Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Crowd crowds in

Exhausted. Bad sleep. Working till close to 10.00 just to stand still, so more Crowd. Two parts that link.

Wedding. Honeymoon journey. Anticipations of sex. The sweet awkwardness, fear and anticipation. The nervousness conveyed with delicacy, humour and tact, without an ounce of sentimentality. The crowd remains individual and human, resolving itself into two fellow passengers. Switch to - is it? - Niagara Falls and a patch of pure lyricism, the patch owing to anyone anywhere, but never more than is genuinely and properly felt. Like an arrow shower / Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain, wrote Larkin in 'The Whitsun Weddings'.

And then she lies back on the grass, and the words: You are the most beautiful girl in the world! appear. He speaks his little bit of poetry about the Falls. Anybody's poetry. A happy domestic scene follows. Family arrives. Joke falls flat. It matters. No-one fights sea monsters or takes arms or challenges the gods but it's an epic journey all the same.

... from cafes
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed abroad: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing...

Vidor lived to be eight-eight, dying in 1982.


Jonathan Wonham said...

"And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing..."

Like mirrors. Are the crowd like mirrors? Mirrors with opinions? Faulty mirrors.

George S said...

He does say 'seemed' Jon. And we do read people's expressions for messages - like mirrors - as a matter of course. You might argue that what he saw in the faces is a caricature, or a projection, but 'seemed' prevents over-presumption. It remains a reasonable guess as to the categories of feeling. But then if faces really are mirrors he is seeing something of himself there.

Jonathan Wonham said...

I was thinking also of the husband, trying to make the in-laws laugh by "breaking his arm". What he hoped to do was make them laugh and break the ice. Instead the ice just reflected icily back at him the demeaning fact that he had some shaving soap behind his ear. It reminds of the two men laughing at him in an earlier scene as he prepares for his wedding night on the train. These scenes in which representatives of the crowd misinterpret him like faulty mirrors are, I think, meant to be oppressive. In the same way, the faces of the crowd, each one with its own interpretation of the departing couple, must be oppressive. For children, the couple are 'dull'. For father's 'farcical'. For women like 'a happy funeral'. For girls 'a religious wounding'. No doubt the departing couples are glad to be out of their sight. As Larkin says: "free at last".

George S said...

Yes, that's very good, Jon. I thought you were referring to just the poem, but now that I see it is to the film as well, that makes a lot of sense. I think the arm-breaking scene is a terrible moment brilliantly executed. We are left bemused and a little disappointed by the faint ineptitude, then somewhat horrified by the antagonistic sneer of the wife's relative. In a world of small things, one sneer is enough to tip someone over some edge. But then there is a sense that both parties have gone into the meeting with some potential hostility or embarrassment or apprehension..