Premium Member Jeff Bernstein Posted January 22 Premium Member Share Posted January 22 The film Being There (1979) is a major work, equivalent (in the words of Hunter S. Thompson) to "an eerie trumpet call over a lost battlefield". Coming near the end of the film is a moment of striking nihilism, which, therefore, might be otherwise called Truth. The moment involves the character type of the Onlooker. The Onlooker is a story fundamental (not to say the Onlooker character appears in every story). The Onlooker sees events from the side of things, and the Onlooker's summating understanding will never enter history, but die with that character. With the death of that character, all the evidence required for understanding the story at hand is lost forever. In Being There, the Onlooker is the character of the Doctor, who says little, but, as a Doctor, and therefore a symbol of Logic and Reason, sees "all", and continuously calculates it. In the moment in question, the nihilist moment of Truth near the end of Being There, the Doctor, responding to one last witnessed action of the main character of the story (Peter Sellers), says to himself, "I understand." Now, this "I understand" is in the vibe of "Yes! Finally! All the pieces are put together! VICTORY!" But—then, like a character in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, the Doctor hears himself and reevaluates his position; and repeats his words , but now in a vacant manner : "I understand." What does this second "I understand" convey? The second "I understand" conveys that the doctor knows that no one else will ever understand (because only the Onlooker has "all" the pieces), so : Understanding is Useless. Understanding means nothing. (Get over it.) What a moment. You either understand this moment in Being There or you don't. But, good news : Time teaches a person about life. So if you don't understand Art now, let's say you're not supposed to understand now. But maybe one day. That's one amazing aspect of Art, a source of its Colossal and Endless power : you don't have to understand it too soon. You can keep returning to it, and you gain in power as you go. And this recollected moment physically hurt (for only a fleeting moment, thank god) because it made this author think of what sort of artist Hal Ashby was, and the world he represented : the same world the late Owen Roizman lived through, but in less wacky and tragic circumstances. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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