Sunday, 14 March 2010


Beginning of Ecstase (1933)

One of the great poetic transactions is between the consciousness and the world of material objects. People will do as people will of course, but they have to conduct themselves through rooms and streets full of miscellaneous things, and these things are intractably distinct from them. Hands warm objects, eyes lighten them, the nose detects them, hope hangs on them - they alter space this way and that. It is the real world meeting the ghost mind.

Here, in this first six minutes or so from the film in which Hedy Lamarr was famously shown swimming naked, there is a lot of shifting light and shadow before the newly married couple enter their flat. There is a mat, some shoes, a hand (a hand is also an object), a key and a lock, a sign, a lipstick tube that writes. After a moment of drunken fumbling the door opens, and he carries her, with some comical difficulty, across the threshhold. And there stand the objects. Suddenly we are assailed by a mass of household items in curious sculptural groups. Here are the bride's flowers and her extraordinarily long train that follows her like a kind of ectoplasm, growing longer and longer. A looming chair, some kitchen furniture, a basin, a litter basket...

She is entering a new life. He arranges his personal objects in meticulous, in fact obsessive, order on the bedside table.

The objects crop up, stand still, wait to be handled, to be interpreted and used. They will speak too, of their owners and their intentions, but essentially they will be just themselves, tokens of the solid world through which the consciousness must move, clad in its own solid body that can seem as alien as the objects themselves. This appears to be my hand. That thing below is my foot. This weight slumped in the bed is my body.

Now let's wake up.


James said...

Yale keys! Astonishing patented in 1861 and unaltered since 1865.

The opening few scenes remind me also of Victor Frankl's concentration camp memoirs, in which he recollects having dreams about lost everyday things like turning on the light at the switch - and always having a set of keys in his pocket.

George S said...

Good Lord, is that the case? But why should we be surprised? If it works, why change it? A bit like books in fact. What else? Plumbing? The contents of a woman's handbag?

I do, pretty well always, have a set of keys in my pocket.