hell has been something of a theme for my Other Life of late: there was the Hellboy movie and the last Hellboy collection, most obviously; before that were Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile and Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman. i've also been trying to 'educate' myself in film and picked up some Ingmar Bergman titles (i've seen The Seventh Seal and The Magician so far--more on the inadvisability of watching Ingmar Bergman films in succession later), on top of which i finally got to see all three Infernal Affairs movies a few days ago.
when i picked it up, i had no idea Amelie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling would fit so comfortably in with the rest, whether thematically or in whatever other way. to begin with, i only picked it up because i was thirsting for something to have a conversation with about the Lost in Translation experience--yes, the one described so eloquently by Sofia Coppola in the movie--a conversation i thought i could have with My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, or Scarlett Johansson's Anywhere I Lay My Head (which actually ended up being a conversation with Tom Waits speaking through a This Mortal Coil filter, but i digress), if only because the Kevin Shields signature shoegazer sound seemed so perfect an accompaniment for all the other sensations in that movie.
(also, i found myself strangely enchanted by Ms Nothomb in this Guardian interview. the fact that she'd written something--ie, Fear and Trembling--about the shock of being immersed in Japanese culture was serendipitous; call it synchronicity. i do.)
in the end, however, it was Amelie-san's novella that gestured backwards, sweeping its hand over everything i'd just seen and read and pointed out the whole infernal affair (bwaha. i'll regret that later, i'm sure). or maybe i have it the wrong way round. maybe it's that context that makes me think of Amelie-san's book this way.
at any rate, i was surprised to find Fear and Trembling to be a most satisfying iteration of the 'redemption(TM)' brand of narrative arc, perhaps more successful a spin on the type than some of those other things on my list, despite being, in fact, nothing of the kind.
next on my reading list: Conrad Williams's The Unblemished. see? hell.
now, about Bergman...all signs seem to indicate i will most likely find myself agreeing with James Meek on the matter--though The Seventh Seal was heavy (and heavy-handed) on the existentialist philosophy, i actually found the ending rather celebratory, even life-affirming, if blackly so; The Magician even more so--but my subconscious doesn't seem to agree, as though it had been listening to other things, picking out other cues from the films than those i was consciously recognizing. it might not sound like it, but i've been immensely depressed of late, waking up each morning with Marvin sitting on my chest, refusing to let me up unless i let out a pointless sigh indicating my complete agreement with and resignation to his worldview.
i'll have to tread carefully through these films then; it might be a good thing that the one i have in front of me now, waiting to be popped into Pam's spinner, is The Devil's Eye, which, says the back of the dvd case, resulted from Bergman's 'need' to 'tell a joke'.
i suppose we'll see.