Thursday, February 25, 2010

Red Riding: 1974, 1980

"Red Riding" is a series of films, 1974, 1980, and 1983, which are based on a quartet of books by the British author David Peace. I saw the first two of these three films last night at the IFC Center at West 4th and 6th Ave.

I'd been prepared for these movies by reading the piece on them in the New York Times, which made me want to see them, although in retrospect I wonder why. Perhaps it was because of the photograph ran with the story, a still from the first film, which presents the young journalist, who is investigating the abductions of three girls, which the narrative of that film largely follows. More likely, it was the promise of blood and gore, the strangely seductive dream of human bodies rendered un-life-like. In my defense, the first paragraph describes horror non-sex-centric. As if that is possible.

My conscience is slightly assuaged by the knowledge that two of my friends who are paragons of feminist virtue both vigorously consumed 2066, whose most horrifying elements described dryly the murders of more than a hundred Mexican women. Thus, it is not violence porn that drives me (I couldn't even finish that part of the book!), right?

Ah, ethical motives.

Anyway, it's a tough set of movies to see. At this moment I am trying to figure out whether to go and the see the last film tonight or to rent it on Netflix.

It's not because of the story of the abductions, which is only part of the first film and is mostly a provocation for the narrative, but about which the narrative actually doesn't concern. Similarly with the second, which is roughly based on the Yorkshire Ripper killings during the 1980s. In fact, both films are about investigating murders and the vicissitudes of administrative power. In 2066, the subject matter is the same. Bolaño pushes the narrative to follow a few police officers and other related figures finding bodies of women, so that the time the precipitates these victims to their final moments is unaccounted for.

This, it seems to me, is the attractive force in every criminal story. The vestiges of some unthinkable occurrence are found. Vision partially reconstructs how the pieces may have fallen into this order, but always lacks the comprehension that would complete it. What is remarkable about the murder scene is what is missing and yet what is present. The murder scene is, ironically, alive. It bears its own identity and secret; it has a personality, but is wholly mute. I suspect that before the televisual, murder scenes were fairly uninteresting. I say this because they are spectacles par excellence.

For this reason, the justice the murder receives in a trial court is the best possible resolution. By this I do not mean that conventional justice is perfect, but that it is necessarily inadequate. The contemporary trial courtroom tends to lack windows and that is always completely appropriate (I know this grace à "Nightline", etc. The courtroom must be cut off from any natural affects (sunlight, for example) that might allow it to correspond to the needs of human life. In the courtroom the narrative is slowly constructed, in pieces, through an almost orchestral presentation. Each performance is unique and inimitable. And the judge and jury are asked to maintain attention and concern through this performance and then to give judgment. But the judgment is a single, hollow word that quickly passes into eternity.

And words are never equal to the event that has occurred. Yet their inadequacy is a perfect response to the silent haunting of the murder scene.

P.S. This is not what "Red Riding" is about.


Dr. Trott said...

Do you think that Bolaño is violent in the same way that Funny Games is violent? Given that I am one of your feminist friends who has read 2666 (though paragon of feminist virtue? Not even sure what that means) I think I need to justify myself for being able to read that section through. As you know, I've been blogging about similar books that take up the questions of violence against women -- Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. And I do think that Larsson is susceptible to the criticism that even as he criticizes violence against women he still sensationalizes it for entertainment value. I'm not sure Bolaño does the same thing. I found Bolaño's depictions to be almost journalistic. I didn't take pleasure in reading about it, but I also felt a certain responsibility to read it, as if even in fiction, real stories needed to be given to dead nearly-anonymous women.
This raises the question of whether we can tell the stories of women who have been violently killed or attacked without sensationalize, without making it entertaining. If we can't, should we stop telling the stories or should we become critical of ourselves? This issue of the entertainment or voyeuristic pleasure that violence offers you has been a theme throughout your blog so I wonder if you have thought more about the justice of having to tell certain stories (like the story of Nazi Germany) without making it pleasureable. I am reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Seinfeld makes out with his date during Schindler's List.

Chet said...

No, I do not think they are really the same, that is, Bolano and Funny Games. You are right to suggest that there is a remarkable quality about Bolano's description of the murders that floats above the danger of enjoyment. Pardon my efflorescence, as I am still recovering from the effects of a very serious drinking episode.

More on this later.