Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Giving Up the Ghosts

I was a morbid child. I'm sure that surprises exactly none of you. I don't know why I was obsessed with death -- perhaps it was its absence? I had several great-grandparents alive well into my teenaged years, not to mention the swarm of grandparents -- perhaps then it was the fact that I was surrounded with the specter of death's possibility for so long. I stood too long on the precipice and became obsessed with the void laid out before us all.

Whatever the psychological wherewithal of it I can recall spending hours forcing myself into fits of melodramatic sobs in the mirror thinking about all the people I loved who were going to drop dead at any moment. It was my performative drag -- goth child, pale and holding a lacy black handkerchief to one wet eye. I will be the witness to the end of everything. (And all the brim-stony preaching I got about The Imminent End of Times was probably helpful in this regard as well, I suppose.)

Even now writing about these inclinations I get a little nervous -- all but one of those grandparents have died and the afterlife has lost its luster; I see us now as a gathering of bones, up one minute and down the next -- but what if I should summon dark shadows across what remains of my mortal coils by spilling these fascinations? I've only lost one person who was truly close to me (my paternal grandmother) -- real grief and true loss are still relative strangers. 

Such is the push and pull of Death -- its messy tendrils under every fiber and knob of our beings, ready to peel us bare at a yank's notice. It's always there, wrapping up everything, a warm hum whispering us to sleep every night. We dance til dawn, a sick lover's bloody cough into a napkin the stuff of music, song -- everything is nothing, endless heaving dirt swallowing us up from the ankles.

Anyway it's always nice to know I'm not alone with these squealing morbidities -- I have plenty of company in watching the clocks wind down, and now a new friend. I already reviewed Shawn Snyder's film To Dust once last year (read it here) but having re-watched it twice this week before its release on Friday I feel the need to re-embrace this fellow co-conspirator in the sick bad thoughts that make us people, human and flesh and eventually, as it goes, the flouncy stuff of dust itself, brushed off an urn, a piece of furniture.

To Dust reckons with questions that too much stay ignored -- pale little goth orphans shivering in the cold cool moonlight -- and then it reckons harder, deeper, and wanders itself into fields and streams and death-dreams that you don't see coming. 

That is to say it goes dark, or as one character puts it, into 'some fucked up shit," and bless it for it. It does so with grace and great goofy humor -- all the better to leaven the hard bread, stale with gut-sickened thoughts of our own mortalities. To Dust is not afraid of hard questions and human frailties, and of letting us sit for a spell in the knowledge that none of us know jack-shit about jack-shit and that that, my fellow ghouls, is just absolutely okay.
PS if you're in New York City the film, which opens on Friday, will have some star-studded Q&As this weekend at the Village East Cinema -- you can see it on Friday night with writer-director Shawn Snyder and producers Alessandro Nivola & Emily Mortimer, or you can see it on Saturday with Snyder alongside the film's star Geza Rohrig. Check out the website for tickets. And you can watch the trailer right here if you missed it.

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