6.5.08

when I was a child

when I was a child
...I thought like a child - new painting after months!

At the beginning of the film Taxidermia by Hungarian Gyorgi Palfi, a narrator drawls on that "it is only towards the end that the beginning becomes important" (or something like this).

In a film that is really 3 short short films on 3 generations of men and their accidental fathering of the next, you are invited to witness a grotesque parade of physical (and sexual) deprivation, followed by excess made into sport and ultimately greed, then the slow paring away as skin sheds flesh and all other semblance of life. Of course, running parallel to the men's stories are post-war Hungary (a land-locked state trapped still in its feudal society), Communist Hungary and, I guess, today's republic. Their lives reflective of, yet strangely displaced in these 3 transformations of their society.

This is a rather dull summary of a visually rich and entertaining film! I assure you the cinema laughing, cringing, squirming and fairly nauseated. [I think it is still screening, though probably at odd times, at the PictureHouse.]

The film aside, it was the narrator's initial statement that stuck because it reminded me of critic Edward Said's memoir Out of Place I was reading.

Said died in 2003, having struggled with leukemia for several years. In the preface, he wrote of how his illness and the closeness of death set him the writing of a memoir - revisiting his childhood in Cairo and Palestine, and all the associated ambiguities in the inexplicable genesis of his seemingly English name, his Christian family, his long period away from Palestine, his adopted American home and the contradictions or ironies these seem to pose with his criticism and works on Orientalism, the Palestinian state, American imperialism etc. It is towards the end that the beginning becomes important.

It is a quietly reflective and sometimes difficult book. It is difficult in its honesty about Said's feelings towards his parents, family, homes. Reading Said's memoir somehow also brings out just how difficult growing up can be! For all the romanticism surrounding childhood, being a child is perhaps not easy. The uncertainties and insecurities. The need to de-code the adults' insinuations and whispers with what little you are given to know.

One of the words I learnt from reading Edward Said years ago while I was in university that I will always remember is palimpsest

palimpsest \PAL-imp-sest\, noun:
1. A manuscript, usually of papyrus or parchment, on which more than one text has been written with the earlier writing incompletely erased and still visible.
2. An object or place whose older layers or aspects are apparent beneath its surface.

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