2013.11.06 This column is longer than a foreign film


A couple weekends ago David and I watched the movie, “Amour.” It’s a foreign film—as you might expect with the French word for love as its title. It’s an excruciatingly hard movie to watch, not just because it’s the depiction of the decline of an 80-odd-year-old woman suffering from a stroke and her husband’s gallant attempt to make her last days as comfortable and meaningful as possible, but because it’s a foreign film depicting the decline of an 80-odd-year-old woman suffering from a stroke and her husband’s gallant attempt to make her last days as comfortable and meaningful as possible.

Oh my gosh! I know I will sound like an ignorant, uneducated, unappreciative, uncouth, idiotic bigot, but foreign films! Oy! Why must they be so crazy with the camera? Why must they rest the camera on one subject for sooooo long? 

It happens with so many foreign movies. Long meaningful shots as the camera lingers on a subject or an object and you sit there wondering, OK, what is important here? What is the director trying to get across? And it lingers and it lingers and you think, I must be stupid because I just don’t see what’s so significant about the running water that can’t be gleaned in even one second of the camera focussing on it. 

But two, three, four seconds? Is there something more to be said? Is there some deeper hidden meaning? Something beyond “take note of this, it’s important.” Hit us over the head is what they do! And for two hours and seven minutes, Amour’s director does it. He could easily have wrapped it all up in an hour and a half...or less.

And then there are my “favorite” scenes: The couple go to bed and they sleep...pretty much in complete darkness. And the camera shows us that...a long pitch-black scene...with no dialog. I guessed it had lasted 10 seconds when I was telling someone about this movie and then shortened it to five. Heck, even one second of total darkness is long, but I figured I must have been exaggerating. 

I watched that scene again afterward because I couldn’t believe any director would allow 10 seconds of darkness. Isn’t that like the equivalent of dead air on the radio? Imagine my surprise when I finally hear the sound of one of the couple turning over at 11 Mississippi and then suffer through four more seconds of darkness. Fifteen seconds!

I remember David and I were quizzical when watching the blacked-out screen, “Did the disk die? Is the DVD player broken?” He tries to justify it by saying, “It’s taking us into their lives.”

But the director was only warming up. The second time the screen went totally black, it lasted 38 seconds. At seven seconds someone did breathe, but the screen remains black and the silence continues. At 15 seconds you think, “This is really long.” At 25 you think, “Oh my gosh, get me out of here!” and still it goes on.

I told David they should have put those black-out scenes in the preview for the movie. 

The movie did have an impact. It made me want to immediately sell our house and buy a one-story single level, handicap accessible dwelling. It made me want to go for a two-mile walk and stop eating junk. And it made me want to be a better wife: it made me appreciate David immensely, deeply and profoundly...for about eight hours. 

And then life goes on and I forget to appreciate the pure goodness of him and he ticks me off because, can you believe this? I started to sneeze while making dinner the other night and he was washing dishes and he said, “Don’t sneeze…” and my sneeze was immediately stifled. 

“I can’t believe you just said that!” I yelled at him and threw the fork in the sink that I’d been using to poke the sweet potatoes.

“Wait! I didn’t mean it like that…” he tried to explain.

“$%^&&@*” I said. “You just wrote a whole column about it and then you did it again!”

“I was just going to say, ‘Don’t sneeze on the vegetables,” he explained when I took a breath and he could get a word in edgewise.

So, how can I yell at this man? I don’t know! It’s so easy to forget the lovely little things he does like going sneaker shopping with me in Adrian and waiting 45 minutes for a table at a popular restaurant when he hates to shop and usually balks at eating out. 

Or walking around the downtown holding a roll of toilet paper when we unexpectedly arrive in the middle of First Friday and the Chamber is handing out treats and toilet paper. “You’re #1 with the Adrian Chamber,” the label on the toilet paper says. Or suffering through a visit to the Croswell’s rummage sale (25 cents for jump ropes! $1 for the coolest hats!) when we are in danger of missing our call to be seated. How could I forget such consideration?

I don’t know. I must be blacking out.