Tag Archives: symbolism

a letter in absence

Another Heart (2015)
Another Heart (2015)

I walked along the river today. My dearest love, these words are withering under the glittering sun. I miss you so dearly. As I walked along the waterway, I thought I saw your reflection on the waves. They teased me, if I reached out to touch, they fled from me. Then from afar, they beckoned to me, mischievously. My dearest heart, were those your wings I flew on? Did my weight burden you? We flew for too long. We saw the world from the topmost spires. The organ wept in the cathedrals below us; the keys were beaten, the notes, they wept; the notes, they were ferocious in their sadness. My voice, it cracked, and songs, broken and withered, were pulled out of me, out of the deepest depths of my soul. I beat on the music, I urged it; enraged, I beat on the notes; furious why I couldn’t fly; why my wings lay broken; why my heart no longer felt. My love, if this was yesterday, I would have given into you like no other. If this was yesterday, I would have taken you to the heavens; I would have sang to you songs of fire, songs of a wild, wild rush. I would have carried you on my wings, taking you, craving you; right into the skies, to the moon, burning like stars- I would have taken you. If it was yesterday… My love, yesterdays; ghosts, whispers and echoes- yesterdays; lights glowing softly, curled up in bed with a book, with a cup of steaming tea; laying next to you, head resting on your chest, hearing your heart beat- a scent I cannot forget, a touch I cannot stop feeling- laying in an infinite world, clouds soaring in through the open window- yesterdays… My dearest heart, love wanes. Memories come and they go, leaving behind soft footprints you can follow for some time on a slow day. My dearest dear, echoes will not stumble forever, ghosts will not always haunt; faces will eventually disappear; rust and dust and broken trust; they will win. They will win. And where will we be then?

The Delightfully Delectable Conception of ‘Delicatessen’

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” –Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Delicatessen (1991)
Delicatessen (1991)

Sometimes the hardest thing to look for is a good movie.

When my boyfriend and I are spending weekends and holidays together, we always look for the strangest films, never mainstream, usually deliciously surprising ones, hidden away beneath the plethora of crap Hollywood is making these days. I’m more of a mainstream movie-goer, more so than my boyfriend who would never, in a million years, watch anything that comes with the ‘commercial’ tag, meant for the average type of movie-goers like me. In this new unexplored movie genre, which I recently started to explore, I finally decided to give a go to Delicatessen and I can say it is pure genius.

In this crazy, yet frighteningly symbolic interpretation of the world, Delicatessen gives a story which no one will soon forget, if ever.

Here, I talk about some of the things I really loved about the film. [Proceed with caution, spoilers below]

Julie and Pouison

Julie & Pouison in Delicatessen (1991)
Julie & Pouison in Delicatessen (1991)

Who can forget this timeless clip from the movie?

After Julie helps save Pouison from his ghastly fate, the post-Armeggedon skies clear up and Pousin returns to the normal life he remembered, when he could play his ‘Saw’ and just feel happy. One falls for the character of Pouison very early in the movie and Julie is soon to follow. His optimism in the face of his darkened circumstances and the general misery of his house-mates is like the forgotten feeling of having biscuits to eat with tea.

Clapet

Clapet-Delicatessen
Clapet in Delicatessen (1991)

Even though one comes to hate him, who can deny it is the character of Clapet that makes Delicatessen such a powerful film? He is the embodiment of a great villain; he is greedy, power-hoarding, manipulative and just downright nasty. His eagerness before murdering his victims is horrific, yet he meets a very well-deserved and satisfying end himself.

Post-Apocalypse-Cinematography

This is probably one of the most amazing elements in Delicatessen. Given that it’s 1991 and movies in Hollywood are still undergoing the effects of 80’s cinema, the cinematography and art direction is excellent. The audience is unable to determine what time, what era the film is pictured in; the mysterious fog is still masking every visible sign of the post-apocalyptic world. That just makes it more ethereal, more interesting to watch. I’m a bit of a fan of post-apocalypse scenarios and I would say, this one has probably one of the best futuristic, dreary environments ever pictured in film.

Delicatessen
Post-Apocalyptic Environment in Delicatessen (1991)

Aurore & Darker Themes

Of course, Delicatessen is ultimately a black comedy; the darker themes are ever-present, from cannibalism to accidental amputation. The failed ways in which Aurore tries to put an end to her life and the set-ups she manages to contrive are witty and pitiable, yet the ideas she is using and the artistic symbols used- a splash of red color, the halo of a lamp; they are truly great.

