Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Seneca
The Maid is a brilliant South Korean movie. Many modern-day cinematic highpoints hail from this peninsula where directors appear to have very few if any inhibitions about experimenting with cinematography and character development. A central protagonist might die after 80 minutes only to be replaced by another focal character around who the story continues seamelessly.
Often the time-constraints are also more relaxed than what one is used to from North Atlantic or Western European movies; rarely have I come across one of these South Korean gems that clocks in below the 120 minute mark. Not a hallmark of quality per se, this extended length, but in the best among these movies it is put to use in developing characters as well as involved plot-lines. In fact, rather than suspense of disbelief, there is a submergence of consciousness: by degrees, scene after scene, one is submerged more deeply into the waters of an alternate reality on the silverscreen.
Anyway, The Maid. Watching it, struck by its ineffable beauty [admittedly a psychologically dark stylization of SK upper-income life] shot from heart-stopping angles in and around a mansion on the hill, I suddenly felt the urge to resort to an ancient technology: screenshots. With a cellphone, mind you. Later that day I found myself on Google+; their programmers, locked, I imagine, in perennial mortal rivalry with the codeheads @ FB, Twatter, et al., had come up w/ this latest feature designed to take advantage of unending reservoirs of narcissism, the urge to post pics and a certain… narratophilia… the dim-witted programm cannibalized the screenshots I had taken for a shot-by-shot timeline and subscripted a few inane story tags. The landing page read „Saturday in Lucerne – a Story by Themba Mabona“ and the slowly scrolling picture showed the fur-coated wife of the main protagonist smiling at the attrium‘s entry‘s marble stairway as her husband departs in a limousine or other, two maids bowed in salute, one of them holding her spoiled daughter in her arms. Then it allowed one to scroll through the screenshots, the super saturday in Lucerne, ahm, South Korea. What a story! If you‘re first run-in with this app [can you call it an app if it‘s on a laptop? is that utterly laughable?] is a temporally correctly aligned series of selfies [god forbid], one‘s ego might soar in roaring thermals of delight but as it was it was a reminder of the ludicrous ploys w/ which social networks prey upon our vanity. And succeed.
The first screen shot shows the elderly head-maid, martinet but solicitous, exiting the mansion at nightfall to welcome back I don‘t know who. The younger Maid, I assume, after she had had an indiscretion with the pater familias [I cannot remember w any certainty the polyphonic plot].
The white flurries in the foreground, the lampposts, the trapeze of light cast by the atrium, the symbolism of the old woman venturing briefly out of her domain to retrieve her protegee, the vertiginous vantage, hardly any arrangement of words could do the geometric genius of this particular shot justice if it wished to replicate its visual splendor. Dear lowly lexemes!
The second shot is the epitome of a chiaroscuro still shot. Then slowly the camera, the maid, zooms in on its subject. A subject at rest, a subject in full animation. The stylish floorlamps stand sentinel amidst… fleeting notes of Bach or some such composer. The brilliant Korean day is streaming in through the middle of the picture but the man of the house is already home, resting, animated, at the piano; what is going on? And there is a ghostly shroud on the lower left; seriously, what?
The third shot is the visual zenith. I didn‘t see this coming, naive as I am. And even as the maid does it, like the daughter asking distraughtly „Was tut sie?“ I couldn‘t quite put it together. It is the calm in her gaze that is so incongruous. That and the elegance of the flowing motion. Not to mention the impossibility of when and how [not at all] she had angled/retrieved the noose from the chandelier. Aesthetics 1 : Continuity 0. This is the master living room and the entire family, plus grandmother, are enjoying some sort of upper-crust vespertine entertainment when the Maid strides into view on the upper-floor landing [launchpad I suppose] to make a pseudo-redemptive, crypto-accusatory speech before leaping to her death in one criminally smooth motion. The earlier care & concern she had shown for the six-year-old daughter, one must assume, tossed to the seven winds. Suicidals somehow neglect the niceties of development psychology. Anyway, the very moment I happened to hit the pause button produced tragic hilarity in the subtitles: Versprich mich nicht zu vergessen. – Was tut sie? [Promise not to forget me. – What is she doing?] A delusional demand paired with incipient trauma/denial [even the girl somehow must know what is going on]. Ta wata hanya, the fluidity and elegance of the self-destruction are – – –.
The year is ending, more precipitately now, the dark remains of it already are fluttering back up into the wings. Or so we hope, so we hope. World news, and what news are they, heavens!, telling us only&daily how tragedy, maximal misery finds its way into the human condition: for no good reason a holiday plane crashed into the seas beyond Borneo killing 160-smthng people vainly looking forward to 2015 – a travelbus skidded, went off the road and left a few passengers dead in snowy central Europe– some pitiable buffoon killed two men of the „law“ in „revenge“ before slaying himself – a lady got squashed to death by her senseless garage door – how many people died unprintedly in their beds and their hospitalbeds as well as the cum-strewn gutters of their slums, we will never know.
The year ends, 2014 makes a frosty exit, good riddance to it. Seven hours from now we can pretend none of it ever happened, that we [I] made some sort of mistake from which, oh ye lovely resolutions, we will certainly learn from. That 365 days once again were a learning experience rather than a hard reality that will haunt us with its futility upon our deathbed. This is the conciliatory perspective I choose to view matters from as a teacher, pardon my lingo, learning-process coach. And each unforgivable error, each premeditated white-lie, every fault along the way was, as we say, a rung on the infinite ladder of learning: per ardua ad astra. Never mind that a star, at close quarters, will roast you.
This annum is soon to be päättynyt, vamoosed, defenestrated by the callous, calamitous advance of chronos. So I bid goodbye with a crocodile tear, tongue-in-cheek and a middle finger raised in derisive salute. Gestures not so much directed at the general gestalt of the year-gone-by, as my quondam self, alter-ego-already, the slothadaisical 2014 version of themzini. Let me pretend he is going away and, a few hours hence, I will happily raise my glass to his departure.
Yes, Old Me, go to where giraffes graze on the horizon and the holy mother might hold your forgiveness. Go plead you old fool.