Monthly Archives: May 2020

The central event

We’ve come to the end of the day: let us say that in the course of that day something important has happened, something significant, the sort of thing that could be the inspiration for a film, that has the makings of a conflict of ideas that could become a picture. But how did this day imprint itself on our memory? As something amorphous, vague, with no skeleton or schema. Like a cloud. And only the central event of that day has become concentrated, like a detailed report, lucid in meaning and clearly defined. Against the background of the rest of the day, that event stands out like a tree in the mist […] Isolated impressions of the day have set off impulses within us, evoked associations; objects and circumstances have stayed in our memory, but with no sharply defined contours, incomplete, apparently fortuitous. Can these impressions of life be conveyed through film? They undoubtedly can; indeed it is the special virtue of cinema, as the most realistic of the arts, to be the means of such communication.

– Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time (tr. Hunter-Blair), via here

A lever

To ask for that which exists, that which exists really, infallibly, eternally, quite independently of our prayer, that is the perfect petition. We cannot prevent ourselves from desiring; we are made of desire; but the desire that nails us down to what is imaginary, temporal, selfish, can, if we make it pass wholly into this petition, become a lever to tear us from the imaginary into the real and from time into eternity, to lift us right out of the prison of self.

– Simone Weil, ‘Concerning the Our Father’ (tr. Craufurd)

Affliction 3

Extreme affliction, which means physical pain, distress of soul and social degradation, all at the same time, constitutes the nail. The point is applied at the very centre of the soul. The head of the nail is all the necessity which spreads throughout the totality of space and time.

Affliction is a marvel of divine technique. It is a simple and ingenious device which introduces into the soul of a finite creature the immensity of force, blind, brutal and cold. The infinite distance which separates God from the creature is entirely concentrated into one point to pierce the soul in its centre.

The man to whom such a thing happens has no part in the operation. He struggles like a butterfly which is pinned alive into an album. But through all the horror he can continue to want to love. There is nothing impossible in that, no obstacle, one might almost say no difficulty. For the greatest suffering, so long as it does not cause fainting, does not touch the part of the soul which consents to a right direction.


He whose soul remains ever turned in the direction of God while the nail pierces it, finds himself nailed on to the very centre of the universe. It is the true centre, it is not in the middle, it is beyond space and time, it is God. In a dimension which does not belong to space, which is not time, which is indeed quite a different dimension, this nail has pierced a hole through all creation, through the thickness of the screen which separates the soul from God.

In this marvellous dimension, the soul, without leaving the place and the instant where the body to which it is united is situated, can cross the totality of space and time and come into the very presence of God.

It is at the intersection of creation and its Creator.

– Simone Weil, ‘The Love of God and Affliction’ (tr. Craufurd)

Affliction 2

Affliction hardens and discourages us because, like a red-hot iron, it stamps the soul to its very depths with the scorn, the disgust and even the self-hatred and sense of guilt and defilement which crime logically should produce but actually does not. Evil dwells in the heart of the criminal without being felt there. It is felt in the heart of the man who is afflicted and innocent. Everything happens as though the state of soul suitable for criminals had been separated from crime and attached to affliction; and it even seems to be in proportion to the innocence of those who are afflicted.


Men have the same carnal nature as animals. If a hen is hurt, the others rush upon it, attacking it with their beaks. This phenomenon is as automatic as gravitation. Our senses attach all the scorn, all the revulsion, all the hatred which our reason attaches to crime, to affliction. Except for those whose whole soul is inhabited by Christ, everybody despises the afflicted to some extent, although. practically no one is conscious of it.


