Delight Springs

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sarah's key

We plugged the cute little $35 google appliance into the tv last night and streamed "Sarah's Key."

I give the Chromecaster two thumbs up and the film 1.5, sharing the late Roger Ebert's reservations about the awkward cinematic juxtaposition of stories set in Nazi-occupied '40s France and bobo-occupied present-day Paris. And yet, the juxtaposition is real and not a mere moviemaker's contrivance. Same city and same world, but completely different too. It's jarring and disorienting to try and compare then and now, but (as Santayana was just telling us about what happens when we ignore the past) we must.

Awkwardness aside, it was an affecting, compelling fact-based fiction nonetheless. I invite any students who may have tuned out or blotted out our class discussion of the problem of evil  last week to challenge themselves with it.

If you had been there, how do you know what you would have done?
We're all a product of our history.
The Paris velodrome in 1942 was like a Katrina superdome nightmare but worse (though maybe not "a million times worse"). Humans, and not only the ones dressed in Nazi uniforms, inflicted horrible inexcusable evil on their fellow men, women, and children. The brutal fate of an innocent and trusting child, whose loving sister suffers intensely as well for a tragically short lifetime, for her own innocent forced role in the events of that horrible time, is emblematic. And chilling. She acted heroically, the results of her heroism were nightmarish. Another nightmare whose only end was in death. Another life incinerated. For what? A "greater good?" What a false and facile and tired old rhetorical gambit that is. 

Also salient in this story: how very many innocent and well-intended individuals get caught up in, and compromised by, the overt evil of others. You don't have to intend evil, to do evil. The choices you try to make for good frequently recoil in suffering for oneself and one's loved ones as much as for "strangers." 

How can such horrors honestly be conceived as essential and necessary (though "mysterious") elements of any rational scheme or universal plan executed by either an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent and loving intelligence, or by "Spinoza's God?" How can anyone believe it?

Well, I don't suppose this little post will make anyone believe they could possibly be entertained by "Sarah's Key." But I wouldn't have thought that of "Sophie's Choice," either, hearing a short precis of its subject. But it's on my short list of all-time favorites, both film and book. Happiness isn't all.

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