Thursday, April 12, 2007

When Night Falls

The movie When Night Falls is about Reinaldo Arenas’s lifelong struggles with the Cuban revolution, which he initially supports. He suffers imprisonment, persecution, exile (which he to a certain extent chooses) and censorship, both because he wrote, and because he was gay. The movie is directed by Julian Schnabel, the painter, which immediately annoyed me, mostly because of Schnabel’s hip, overly self-aware aura, which can be felt in the way the film is shot and edited, the music, the décor, even the titles. What’s doubly annoying is that many of Schnabel’s choices are pleasing. So it’s a love-hate relationship, with the love side somewhat representing self-hatred.

At one point, a character asks Arenas, “Why you write?” (The movie is in English, but performed by Latin Americans). He answers, “Revenge.”

I love that.

That’s it. That’s the freedom of art, to say what you can’t elsewhere, to represent yourself when you’ve been misunderstood. Herein lies its power, and also its threat to the power of others.

As for me, and I would imagine most artists, there are also psychological obstacles to standing by one’s self. I personally was never much of a rebel - although that is indeed a romantic role in my mind - mostly because of what going against the grain implies: being an outcast, being in the minority, being judged. And yet, the lives I admire most are all “against the grain.” But doing so of course can’t be a choice, really. That’s affect. It’s about a will to be free.

I never thought I would use such a big word.

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