Monday, January 16, 2012

Youth, Illusion

We watched The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie again after a lapse of four decades. Miss Brodie is a fictitious, charismatic teacher in Scotland brim-full of romantic notions, the religion of true art, and an admiration of the emerging men-on-horseback of her time, Mussolini and Franco. The first time and now again my Mother’s romantic admiration of all things Italian (when I was still a child) came back powerfully as I watched Miss Brodie. Today—what with the passage of those decades—the realization came that the world always looks quite different in youth. Hope always springs eternal, and when the rosy fingers of some great new dawn seem to be coloring the edges of the sky, young hearts enlarge. So it had been with my then still very young Mother—before the grim tales of the various collective horrors actually unfolded. At my age one knows too much. Nothing any longer deceives or tempts—no Arab Spring, no Tea Party, no Occupy Movement. A while back now we had an occasion to see some of Leni Riefenstahl’s films; she was both Hitler’s best propagandist and unquestionably one of the greatest film talents of the last century—alas she got it both wrong, her subject and the time. But it is worth while sometimes to imagine seeing those movements, Mussolini’s, Hitler’s, as the people of their countries saw them early on. Then, as now, I am sure, those over 70 remained unimpressed, indeed quite dubious. It takes a lot of years before this wondrous, green or snow-glittery lovely world reveals its true face as the valley of the shadow of death. Is that man suffering depression? Naw. Quite cheerful; not what it sounds like. But one just knows. If in doubt, give it time.

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