Yesterday, amid packing and cleaning, and reading my student's thesis, I took myself to see A Mighty Heart, the film about Mariane Pearl, starring Angelina Jolie. I find myself completely haunted by the movie.
Jolie is restrained, anguished--all the pain is in her eyes. I read one reviewer who said he couldn't shake the thought that he was watching Angelina Jolie--he couldn't lose himself in the movie. I could. Her over-the-top beauty is distracting in a few scenes--they try to tone her down a little, but you just can't--and that's a handicap. But she balances it by finding the core of the character--her serious love, in which joy and grief are inextricable and (for a change) sanely entangled.
To see real Jewish journalists on screen--Pearl and his Wall Street Journal colleagues are all played by Jewish actors--was unexpectedly moving for me. Maybe because they looked, talked, and moved like the Jewish suburban guys I grew up with: eager, curious, articulate, with a mix of naivete and worldliness. I've rarely felt such complete and complex identification with characters onscreen. I knew these guys--I knew what it felt like to hug them, I could smell them.
And seeing that gives me empathy for those people who would like to have seen Mariane portrayed by an actor with real Afro-Cuban heritage. Much as Jolie does a beautiful job with the heart of the character, there is something inimitable and culturally specific and satisfying about seeing one of your own portrayed by one of your own that choosing a less-known actress might have accomplished. Thandie Newton springs to mind--she certainly has gravitas, and she is the right age and build for the part.
I was fighting a headache when I went into the theatre and as the movie progressed the pain in my head and body grew more and more acute. While the closing credits rolled a wave of nausea swept over me and I stumbled to the Ladies' Room and hung over a toilet bowl. I don't know if it was a stress-related migraine, or the grim conclusion of Pearl's life--seeing him in his last photos, hearing the character onscreen softly admit: I'm Jewish, knowing that that admission sealed his fate. Right after the movie ended I had to go teach my essay class. I wondered how I would make it, but a couple of cups of tea restored me, and the class went great.
Back at C's house I couldn't get to sleep early enough because he needed to stay awake and read past midnight, and then his cat was yowling at 5:30 a.m. Finally I got up and left around 6. We're both a little scared and stressed about this upcoming trip--excited, yes, but also nervous. And now I haven't had nearly enough sleep to deal with all the last-minute details. I hope napping will help.
Later: I'm supposed to be writing the comments on Storm's thesis, and I am, I am, but meanwhile I keep researching Mariane Pearl. She has based her life on the idea that she will fight to be happy, to create happiness in her own life, by any means necessary, and she does so. It reminds me of the title of Ellen Bass' book, The Courage to Heal; it takes enormous courage to risk feeling happy, to risk loving and feeling at all, especially when one has been grievously betrayed. She does this through little actions, like turning on the radio and dancing, and big actions, like parenting her child, or doing the work she loves.
I keep meditating on the lesson of her life, in between writing sentences that alternately praise Storm's work and point out what still needs to be done. Meanwhile, my own room is still messy and there are dozens of things I've still not finished.