Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Oneself as Another

Oneself as Another suggests from the outset that the selfhood of oneself implies otherness to such an intimate degree that one cannot be thought of without the other...[This relationship is] not only that of comparison (oneself similar to another) but indeed that of implication (oneself inasmuch as being other).--Paul Ricoeur

Watched The Double Life of Veronique the other night and I'm still, contemplatively, wrapped up in it, somehow seeing its aura everywhere. I somehow knew from the first minutes that this was one of the most tremendous films I had ever seen. It's perhaps one of those amazing films you occasionally find you have put off watching for years and years, as if preparing yourself for something you know will be revelatory. In a way, the story of the movie has always been there, haunting you, part of you, hiding in the backdrop of your life. Indeed, I can still remember myself as an adolescent, puzzling over this empty video case in Foriegn section of the local video rental shop, but never once taking it out.

The film itself has got me thinking about identity, and the different parts of ourselves we carry around with us. Also the fact that Veronique must ultimately mourn the death of Weronika, this other who is also herself. She must search for this mirror image, even if she mistakenly thinks she is searching for romance (with an enigmatic puppeteer, no less). She must discover the real absence, the real person whom she misses and needs. That she finds her, in the end, only by chance is perhaps the most crucial thing.

Some days before, I had seen two fortune cookies on the ground, outside the same Chinese restaurant where I once spent my 21st birthday. (In fact, I still carry in my wallet the fortune I received on that very night, which says You are a person who goes places in the world.)

So there on the sidewalk outside the door of The Hon Lin Restaurant, ten years later, and two new cookies. The first was broken in half, the second unopened. Picking them up and saving them, I read the fortunes later that same evening. Immediately, I wanted to send them to somebody else, mail them as gifts, imagining their surprise. I also imagined myself in other lives, living whatever dreams these fortunes foretold.

I must admit, I never play the lottery, but these fortunes complelled me to do so and I very carefully played the numbers that were printed on their backs. It goes without saying that I lost, but that really isn't the point. The point was the will to imaginatively invest and creatively wager on the power of chance alone. I wanted to say a little prayer for chance.

Anyway, it reminded me later--after finally seeing Kieslowski's film--of something Veronique/Weronika might have done.

More than anything else in this film, it was the view Veronique awakes to in her father's house that startled me most. Because, although I was seeing it for the first time, I felt I already knew it, had been there to visit. Many times, I felt, I had opened those same doors and walked out, barefoot or rubber-booted on the grass. Many times, in many books, I had pictured scenes there and watched shadows play across the ceiling.

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