02 February 2011

His & Hers and Of Gods and Men

His & Hers is a documentary from the Irish Midlands about domestic women. It begins, adorably, on a young baby girl lying on a blanket, placing her feet in her mouth; by the middle mark the film reaches middle age. I wasn't constantly glancing at my watch but it may have been a decade jump every ten minutes - tell you the truth I looked at my watch at the middle age point because I thought 'already?' and then I remembered people can live well past middle age because that age is just the middle. These are the type of things you may reflect upon while watching His & Hers.

"Men love their girlfriends the most, their wives the best, and their moms the longest."

You know how there are those oxygen bars? Well, there are these oxygen bars. I've never understood them. One day I may reach an age or health condition in which I do, who knows, but anyway all you do is sit and suck in life giving forces. His & Hers is also like that, you sit at the screen and suck in life giving forces. No men appear in the movie, but the women talk about their: dads, boyfriends, husbands, sons, and dead husbands. Spoiler joke. Most of it's charmingly candid, and some of it's like domestic poetry. One time this black cat was spread out atop the couch fuckin' napping during an interview! That was really cool. They didn't mention the gender of the animals. The women talk about: chores, school, living spaces, pregnancy, health, and pets. The art of life is given primacy over the art of film, and most of the photography is simple portrait-like. Also, it's funny that elders complain about their kids the way young kids complain about their parents. If you think this stuff is like floor-rolling hilarious, or are incapable of remembering it's touching without an 80 minute film, please see His & Hers. I liked it at first but by the end was exhausted.

Of Gods and Men! The moment I knew I really liked Of Gods and Men, I mean really, really liked Of Gods and Men, came during one of the monks' daily meetings. It was an especially important meeting. There was a discussion as to whether Christian (the designated leader) had betrayed the principles of community by making a decision without consulting the others, and as the camera cut between the monks, Amédée raised his finger but didn't say anything. He wasn't sure what to say. His thoughts were stuck, and the film captured that moment.

It could have been earlier, however, when Luc was giving the young girl advice on love, and I suddenly realized he was talking about his love for God. It applied so well to the girl and her boy troubles. The film regularly depicts scenes of worship and religious contemplation, meanwhile developing natural rhythms and showcasing gorgeous landscapes, but wisely avoids the purely religious. Of Gods and Men is about powerful people, and their power is in their hearts. If anything I was forced to remind myself that monks may be less interesting than this in real life, because for a moment I considered signing up: these are men who have strong feelings of tenderness, their convictions have a real power, and every moment of their lives seem to escape happenstance - not because of divinity, but because they invest in each moment the totality of their constitution (except sometimes they are sleepy or tense).

"Wildflowers don't move to find the sun's rays."

The film's beauty is unforced, and mingles with the ugly; there's bloodshed, and sometimes simple daily routine, quotidian failure. For example, an extremely important question within the movie, both dramatically and philosophically, is whether or not the monks are stubborn. They are at first "like birds on a branch" who can't decide if they should flee their monastery under threat from local radicals ('fundamentalism meets fundamentalism' as the press synopsis states), not wanting to force martyrdom, or stay and help the locals as they have pledged. It's a genuine crisis.

I admire the film because it knows there isn't armor for all pain. However strong the monks are, whatever their convictions, the romance of their intentions doesn't pad the blow. They make choices and live with consequences. The decision to become a monk could be one, and in a touching scene a monk laments the loss of his secular life. He tells the story of confronting this reality during his mother's birthday party. What should he do, return home to become a plumber, join the town council? He can hardly imagine.

The physicality of the monks is also a movie, each one embodying another feature-length. Their eyes hold love and war, their faces humor and sadness, their hands strength and weakness. When Amédée raises his finger, he doesn't have to say anything.

1 comment:

  1. Great fucking write up. Keep em up! I wish the academy screenings were this fun. Today: Animal Kingdom.