I saw it once. I’ve been searching for it ever since. What? A film. Haunting images of a room seen across the way, glowing with light as a mother brings in a steaming bowl of soup for her husband and children. We are seeing it from a dark room – across the way. We are voyeurs if you like. We are drawn to the scene, cannot take our eyes away. (But then aren’t we always voyeurs when we watch a film or read a story?)
Shadows and lights. No sounds, just figures quietly moving in a tableau.
I watch, fascinated, wondering what will happen. Nothing much does happen, but the shadows deepen as we follow the same actions from the small room together with the man who waits each evening to silently look on, unseen.
Later I try to find this film on my screen. I want to watch it again. I discover eventually that it was inspired by a novella, a short story, by Pirandello. Lume dell’altra Casa, The Light of the House Opposite. My search for the film is futile. But at least I find the story and can read it without having to go to the library or to the villa for the book. It is poignant and gripping.
Sometimes a scene, an action, a theme heard fleetingly, will keep us entranced. There’s another scene I have been searching for, for years. I can see it vividly in my mind, a great u-shaped renaissance table on the side of a hill, with dinner guests seated and waiting for something. Someone (the hero?) arrives from a place down in the valley, I think he’s on horseback – and then the whole scene dissolves. Time has lapsed and he cannot find his way back. I see it clearly in brilliant colors. But have no idea where it came from, what it was part of, what the outcome is. Every so often it appears on the screen of my mind and I keep wondering.
There seems to be something about visions of this sort that seem more real than reality. There is Il Dono, seen in Paris in 2004. This too I have been unable to track down but the slow close-ups of the landscape, of the lined sun burnt face and hands of the old man, are still lurking in my mental storehouse. And Ugetsu with the boat in the fog. Seen probably in 1953 or 54. And I can even still see small planes roaring overhead in a newsreel in a movie house. and a small five-year old cringing as they seem to come too close. This must have been in 1935.
Say what you will about our technological culture, but often it works to our advantage and we can recall episodes that otherwise would be lost. Lost dreams. Not our personal remembrances, but what others have created and in which we have participated without being active participants, without being the actual actors in the scene.
One thought on “Somewhere Out There”
Some memories have the power to stay with us for ever whether we wish them to or not. Others need a prompt to come back. You’ve got me thinking about this Erika. It’s true that scenes from films can stay in our mind for years and, conversely, that scenes in our own lives can be brought back by home movies – as they are by photos. When I was a boy in 1950s Britain I recall how children would ask each other ‘do you dream in colour?’. These were the days of black and white television! Of course we must have dreamed in colour, but the very question showed how technology shapes our experience of life. I suppose before the invention of photography people would have relied on other kinds of prompts to bring memories back, such as journals and drawings. But what about the many who could not read and had no time to draw?