Finally got to see the academy award winning film, The Artist.
This is the second film on the list of nominees that I have seen, the other being Hugo (which I’m stoked to see is out…at least on iTunes). You probably already know by now that The Artist is the story of George Valentin, a silent film star, who has to redefine himself in the burgeoning era of “Talkies.”
After seeing “The Kings Speech” last year I had incredibly high hopes for The Artist. I could not believe how enthralled I was as I watched this film. I had no idea that my attention could be hijacked by a silent film. It was wonderful. While I can’t say that it was a King’s Speech, it really was a wonderful film. There were breathtaking scenes and absolutely captivating performances. This was a skillfully directed film. The music was necessarily center stage and it was brilliant…ebullient even. I was especially interested in the contrasting, if not ironic, way the music and the scene were paired together.
It was a very clever story, although it wasn’t as solid as you would expect for a Best Picture. Too much rested on the main characters without a subplot to keep you hooked. While some may argue with that statement, one could say that there were subplots, they just weren’t in the screenplay. Dangling over the characters like Damocles’ sword were these mega themes that operated behind the scenes and in the heart of the protagonist.
The Artist, George Valentin, is an Everyman. This movie could have been called The Mechanic, if it had been in an auto shop. The Teacher, if in a school. The Lifeguard, if starring Kevin Costner.
Lurking in the heart of every man is The Artist.
One of the reasons that I was so moved by this character was that Valentin’s insecurity was like a parking brake an his life. I know what that is like. Valentin was confident in the old system, the old industry. What, he wondered, would people think if they heard his voice? What if they rejected his voice the way they rejected his art form and his identity? Could he cope with more profound rejection? How can his voice, which was irrelevant in the previous era, matter in the new one?
As a public speaker, I go through this weekly, but most everyone does. Do you ever hesitate to update your status on Facebook because you are afraid no one will care? Ever cancelled a twitter, because you don’t want to be misunderstood. How about an email, text, or voicemail? We are all finding our voice.
I saw this as a marvelously artistic critique of denominational church culture at this point in time. The silent stars film don’t see the value of the talkies, and the talkies don’t weight the value of the past. Either way, the world will never be silent again.
There is this terrifically sad where the John Goodman character plays a screen test, with voice, for George Valentin. He laughs. He has no space for the future in his worldview – but more than that, he has no room for it in his skill set, career and experience. In fact, he says as he laughs his way out of the room, “If that’s the future, you can have it!”
The interplay between the Valentin character and the Poppy character is a sober and challenging look at how the two world views (sometimes called modern and postmodern) coexist. It has everything to do with love and collaboration. Mind you, there is no going back, but there is no going solo, either.
I believe many of us in a whole variety of disciplines have to navigate this tension in our contexts. Without getting too prescriptive, here’s the deal: we don’t go to silent films anymore, we aren’t headed backwards through history. BUT a silent film just won the academy award. Go figure.
We are all trying to find our voice. We are all addressing our insecurities; and how much moreso when the word we create is replaced?
We all live in a world in transition. It will move beyond us faster today than ever. The investment in relationship today is the only way through as far as I can tell. Like Poppy says, “I wanted to take care of you.”
Valentin’s quest was to find something to hold onto.
Something he could count on through change.
Don’t we all?