Links: Trauma, Coppola

1. An op-ed on living with loss and grief from psychiatrist Mark Epstein:

Trauma is not just the result of major disasters. It does not happen to only some people. An undercurrent of trauma runs through ordinary life, shot through as it is with the poignancy of impermanence. I like to say that if we are not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we are suffering from pre-traumatic stress disorder. There is no way to be alive without being conscious of the potential for disaster. One way or another, death (and its cousins: old age, illness, accidents, separation and loss) hangs over all of us. Nobody is immune. Our world is unstable and unpredictable, and operates, to a great degree and despite incredible scientific advancement, outside our ability to control it.

My response to my mother — that trauma never goes away completely — points to something I have learned through my years as a psychiatrist. In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth. As a therapist, I can testify to how difficult it can be to acknowledge one’s distress and to admit one’s vulnerability. My mother’s knee-jerk reaction, “Shouldn’t I be over this by now?” is very common. There is a rush to normal in many of us that closes us off, not only to the depth of our own suffering but also, as a consequence, to the suffering of others.

2. From the New Yorker: “The Negative Influence of Coppola’s ‘Godfather'”:

Coppola single-handedly, mightily, and enduringly shored up the ruins of familiar but outmoded conventions: performances of a poised dramatic accuracy, images of a burnished, low-light luxuriousness, shots composed with a fluid precision, a script that foregrounds the action to express the story’s strategic, psychological, and political implications. The accomplishment was great; its negative effects endure.

The filmmaker who, above all, was making Hollywood new at the time was John Cassavetes. Despite the apparently familiar mode of naturalistic drama in which he worked, he exploded the very notion of character and plot by finding the interstitial moments that emerge from stories, the explosions and the intimacies that are the surprising and unpredictable mark of people rather than characters. Cassavetes filmed with a combination of passionate proximity and gestural freedom that both reveals actors in intense physicality and abuts the hard, unbreakable nucleus of inner opacity. He created a cinema of being, in which the furious performances of some of the best actors of his time (including himself; his wife, Gena Rowlands; Peter Falk; Seymour Cassel; and Ben Gazzara) outstripped the assignation of traits and the calculation of rationales in screenplay construction and gave a sense of the vast wonder and terrifying force packed into ordinary lives.


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