Thursday, February 23, 2017
Our Death 30 / On Ways to Say Goodbye
On the fourth day of my sickness I lay in bed increasingly concerned by the status of a memory I couldn’t shake: a village at twilight, uninhabited houses, several animals burning. I was sure I had never been to this village. The texture of the sky, the nameless blue of the mist, everything suggested an apocalypse that it was impossible for me to have lived through. It reminded me slightly of the early scenes in The Time of the Wolf. You know. The sections after the father has been shot dead, but before they reach the wasteland. Great gusts of silhouette. No shelter or food to be found. The splintered meanness of the countryside. It put me in mind of the mass incineration of farm animals during the foot and mouth outbreak that took place in Britain in 2001. You remember that? When they burnt all the animals. I remember seeing the images on TV, and saying to everyone who’d listen that Britain was in serious danger of putting a hex on itself, behaving like that. The ghost mathematics involved in that: smug lifestyle journalism plus retro guitar chords plus the 1990s compressed until they are transformed in their sleep into incinerated, invisible villages. That type of thing. Obviously I was right. But it wasn’t that was bothering me. It was simply the light, the unnameable blue at the centre of this nameless memory, a still-point that should but couldn’t be passed through. That’s what the end of the world looks like, in The Time of the Wolf, which sometimes I think is my favourite piece of apocalypse cinema simply because you learn precisely nothing, except for the simple fact that you can’t tell whether or not the end of the world has just happened or is merely about to happen. Like a sleepless night, an endless regret, or a hex that you dropped in a parallel life. You feel far from yourself, like that part of the land which is also part of the sea. A sadness so great that you have to invent new words to express it, and when you say those words either you or everything else vanishes, and you’ll never be able to quite tell which. Except that you will go out into the streets and it will be very quiet, and there will be new constellations in the sky, and you’ll know they’re new because they will already have names. The Kids Who Jumped Into the Fire. The Strangled Bird. The Blood of Horses. The Incineration of the Pigs. The Deserted House Burning. The Defence Speech of Emile Henri. Etc. A huge meteor will be approaching. It will contain all of your unlived memories. All your unspoken names. The other half of a helplessly oppositional sky.