Aurore in Delicatessen (1991)
Aurore in Delicatessen (1991)

Nothing is better than a movie that plays on the solid roles of good and evil and good eventually prevails, although the end is bittersweet and lessons are always learnt. Also, for me, it’s okay to have a little bit of love to fight for, I mean, who doesn’t like to watch the underdogs fight and then prevail in the ultimate battle? As for Delicatessen, I say bring on the popcorn.

Suffusion of a Floral Kind

Odilon Redon. ‘Violette Heymann’. Pastel on paper. 72 x 92 cm

Flora infuses so much of artistic creation that if one were to surround himself with books upon books and painted panels and canvases and then close his eyes, he would actually smell all those flowers compressed into words and folded in pigment. He wouldn’t smell the paper or the paintings, that combined smell of ink and book shops, wood and oil, he would smell roses and narcissuses and wildflowers. He could stuff all those books and paintings into a juicer and out would come not pulpy manifestos dripping ‘T’s and ‘I’s, heightened here and there with a blob of Persian Blue or Indian Yellow, but clear, perfumed flower juice.

I remember having read Emerson say that ‘flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world’. I was overjoyed at reading these words. My drawings and paintings are incomplete without flowers because they contain so much symbolic value, it’s boggling!

One of the most important symbols they stand for is, of course, man’s own mortality. Flowers enact that bloom-to-gloom journey so deftly and with so much exaggerated beauty (they’re such actors!) that it is insanity to not use them as a symbol for our own such invariable journeys, especially when ours come clanking with a heap of other things such as education, money-making, fiery brawls in the name of love, dinner concerns, hospital bills, anniversaries and anti-aging creams. We resist death till our last breath, flowers don’t.

Flowers, so authors, artists and bards have proven, are a neater and more presentable way of showing the loose-locked, haggling mortality. Fragility, vulnerability are themes that come with the package. But the best thing about flowers is that they also, like us, have a darker side. So it’s not just rosy-cheeked, wide-eyed maidens, susceptible to aging and dying, whom they represent but also temptresses with poisonous properties, old as evil, bringing death in their wake.

Gardens in literature are not exclusively happy places, that much is certain. Burnett’s ‘Secret Garden’ and Wilde’s ‘Nightingale and the Rose’ feature botany trailing metres of woe behind it. Poetry, too, testifies to that but the references are numberless, I wouldn’t know where to begin! In art, Chagall’s infatuated, levitating brides-in-white and flying fiddlers traverse skies spread with flowers or hover like drunk bees on summer nights around giant bouquets. And Odilon Redon’s chalky flowers manifest themselves out of dreamy, smoky backdrops of colour clouds. Innocence and purity poised against time. The passing by of things. Love fading. No, flowers are not happy props, nor gardens happy places.

Marc Chagall. ‘Bouquet with Flying Lovers’. Oil on canvas. 130.5 x 97.5 cm
Georgia O’Keeffe. ‘Black Iris’. Oil on canvas. 91.4 x 75.9 cm
Abraham Mignon. ‘The Nature as a Symbol of Vanitas’. Oil on canvas. 79 x 99 cm

But by the side we have also such darker allusions to flora as found in Hawthorne’s ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ and Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ – gardens planted with menace, poison lurking unabashed, dressed in deceptive, flowery garb. The symbolic role of flowers broadens. The flower achieves the position of a mermaid song. Georgia O’Keefe’s ravenous botany leers and gapes. Abraham Mignon’s stagey and almost dangerous floral still lives stretch their tentacles. And then, there’s Mondrian.

How can one describe the flowers painted by this enigma? What I can gather from what I’ve seen of his work and what I’ve read about him is that he had a very, very polarized relationship with flora. He claimed to hate flowers, painting them only because they sold, and yet that quivering sincerity with which he painted them suggests otherwise. His lilies, chrysanthemums and amaryllises are like sad spectres made to pose singly in the light. Why is it that the lilies, especially, seem almost ashamed? That strange, watery way in which they stand there, quietly drooping and bleeding is more touching than some of the techniques of verisimilitude applied in paintings of great sacrifice or heroism.

Mondrian. ‘Lily’. Watercolour on paper. 25 x 19 cm

And yet why, despite this near translucence displayed by the flowers, did Mondrian distrust them? Was it because he felt that in all their lovely pathos, they would overpower his senses and steer him away from the grid-work and geometry of logic? Or because, more like the cold-blooded Doctor Rappaccini from Hawthorne’s story, he had dissected them and discovered that there was nothing but a bare-boned, stone-faced mechanism behind their beautiful facades?