Friday, February 10, 2012

Lay Your Head Down

I sat frozen in my theater seat. Watching the credits rolling and knowing that I needed a moment to find the strength to rise and leave. The song that held the credits caught me. Lay Your Head Down. I waited until the last roll and I knew, of course, Sinead O'Connor. Who better to bring comfort to what was a quiet, though excruciatingly painful film.

I went to see Albert Nobbs.

I am on an Oscar run. I am always familiar with the movies, but this year, for some reason, I've decided that I need to see all of the Best Picture and Best Actress films before the Oscar telecast. Not always an easy task; some movies I don't particularly care to see. But I love the movies, and there must something in it, if the film has been nominated, right?

Albert Nobbs, I wanted to see this one. I left a not-so-great day at work, and though I thought of the chores that needed tending to at home, I turned right, not left, and made my way to the 4:25 show. I thought that I would have the theater to myself when I first settled in; however, others came. And I was glad for it. I needed beating hearts around me to know that I was indeed alive in this world.

Mr. Page
Glenn Close was very good in the film. As I said, it was a quiet one, and she gave a very controlled, reserved performance. I recognized several of the other actors as well. Two of the women were from The Committments. And the hotel owner where Nobbs worked was in one of my favorites, Shirley Valentine. Jonathan Rhys Meyers showed up too, though unremarkable. I was taken at how old they all looked, and thought, jeez, where has the time gone? Hadn't I just seen those films? 
But Close was fine. I was taken by her hands. Her face looked like  without make-up, womanly. Yes, to some extent, she took on male mannerisms, but it was her hands that ever really made me think of her as a man. Who I was taken with was the actress, who played Mr. Page, also another woman living as a man in late 19th Century Ireland. She, Janet McTeer,  was a man. I give the Oscar to her. I was convinced that she was a man, and was attracted to her swagger.

Of course all of this chatter has nothing to do with what froze me to my seat. Before going, I had started reading the novella that the film is based on by Irish writer George Moore. I'm looking forward to going back into it. From the first, it seems that Glenn Close, who is one of the screenwriters for the film, was very true to the original word.

I have read enough other Irish prose to know that a recurrent theme until even recently is of the oppression of women in Irish society; the limited opportunities- social, education, or domestic- afforded them; and how the man, himself, was often full of a frustration at the hand of the colonizer or brutality of the bottle, and so colonized and brutalized his women. This was the case for both of the women in this film.

I couldn't help considering while sitting there, how many live hiding from their true selves because of interior (perceived) or outward oppression? Yes, I am going to pull all of the way out there. It is what made me so sad and feeling, lonely from watching Albert make his way. I don't feel that I hide, but I certainly know others. And I couldn't help thinking of my recently dead friend, Jeffrey. To this page, he doesn't mean much, but to me, he was someone .... who I could never hide from. As Albert lay dying, and hearing his name called just some one person caring about his well-being that made all of the difference to whether his life was worth living at all, I thought of him. Jeffrey died alone. Left for dead, for days. No one called. No one stopped by. No one. Living away from him, I didn't have the opportunity.

Stuck, I repeat the comforting mantra I have been reciting in my head since November, I know exactly what our last conversation was about. Who laughed. Who explained. Who listened. It took the beeping of two phones out of gas to end the conversation. And I told him that I love him.

I was Helen. I stood on the other side of the door and knocked. He smiled. And he died.

I'm left like Helen now. I don't see a Mr. Page ... yet. So many say to find him in myself. But I know what it is to hear that voice on the other side of the door, and cannot be satisfied with what is only in myself. I won't hide from it.

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