Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
This is what I think of being alive five years later.
I cannot bring myself to view either United 93 or World Trade Center. I don’t have it in me. It’s not that I’m squeamish about the intense and horrific events depicted in both films, nor is it any sort of moral outrage that such films are being made at all. It’s not even my wariness to pay full price for an Oliver Stone film.
I have seen Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and a number of other harrowing, real-life films; what’s more, I’ve seen some of them multiple times. In most cases, they are as affecting, if not as shocking, on the second time around. I know that I will emerge from such a film feeling upset, but I am able to disassociate the unpleasantness of that feeling from appreciation of a film that has that power.
The difference, then, is in the perception of history and the security of resolution. I can watch films about World War II because I know that, in the end, despite the horrors perpetrated and the massacres of millions; I know that in the end Hitler died cowering in a hole in the ground and the Third Reich was soundly defeated–it’s not that it’s a happy ending, but it is, in simplest terms, the best of the endings available at the time. I can watch Vietnam War Police Action films even though it was largely a fiasco for the Forces of DemocracyTM, because at the very least I know that the war police action eventually ended at all.
For me, watching a film about September 11, 2001, is to watch the beginning of a nightmare without ever being sure when that nightmare was going to end. To know that the darkness and scrolling words that appear after the final shot are a lie, that the best one is being given is an intermission, and in order to catch the subsequent acts all one has to do is live their life.
I have no reassurance that ultimately the side of–well, not Good, necessarily, but at least the side of Mostly Not Homicidal Religious Zealots–prevails. I have no reassurance that the resolution of United 93 or World Trade Center–beyond what Greengrass and Stone filmed–isn’t “And then everybody died, horribly, leaving only the scavengers victorious.”
I’m all too aware that we’re still in the narrative, that we’re somehow attempting to consider the first few chapters to be a final draft without having the entire manuscript in the first place. And the authors in question seem to be unable to self-edit, to finally say “okay, maybe we should find a way to wrap this thing up.” The war is an absurdist collaborative novel where the freelancers are paid by the word, and I hate when I pick the damn thing up off the coffee table.
The strange and unsettling thing is that I can’t watch these films, but someday I hope I’ll be able to.