As my work progresses I continually ask the question ‘what is it about?’ The best current answer I have is it is about the emotional experience of someone, me, going through a traumatic time over the last two years. What I want my work to convey is that experience in its essence to connect with that part of other human beings that have gone through something similar. I was reminded last week of the powerful role of metaphor as a way to build an artistic work. This begs the question what is the metaphor for my work?
I reference Taxi Driver as an example. Scriptwriter Schrader says ‘The film is about a car as the symbol of urban loneliness, a metal coffin’ (Pelan). The car is the metaphor for loneliness. As Travis (Robert De Nero) says ‘Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man.’ (Pelan).
Taking the car in Taxi Driver as the metaphor for loneliness was really helpful for me as a lens to look through watching the movie again.
I also watched Midnight Cowboy this week with the Cowboy being the metaphor for a wretched life. Jon Voigt plays the role superbly along with Dustin Hoffman in which their relationship shows how the wretchedness just gets worse and worse. In my own work I relate in one sense to Joe’s (Voigt’s) over cheerfulness and energetic optimism. Never giving up hope when it is clear he is on a bad path. I also see parallels with the death of Ratso (Hoffman) and the death of my wife. Only then does Joe find a form of release in a heartbreaking movie …As he concludes ‘“I’m not much of a hustler.” Bad luck follows him like a cloud. You want to shake him by those broad shoulders.’ (Daley). My hopelessness during the final stages of my wife’s illness and whatever I did things got worse looked like Joe’s experience. Ratso dying in the end is a relief for viewers of the movie as much as we love Ratso. Similar feelings are evoked following the death of my wife. A horrible illness is like a wretched life and someone supporting someone with a horrible illness is like Joe supporting Ratso.
We understand and feel for Joe and for Travis in Taxi Driver even if we have not lived their life. Both of these movies touched something in me in relation to my own experience. This has to be one objective of my work.
Pelan, T. Approaching Menace: The American Pathology of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ Cinephelia and Beyond. [online]. Available at ( https://cinephiliabeyond.org/approaching-menace-the-american-pathology-of-martin-scorseses-taxi-driver/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThat%20was%20when%20the%20metaphor,people%2C%20yet%20has%20no%20friends. ) [accessed September 21st, 2020]
Daley, C. 2015. The film that makes me cry: Midnight Cowboy. The Guardian. [online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2015/mar/13/the-film-that-makes-me-cry-midnight-cowboy-jon-voigt-dustin-hoffman [accessed September 21st 2020).