Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year! (reflections on the double)

A new day begins today.

But first, a moment for the past:

Recently, I finished reading The Memory Wars by Frederick Crews, which essentially dismantles the whole Freudian edifice and the 'recovered memory' movement. My head was buzzing with latent disgust with the whole Freudian project. Then I saw Francis Ford Coppola's version of Mircea Eliade's "Youth Without Youth". The film is, on the whole, pretty good. It is very faithful to the novel. However, by the same token, I wonder why would anyone want to make a film of this book. The book seems to be steeped in the application of Freudian theory (to some extent) to language. This is evidenced in the main character's project of recovery of the origins of language. The film also enlists the aid of a double. There are entire scenes where the main character (well played by Tim Roth) holds entire conversations with himself. This notion of the double or doppelgänger is reminiscent of Vladimir Nabokov's Despair, (or of Edgar Allen Poe's story "William Willson" which was filmed by Louis Malle amongst others) which was elegantly brought to the screen by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. These are just a few examples of the double in film and literature that I can think of at the moment. They are not without merit, however, in the case of "Youth Without Youth" they add another layer to the general impression that the director is going-for-broke obscurity. Prior to seeing the film, I read the novel and was prepared for the story. On the other hand, If I neglected to do so, I might have been a bit lost or at the very least would have left the film feeling I might have got more out of it had I read the book.

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