16 December 2010

Hope and Mercy in a Cruel World

from Proverbs Twenty
Rough Sea, Milton Avery, 1958
"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out."

I finally got around to watching Waltz with Bashir last night, Ari Folman's heart-wrenching psychological narrative about uncovering the trauma of war and in particular, his artistic attempt to make sense of Israeli actions during the first Lebanon War.  Through the slow, excruciatingly articulate paced attempts to draw himself out of the waters of bloodshed, Folman moves toward a known, horrifying and I would argue, redemptively truthful conclusion of taking responsibility for oneself in the uncovering of repressed events in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

I can't recall a more honest self-portrait of wartime responsibility coming out of Israel and despite the difficult material, I found myself overcome with pride at the willingness to look, to examine, to demonstrate relentlessness in the examination, and then, to have the courage to allow for the final image of the film to be the animated face of recognition on the face of the narrator as the first real photography of the film's ninety minutes is the closing sequence of a Palestinian massacre carried about by Lebanese Christian Phalangists seeking blood revenge for the assassination of Bashir Gemayel.

Folman relied upon the narrative of others to draw his own memories out and key to his interpretive lens was the wisdom culled from two therapists, who help frame his understanding, giving him the strength and the courage to return to the "deep water" of memory.

"Bread of falsehood is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel."  Uncovering traumas means weaning oneself from the images we erect, from the tastes we consume, in order to mask the rough seas of certain disturbing truths.

But as Mishley makes clear, "the spirit of man is the lamp of the Eternal, searching all the inward parts."  In reflection and examination there is illumination, and if we are brave enough and daring enough to move into that territory, "mercy and truth will preserve."  Facing our darkest manifestations means causing ourselves suffering and pain--no doubt--but "sharp wounds cleanse away evil; so do stripes that reach the inward parts."

The images of this film will not escape you easily.  But the lessons wrought from the engagement with them bring hope and mercy to a cruel world.

No comments: