I’ve seen this film so many times. As I was watching it again this week, I was reminded of this passage from Andreï Makine’s novel, Au temps du fleuve Amour (1994):
From the start of the century, history, like a titanic pendulum, had begun to sweep fearsomely to and fro across the empire. The men went away; the women dressed in black. The pendulum kept the measure of passing time: the war against Japan; the war against Germany; the Revolution; the civil war. And then once again, but in reverse order: the war against the Germans; the war against the Japanese. And then the men went away, now crossing the twelve thousand leagues of the empire to fill the trenches in the west, now disappearing into the misty void of the ocean to the east. The pendulum swung westward, and the Whites drove the Reds back beyond the Urals, beyond the Volga. Its weight returned, sweeping across Siberia: now the Reds drove the Whites back toward the Far East. They hammered nails into the trunks of cedar trees and dynamited churches – as if all the better to assist the pendulum in wiping out every trace of the past. (p. 11)
Russian history as a pendulum, or as an ark? Or perhaps as an ark crashing back and forth like a pendulum. These are ideas that are antithetical to the kind of history we are taught in the west: history as a hierarchy, and as a straight line of progression. The pendulum makes more sense to me, with all its instability.
My Tender and Affectionate Beast
I couldn’t help feeling that the sinister, but languid beauty of this film was comparable to ripe fruit sitting under the sun for too long. A beautiful sweetness with a nasty bite. It also reminded me of this poem by D. H. Lawrence. (For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken. / It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.)
I can’t really separate my emotional connection with this film, which I saw last night, from my homesickness for Israel and my family. This homesickness is growing as I save up money to visit next year. My other impression of this film is that it’s incredibly generous to human nature, and is not really about building up polarising attitudes (something which is so easy to do with films set in Israel and about religion and love, let’s face it). Despite an inconclusive and realistic ending, it made my heart swell.
Another thing that’s been making my heart swell this week is this set of images. These pictures highlight how pointless the ‘can women have it all?’ debates are.
I hope all my American friends are safe and sound after your monster weather! It’s been quite surreal watching the images on the news. Stay safe everyone.
Image credits: Screen captures from Russian Ark and My Tender and Affectionate Beast are my own. Film stills from The Secrets are from here.