Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why Grief?

Thinking back on how my theme changed so quickly from addiction to grief, I think it was really matter of how realizing that the addiction, the compulsions, the absence, they are all signifiers; none of them are the actual issue at the heart of this character: under certain circumstances, compulsion and absence could be results of an addiction, but from my limited experience, addiction never comes from nothing, there is always a deeper issue at the heart of the problem.

Post-traumatic stress victims are known to self-medicate; people who suffer ailments like depression, grief can also be more susceptible to highly addictive substances. I'm not going to dispute that alcoholism is linked to genetics, I do not think that people are entirely, wholly responsible for their own actions, but I do think that issues such as depression, grief, trauma, physical illnesses, self-image issues, etc. have bearing on a person's ability to resist addiction.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a physician nor have I been addicted to narcotics at any point in my life, but reflecting on my own drinking/smoking, and especially adrenaline addiction, has influenced how I view addiction: it is a symptom of a larger issue.

I suppose there are plenty of cases where a person of excess has become addicted to high-value narcotics: coke, heroin, etc., but since I've never been in that kind of position, it's not one I can relate to. I've never been a "pusher" nor have I sought out drugs other than those available to public consumption, but have experienced some things akin to addiction, and having observed my girlfriend's (and to an extent, partaken in) grief over the death of her father, it is quite easy for me to imagine easily falling into the trap of an addiction. We never sought out illegal drugs after her father's death, nor did we drink particularly much, but we did smoke the shit out of our lungs. And when we finally came around to realizing how completely unhealthy and disgusting smoking is, she especially had a difficult time quitting.

The film Noel recommended I watch was "Permanent Midnight" and that is a perfect example of what I'm getting at: Jerry Stahl may have had some other issues, but his primary cause for addiction was excess. He had money to spend and access to whatever he wanted. I think of other drug/addiction stories: Requiem, Spun, Blow, The Doors, The Salton Sea, Drugstore Cowboy etc. and they are all stories that either deal with addiction and its effects, the drug trade, or excessive lifestyles--and sometimes all of the above. While there may be something I'm forgetting, nearly all of them neglect the reasons for addiction--unless it's because of excess. The mother's story in Requiem is probably the closest part that comes close to confronting the deeper issues behind addictions.

I don't mean to sound elitist--there are some people who simply have addiction-prone personalities--but I guess what interests me the most is self-medication, not simply "addiction", but self-medication because of something, and the only thing that would drive me to seek out highly addictive, highly numbing substances is a terrible, terrible loss: grief.

So I think what this really comes down to is my ability to cut to the heart of an emotional truth: I don't feel I could do something justice unless I can personally relate to it. And if you look at the things that have been successful and those that have failed in my filmography--and even outside of film--those things that have been failures are ones that I keep at a distance from myself. I don't do it intentionally. I wanted to make a chilling, surreal ghost story when I made Apparition, but I don't believe in the existence of ghosts. I didn't want to express my feelings on the matter through the medium of cinema, I just wanted to make something cool, scary, neat. Throw in a healthy dose of over-confidence and voila: a ripe recipe for failure. Take the horribly titled Shadow Way: it's not perfect, but it comes a lot closer to what I wanted to achieve than Apparition does, and those parts in it that are successful, "inspired", are those where I was trying to duplicate my own fear and trepidations when I happened upon that same hallway.

So, really, what this all boils down to is knowing my limits, and being true to my own breadth of experience.

Therefore, grief. What title?

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