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=> An e-mail I got

An e-mail I got
Posted by Ado (Guest) - Wednesday, November 9 2005, 2:20:43 (CET)
from - Network - Windows XP - Netscape
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Here's an interesting e-mail I got from a young Assyrian that saw the film. I was so proud of this kid. Just when I was about to move on/away and do something else/American people like this kid pull me back in.


I think that we need to take seriously that profound questions lurk deeper within "Poetic Emancipation," and examine them more closely. To me that came in the sense that it was a profoundly existential piece that dealt with the conjunction of issues that have been unaddressed anywhere else. Existential in this sense means that the film was inundated with some of the prime struggles of life; it is brute reality represented. First of all it addresses those haunting questions we ask of our existence generally: what should we make of God and guilt and death and our fathers? And secondly, it talks profoundly about what it means to be an Assyrian male in that gap: what does it mean to be an Assyrian male adrift in postmodernity? Is there any redemption left for us?

I want to use this first in a series of posts that unpack that existential component in light of philosophical, literary, and theological concerns. In this entry, I'll break down a single scene and show how it contributes something to our understanding of the whole of "Poetic Emancipation." More specifically, how the final scene brings us into a sense of the tragicomic.

Tragicomic is a hybrid word consisting in the combination of tragedy and comedy. On a rough definition, tragedy is that genre of drama that captures the depths of despair, loss, or failure. Comedy, on the other hand depicts the jovial, the fun, the absurd, and the contradictory. The point is that life is full of them both. We laugh and cry throughout the years, and hence life is characteristically, bittersweet. So in actuality the two make a natural fit. And because they speak to the quality and phenomenon of our lives the tragicomic concept can be understood as existential.

"Poetic Emancipation" uses the tragicomic in that final scene where Jimmy murdered his father and consequentially we as viewers may not be so comfortable where this scene and ultimately the movie end up. It engenders a profoundly human reaction to seeing the culmination of a series of events that end in son killing his father.

Let me walk briefly through that scene and highlight what I think makes this scene as it is. Jimmy goes to the grave to make piece with his mother, his girlfriend, concerned, does a reverse lookup on the phone number and goes to his house to look for him. When she gets to the door the father invites her in, but she refuses and in the process, slips down the stairs. The father drags her back up to the apartment, props her awkwardly (belly exposed) on the couch, drinks some spirits, then falls asleep on the floor. Then Jimmy comes in and blows his fathers brains out.

This scene introduces us to an important setting, Jimmy's apartment. It is important because it shows significant dimensions of a common Assyrian home. One, these could be things of physical significance such as the dragon-slayer, Assyrian flag, Assyrian background music, and the lamasu/winged bull hanging over the fireplace. Yet throughout the film we also see that this room has emotional connotations as well. It is saturated with feelings of resentment, lack of ownership, emptiness. I'm not saying that these are predominant in Assyrian homes more than non Assyrian homes. But one, I think it daringly shows the general and multi-generational complexity and frustration that can exist within Assyrian homes which I think is a brilliant and bold theme in the film. And secondly, it can typify fractured homes generally, another dimension of that broader existential struggle.

From the apartment we are transported to the hallway which is equally important. The carpet is deep, red, and familiar. It could be any multi-unit in Rogers Park. Second, that angle used to capture those stairs was fabulous. It shows the people going both up and down stairs (sort of like those famous mc Esher drawings.) You see the shadows passing on the stairs like phantoms. This brings us again deeper into Jimmy's own dilemma, showing how the character's lives pass each other almost to a level of non-existence.

Yet I still want to draw down a bit closer here. The girlfriend knocks on his door and the father answers and a small conversation ensues. Now at this point many of the people in the theater began to laugh. It was funny, like the way some Assyrian people would think that their father would answer the door if they weren't home. Plus, sometimes people with accents can be funny too. But then she falls down the stairs and the father beings to drag her up with some difficulty. Again, snickers came from the audience. Obviously it is a bit amusing to see an old man drag a young woman up the stairs, in fact, under the circumstances, it is absurd. But I asked myself, is this something that was intended to be funny, like the hookah cafe scene? I had to answer this question, no; it was, in fact, tragic.

The tragedy is understood not simply in the accident of the girl falling down the stairs. The true tragedy must be understood in the father dragging the girlfriend up the stairs as symbolizing his bearing of the guilt for his wife's death. Figuratively the body of the girl is the body of the wife. This is supported by the preexisting relationship Jimmy has with his father, namely, he cannot admit his guilt for causing his mother's death. The key is in the parallel between his girlfriend's (death/injury) and his Jimmy's mother's, that his father bears responsibility for both. The common denominator in both situations is guilt which projects itself into both situations causing us to see them as one in the same. Thus in the physical labor of dragging her up the steps he "bears" that burden.

Our understanding of that tragic element is enhanced by where Jimmy is at that moment and what he is doing. He is at the cemetery trying to make peace with his demons. And a legitimate question we can ask is, was that ultimately resolved in Jimmy's life? Did he beat the demons, even in the midst of his father's attempted reconciliation with him? The answer appears to be, no.

Is there any redemption for our characters? The cross over the mother's grave provided a central symbol throughout the movie. It was shot from different angles, above, behind, below. And yet in this final scene, despite an apparent reconciliation with the forces around him, the last we see of Jimmy is him washing his father's blood off of his hands. But my own point is this, in order to place characters in the shadow of the cross, they need to experience its redemptive power in their lives. To invoke Msheekha we need to remain in the bounds of his response to our existential struggles about life and death and our fathers, as He Himself turns, "the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers."


The full topic:

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