April 24, 2003

I went to see the film Max yesterday. To see films at all is an unusual thing for me: I think I average perhaps five or six in a given year, and that usually weeks to months after 'everyone else' has seen them. This one, with its short run, was an exception in that for once I was seeing a film for the first time at the same time as everyone else; and I thought it well worth seeing. A broad overview would paint its subject matter as the relationship between a Jewish art dealer artist and a young impoverished German sergeant and aspiring artist just returned from the Great War, against the treaty conditions, against the sharply disparate economic backgrounds, against the warring philosophies of Plato's ideal Forms and virtues and Nietzsche's genealogy of morals. It did a fair job, I think, of evoking understanding and even empathy for all those involved within an isolated dramatised moment of history.

The constant running commentary behind me suggested that I was out of step here too.

Oh, I loved them, those two behind me, with their startled observations and their shocked tones. (I mean not one hint of irony by this.) It was not empathy they felt for one of the characters. As with most of the audience, perhaps, there was no wish to achieve understanding. Perhaps, even, it was the first time they had encountered some of those ideas: for the modern environment as a whole willingly seeks to embrace revisionist history in this and other regards, the modern history teacher having christened it 'fact': and it is far, far easier simply to label something 'evil' and destroy it and dismiss it than to consider the reflecting mirror. Never once did the two commentators notice that their own comments often anticipated something to be said very nearly word for word by that young idealistic sergeant only minutes later.

Through their comments I grew to know them. I loved them for it. When the film ended that love burst through me laughing, so that no doubt others stared at me: what, how dare I laugh at such a topic! But, no: not the film, but the two behind me -- who were real. Human, all of us, all too human.

The voice of hatred is loud. The voice of love is soft, or even silent. And life, living, is wonderful.

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