’s going for. The pauses are long and uncomfortable. The movie essentially begs the viewer’s participation.

Emma Thompson often speaks directly to the camera. She shares insights about her experience at the hospital. She introduces flashbacks. She confuses her presence with her memories. The movie develops really well.

Christopher Lloyd is the medical, intellectual counterpart to Emma Thompson’s character as an English professor. This movie follows her humanization to the end, while Christopher Lloyd and his medical team remain a detached fixture, for lack of a better oxymoron.

There are a few minor characters that add so much power to this story. This story is about human nature, one’s need for a personal connection, how we are to treat each other.

There are also characters that will infuriate you and compel you to root for Emma Thompson, even though up until the time she got sick she was a Very Not Nice Person. You’re human; it’s the Right Thing To Do.

This movie will make you cry. I cried the first time I watched it, then I took it home and watched it three more times. These days, I appreciate how the movie doesn’t lose power with each viewing.

It’s a relatively simple film, with minimal scenes that depend heavily on the actors to carry the story. Carry they do, perhaps even cradle. Or finesse.

The writing is excellent, as most plays can’t or shouldn’t really depend on special effects. The subject matter is relevant. The story flows, in part due to the writing, but also because the acting measures up. Because the writing is so good. Because the actors commit to the parts. Because the writing creates the strong characters. Writing. Acting. Yay!

I love this movie.