June 10, 2013

MUSE: The Art of Dying

If you were to disappear right now, what would we find in your home? What story would your boxes, your furniture, your wardrobe, your collection of books and letters... what would they reveal? I'm sure this is a startling thought to those who over-value their privacy. And if you think about it long enough, it might even prompt you to start looking at your stuff differently. Who knows? As a wannabe anthropologist, it fascinates me.

"I'm not afraid of dying.
I just don't want to be there when it happens."- Woody Allen

A few weeks ago, we congregated in my parent's garage to begin the process of decluttering (not to suggest that my parent's stuff is clutter - they are, in fact, both highly organized people who filter out junk regularly). Nonetheless, when I brought out a "bag of bags", my mother hesitated. "You never know when you'll need a bag," she said. I put the bag back on the shelf of "you never know" stuff. My mom is a very frugal person who taught us, "Waste not, want not." Good advice, at any price.

Coincidentally, I've recently seen a few award-winning films by talented people who are documenting the recent past left behind by their grandparents or parents. As the "baby-boomer" generation ages and the Internet increases our ability to share these adventures openly and widely, I have no doubt that we'll see more of this "peeking" into our family histories.

The Flat is a heart-warming and intriguing documentary as told by an Israeli Jew seeking to unravel the mystery of a friendship between his grandparents and a German couple. The husband of the German couple is a member of the Nazi party, and the film-maker cannot understand how, after the horrors of WWII, the friendship continued. His mother is equally in the dark, as she was brought up not to ask questions, and no information was offered. Speaking about life before the war was verboten. Together, they travel to meet the various people who are still around and who might provide answers. The story is told with compassion and a great deal of respect, and you can see how the mother and son are brought closer together as they seek out answers.

The second one I saw has the unfortunate title of Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse. In this instance, it is the mother who has died from a sudden heart attack, and her two sons are brought together to clean out her rented apartment. Their discovery - that she was a troubled hoarder - means that they spend close to a month, working from dawn to dusk, as they deal with (as the title suggests) a mountain of garbage and papers, including the souvenirs of a privileged upbringing and all the spending that goes along with it (Mom was royalty, Dad was wealthy), as well as the painful details of a messy divorce which ultimately tore the family apart and left the sons estranged from both parents. Again, the boys seem to bond over the experience, and more questions are raised than asked.

Bonfire, anyone? Sounds like a plan. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, dear, yes, a difficult and inevitable dilemma. It's startling how much accumulates over a lifetime. I mean, who needs 7 toasters even if you -do- fix them? Thanks for the film leads. :)

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