It’s getting to be very close that I miss my first week, which seeing as this is only the second month, is a pretty shoddy performance. Thus, I am not bothering with the fact that I actually have very urgent work to do and just considering something to write this blog on. I’m writing it on a quote from a film I have been watching recently, La Dolce Vita. (Two things to note there: firstly, I am watching it for academic reasons, I’m not just merely a snob, and secondly, the fact I am in the process of watching the film implies that it is so long I have had to split it into chunks).
So, what is this quote? It is from roughly midway through the film, in a conversation between the “happily” married Steiner, who has a nice house and adoring kids, and the unhappy, unfaithful journalist, Marcello, who is split in life – between fiction and journalism, between his fiancé and other women. They are at a party of intellectuals in the beautiful Steiner home, but have wandered out to the quiet of the balcony, where beyond Rome sits, hugging the black night.
MARCELLO: Let me come here more often.
STEINER: As often as you’d like. What’s the matter, Marcello?
MARCELLO: I should change my world. Your home is a sanctuary: your children, wife, books, friends. I’m wasting time, achieving nothing. Once I had ambition; perhaps I’m losing it.
STEINER: Don’t be like me; salvation doesn’t lie within four walls. I’m too serious to be a dilettante, and too much of a dabbler to be a professional. Even the most miserable life is better than a sheltered existence in an organised society where everything is calculated and perfected. I can only be your friend, I can hardly advise you. But I can introduce you to people such as an editor, so that you could devote time to your true interests – that would be better than writing for semi-Fascist papers. Will you think it over?
MARCELLO nods. STEINER, deep in thought, leaves the balcony and goes past the party, entering a door to his children’s bedroom. Both his son and daughter are asleep. He kisses them both on the forehead, and tucks them in, removing his daughter’s doll. He then goes to the window where the curtains are fluttering and his face reflects in the pane. He is alone.
STEINER: Sometimes the dark silence of night weighs upon me. Peace makes me afraid, perhaps I distrust it above all. I feel its only a facade concealing the abyss. I think of the world my children will know. It’s supposed to be marvellous… but a phone call from a madman can mean the end of everything. We must get beyond passions, like a great work of art – in such miraculous harmony, we should love each other outside of time… detached.
In an immensely quotable, Palme D’Or winning film, this intellectual posturing actually struck me as true and pretty interesting. Two parts above all are pretty interesting: “Even the most miserable life is better than a sheltered existence in an organised society where everything is calculated and perfected.” and “Peace makes me afraid, perhaps I distrust it above all. I feel its only a facade concealing the abyss.” What do these statements mean? Obviously, in context, we learn that Steiner is not wholly satisfied with his life, even though he loves his family. He feels that the strictures of the proper society are designed to prevent true happiness. He also insinuates that peace is uncomfortable – we do not know what it is, what it conceals. Is it more comforting to be at war, to know the situation, rather than never knowing how precarious your life is during peace, how close your world is to the edge? Peace as danger and organised society as miserable – is the message then art as freedom, war as truth?
Peace makes me afraid, too. The quiet before the storm, I suppose, or the silence before the attack. As it seems perfunctory to point out, no one has ever known a permanent peace.
Right! Enough of the faux-quasi-intellectualism, sorry guys. Blog for the week done, even if it is on bollocks. Still, it’s all about the commitment.
(“We should love each other outside of time… detached” – I still can’t get my head around. But happy Valentine’s day!