A revelation, a drama next door, and a disturbing movie

10th September, Berlin, 6:09pm, it’s been an active week. Wednesday it was the literature event with Jamaica Kincaid. Thursday it was opera Carmen. And Friday it was watching the concert of Poets of The Fall at Columbia Theatre. We had a good elevated position during the concert, no tall people obstructing our view. And for the first time in my life I could clearly see what’s going on on the stage. I could see each band member’s energy levels, their attitudes towards the event, how they are interacting and moving into each other’s space, how the keyboard player and the drummer were too far in the shadows of the stage, etc. I was experiencing a clarity I never had before. I was seeing dust particles hanging in the air, strings of light being reflected from the metallic ears of the bass guitar, and every little gesture of the lead singer. After a while I was surprised by my own power of perception. How come everything was so crystal clear? What was going on? Then I realised that it was the ear plugs! I’ve been to countless concerts. I’ve watched Elton John, Katy Perry, Linkin Park, Metallica, Ricky Martin (I know it’s a wild range) but I’ve never known that I needed ear plugs to enjoy a performance. I guess the loud sounds were overwhelming all the other senses and I was just tolerating all this time. The body never ceases to amaze me. And I keep surprising myself with my lack of self awareness. 

Last session we had a wholesome conversation with Tanatsuko. Towards the end of the stream they shared a good story that happened to them. Their screaming and fighting neighbours, Tanatsuko calling the police, then the woman who’s being beaten by her boyfriend unwilling to testify, and Tanatsuko losing their peace of mind and deciding to live with their parents for a while. The first striking element of this story is the victim not testifying to the police and not protecting herself. Why! On a small level I can understand continuing an uncomfortable relationship, but the moment violence is introduced she should’ve been out of the house. Doesn’t she have anywhere else to go? Was she afraid that he would follow her? Doesn’t she trust the police to be able to protect her? Does she think the upside of the relationship can tolerate a bit of abuse? Is there some sort of perversity involved? I recently read Crash from J.G.Ballard where people enjoyed car accidents and cheating each other and telling each other their lovers names during intercource. Of course it’s an exaggeration but these kinds of weird psychological associations are possible. Tanatsuko suggested Stockholm syndrome may be the case which is a difficult phenomenon to wrap your head around. There is another interesting part to the story and that’s the upright neighbour being sucked into the fighting couple’s chaotic vortex. Tanatsuko’s life is altered the moment they decided to care and act like a responsible citizen. The moment the beaten woman didn’t testify she dragged Tanatsuko to her losing side. Because if the abusive boyfriend learns that Tanatsuko called the police, he may target them too. This is a great story that is full of tension and open questions regarding the state of minds of all the actors with a powerful conflict in the centre. What are the other neighbours doing meanwhile? Just being bystanders? Can you record the sounds and report it to the police as the proof? Can law and order protect you even if you don’t want to be protected? But then what would stop governments to step into our personal boundaries and become autocratic in the name of protection? We can talk about what kind of situations or a culture that created the aggressors, but that would be an endless conversation about a wild mixture of education, religion, and economy. In some countries domestic violence is even the norm, not the edge case. I hope in Germany we won’t let this fester. I’m curious how the story will continue.

Tonight we watched “Speak No Evil” at the Berlin Fantasy Film Festival. At the beginning of the movie, the director said he wanted to shoot the most disturbing Danish movie ever made. You can tell that every decision was made to create an uncomfortable experience. The usage of eerie music for no apparent reason in the most mundane scenes, behaviour that is slightly off, like a smile that is a bit too eager, or a pause or a stare that is a bit too long. As the slight disturbances accumulate ever so slowly, you find yourself almost ready to ignore most of them, but the foreboding grows every minute. Like a dream that starts to go wrong but one you’re not ready to wake up yet. The end escalates rather quickly, compared to the slow buildup of the rest of the movie. For me the most powerful moment was the little girl being scared in the car. It’s really alarming when a child picks up subtle clues of a situation and realises danger before the grown ups or the viewers. It felt like watching a scream and being viscerally affected by what they are scared of.

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