Another effect of affliction is, little by little, to make the soul its accomplice, by injecting a poison of inertia into it. In anyone who has suffered affliction for a long enough time there is a complicity with regard to his own affliction. This complicity impedes all the efforts he might make to improve his lot; it goes so far as to prevent him from seeking a way of deliverance, sometimes even to the point of preventing him from wishing for deliverance. Then he is established in affliction, and people might think he was satisfied. Further, this complicity may even induce him to shun the means of deliverance. In such cases it veils itself with excuses which are often ridiculous. Even a person who has come through his affliction will still have something left in him which impels him to plunge into it again, if it has bitten deeply and for ever into the substance of his soul. It is as though affliction had established itself in him like a parasite and were directing him to suit its own purposes. Sometimes this impulse triumphs over all the movements of the soul towards happiness. If the affliction has been ended as a result of some kindness, it may take the form of hatred for the benefactor; such is the cause of certain apparently inexplicable acts of savage ingratitude. It is sometimes easy to deliver an unhappy man from his present distress, but it is difficult to set him free from his past affliction. Only God can do it. And even the grace of God itself cannot cure irremediably wounded nature here below. The glorified body of Christ bore the marks of the nails and spear.

– Simone Weil, ‘The Love of God and Affliction’ (tr. Craufurd)

Ecstatic film joy

25th of June. Ecstatic film joy! Yes, that probably covers it … We went to the forest and shot a fantastic scene, which turned out totally Fellinian. I broke with the Dogma rule about not having any aesthetics and sprinted over to that part of my childhood’s forest… it’s a strange part, because I’ve used almost all the forests and streams and God knows what out here, but precisely this part of the forest, which I think of as the most poetic and almost Japanese part, I’ve never used. I naturally steered towards it, as I’d do on any ordinary walk, and it’s a tiny little pine wood with green grass, and we were blessed with a windy day.

We got some great poetry out of moving the conversation that didn’t work the other night from inside, where it didn’t belong, to out here, with this fantastically high ceiling. It was inspiring somehow, and all those loonies walking around, it was actually—this just occurs to me—it was actually Truffaut’s Fahrenheit something-or-other, where they walk around in the forest memorizing books, and it’s beautiful as hell, of course. So the loons were walking around each in his or her own way, while Karen and Stoffer talked, and it really got very very poetic, for example the line where he says ‘in the Stone Age all the idiots died, but it doesn’t have to be like that anymore’. It was very poetic when the shot simultaneously panned out over all the idiots, especially Ped, who was in the wheelchair, it was just very beautiful and fantastically naive and sentimental and everything all at once. You might say those are the kinds of gifts you get along the way. Things you wouldn’t have written in a manuscript because it would be over the top, you suddenly get as a gift, and that’s allowed. That’s actually what all the Dogma rules are about—that you can allow yourself a lot of things precisely because of the rules. And it turned out fucking great, that scene.

Then we tried to work a bit creatively with the sound for the first time, that’s to say we stuck the microphone in the treetops and got the wind in the treetops over lots of shots of the spazzes just walking around, so we don’t hear their real sound, just the treetops. And it’s so so so over the top, an over-the-top cinematic cliché, which I’ve otherwise shied away from, but which suddenly, because we had to make the decision on the spot, became real and worked fucking brilliantly. Well, that’s what I think now, anyway, without having seen it. I was almost moved when Josephine and Jeppe touch each other while they’re spazzing. The funny thing about this film is that it only takes a milligram of love in some little corner, and you’re… and you break down in convulsive sobs. Maybe it’s just my brain that’s totally hyperactive, but that’s how I feel…

It’s a film that’s a lot less calculating than Breaking the Waves, and yet far far far far more calculating. Well, that might be hard to understand, not more calculating, but much more… I don’t know… allowing yourself to go on an effect-picnic with many many nods to Widerberg and Truffaut and Tarkovsky and blah blah blah. But it was fucking beautiful, and… when I was filming there I cried and on the way home I cried too, the soft little man in his stupid giant mobile home listening to the Spice Girls. And then I get—I can hardly bring myself to say this, but I guess a diary demands some sort of honesty—then I get so maudlin and suddenly afraid for… my talent. Well, this really isn’t easy to listen to, I’m totally aware of that, but when you’ve done a scene like that—and that’s why I’m talking about the ecstatic—you get scared that there’s some big big hubris that’ll drop down from the sky like a giant fist and squash you like one of those mosquitoes from the forest. I thought, ‘surely I’ll get cancer now, surely I’ll get cancer now’. There’s no way out once you get to that point. And it may be that we’ve achieved nothing today, but still the feeling is intact. I’m thinking, ‘for Chrissake, I’m brilliant, I’m brilliant, I’m brilliant’. I’m brilliant, and it’ll be interesting to see this in print when the film comes out and it gets the finger. But I still think that for the sake of the cause I have to say it as it is—that on the way home I thought ‘Jesus, this is awesome… Jesus, you can really do this shit, you can really set these things free’.

