Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Two years ago, I was living as a body without a soul. I was afraid to come here, but I came here anyway. They were very dangerous times. But I would rather die holding my musical instrument."
- Hazar Bassan, on being able to perform again in the courtyard of her music institute in Baghdad

I rarely watch a movie more than once. A repeat viewing seems pointless, an invitation for the "nervousness" that Gertrude Stein identified with bad theatre - the kind where you can predict with uneasy certainly exactly what is going to happen next.

But there are two big exceptions. One is the entire oeuvre of Andrej Tarkovsky (with the exception of Solaris; I finally hit the wall on that one). The other is Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne is a man recovering from living without his soul.

I have watched the Bourne trilogy frontwards, backwards, sideways. And every time I find something new.

Last night it was the night driving scenes in The Bourne Identity.

In the first, Marie was driving, thinking, bathed in green light from the dashboard while Jason slept. The soundtrack was a slow electric swell, the sound of solemn contemplation in motion. She was beginning to understand the predicament of this man without an identity, how frightened and alone he must feel. In Mittel Europa. Floating through this land thick with history, covered for now in a thick layer of snow that obliterated memory. A land where one seems constantly in silent search for oneself.

Tu sais qui je suis?

Je ne sais pas qui je suis.


The second was in a taxi, as they drove down the boulevards of Paris. The previous night, they had made love. But the amnesiac Jason had come across incontrovertible evidence that he had been an assassin. Marie gazed out her window in shocked silence, and Jason glanced over, realizing there was nothing he could do to bridge the gulf that now lay between them.

Jason Bourne

John Michael Kane

Gilberto do Piento

Paul Kay

Foma Kiniaev

Where is the soul?

(and mirrors everywhere)

In another scene in a car, Jason is going to the train station to drop off his bag in an anonymous locker, telling Marie to wait in the red mini. She has just witnessed a suicide and a murder following a bone crunching fight at Bourne's apartment, and found her face on a wanted poster to boot. She looks at the car keys Jason left in the ignition, and flips through the $20,000 he had given her. She could leave now and start a new life.

In the train station, Jason surveys his surroundings with a laser eye, as he always does. The departure board is flipping over new destinations.

Lille

Flanders

Bruxelles

Boulogne

K├Âln

Dusseldorf

Rotterdam

Amsterdam

Each a new possibility, a new place laden with history that could be his camouflage. He is holding a bag stuffed with more money than you or I will ever earn in a lifetime, and a handful of passports. He could leave now and start a new life.

But Jason goes back to the car, Marie decides to stay with him, and the stakes rise once again.

That existential space in those cars. What is it? Ripe with contemplation, brimming with tenderness, tinged with new possibilities. Mittel Europa.