— Lars von Trier, The Idiots film diary (my trans.)


Let us continue… Life goes on. My camera… I’m not making films. I’m just filming. The ecstasy of filming. Just filming. Life around me. What I see, what I react to, what my fingers, my eyes react to. This moment, now, this moment, when it’s all happening. Ah, what ecstasy.

– Jonas Mekas (at 43:35)


The ever-veiled gift

In my youth, the vigil days, the days before the high feast days, were the most mysterious; they enchanted all expectations, and yet they placed everything into stillness, that which draws back into itself. The blue color of the chasubles on these days gathered everything into an inexplicable depth. The feast day itself seemed then almost as if empty and overly loud and drawn into the public eye. No one respected the vigil. Presumably because we can hardly measure how it is that all true and inviolable treasure of mortals rests in the unattained, in the granting of the ever-veiled gift.

— Heidegger, The Black Notebooks (tr. Capobianco)

Affliction 1

Affliction [malheur] is an uprooting of life, a more or less attenuated equivalent of death, made irresistibly present to the soul by the attack or immediate apprehension of physical pain. If there is complete absence of physical pain there is no affliction for the soul, because our thoughts can turn to any object. Thought flies from affliction as promptly and irresistibly as an animal flies from death. Here below, physical pain, and that alone, has the power to chain down our thoughts; on condition that we count as physical pain certain phenomena that, though difficult to describe, are bodily and exactly equivalent to it. Fear of physical pain is a notable example.

When thought is obliged by an attack of physical pain, however slight, to recognize the presence of affliction, a state of mind is brought about, as acute as that of a condemned man who is forced to look for hours at the guillotine that is going to cut off his head. Human beings can live for twenty or fifty years in this acute state. We pass quite close to them without realizing it. What man is capable of discerning such souls unless Christ himself looks through his eyes? We only notice that they have rather a strange way of behaving and we censure this behaviour.


As for those who have been struck by one of those blows that leave a being struggling on the ground like a half crushed worm, they have no words to express what is happening to them. Among the people they meet, those who have never had contact with affliction in its true sense can have no idea of what it is, even though they may have suffered a great deal. Affliction is something specific and impossible to describe in any other terms, as sounds are to anyone who is deaf and dumb. And as for those who have themselves been mutilated by affliction, they are in no state to help anyone at all, and they are almost incapable of even wishing to do so. Thus compassion for the afflicted is an impossibility. When it is really found we have a more astounding miracle than walking on water, healing the sick, or even raising the dead.

– Simone Weil, ‘The Love of God and Affliction’ (tr. Craufurd)

A statement of a general nature

Man does not make a statement of a general nature without betraying himself completely, without unintentionally putting his whole ego into it, without presenting the basic theme and original problem of his life somewhere in the parable.

– Thomas Mann (via)


It would be futile if I were to try to tell how I have perceived God’s assistance in this. For example, it has been inexplicable to me (what has so often happened to me) that when I did something and could not possibly say why or it did not occur to me to ask why, when I as a very specific person followed the prompting of my natural impulses, that this, which for me had a purely personal meaning bordering on the accidental, that this then turned out to have a totally different, a purely ideal meaning when seen later within my work as an author; that much of what I had done purely personally was strangely enough precisely what I should do qua author. It has been inexplicable to me how very often seemingly quite accidental little circumstances in my life, which then in turn admittedly became something very considerable through my imagination, brought me into a specific state, and I did not understand myself, became depressed – and see – then out of this developed a mood, the very mood I should use in the work with which I was engaged at the time, and at just the right place. There has not been the slightest delay in the writing; what was to be used has always been at hand the very moment it was to be used.

– Kierkegaard, The Point of View for My Work as an Author (tr. Hong & Hong)