Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Haste: A River Runs Through It

Long ago, when I was a young man, my father said to me, "Norman, you like to write stories." And I said "Yes, I do." Then he said, "Someday, when you're ready you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why."

Recently, I was brought to wonder how one tells a story gently.  Robert Redford, as director, was the first auteur to come to mind; specifically, the Montana based fly-fishing period drama "A River Runs through It" came to mind. 

Dear Jesse, as the moon lingers a moment over the bitterroots, before its descent into the invisible, my mind is filled with song. I find I am humming softly; not to the music, but something else; some place else; a place remembered; a field of grass where no one seemed to have been; except a deer; and the memory is strengthened by the feeling of you, dancing in my awkward arms. 

I tossed the movie in to test my hypothesis that the film was a gentle one, in that it dealt with difficult, piercing subject matter in a prudent, refined manner.  Initially, all signs pointed to affirmation of my prognosis.  Norman, our protagonist, is a writer.  He narrates the story from his perspective, and in doing so, intoxicates the viewers with his lovely-form prose.  He subdues the caustic moments with his word play based on the natural world (as the quote above indicates).  It is all refreshingly lulling.

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy. 

But then a strange thing occurred.  The last line of his narration.  The last breath of the film, potentially supplants all my notions of gentleness.

I am haunted by waters

Haunted?  That's how we are left.

Can hauntings be gentle?


  1. I just watched this again a couple weeks ago. That letter to Jesse stops my heart every time.

    I think hauntings can be gentle, creeping, and inevitable.

  2. Things that creep are not gentle. Creeping implies lurking. Lurking leads to things that are certainly not gentle.

    At some point Norman narrates that life is not art. Perhaps that comes into play here somewhere.

    Also, I just got around to watching Paranormal Activity this week -- and suffice it to say, I did not walk away from that experience feeling as though that haunting can be remotely comparable to anything I would consider gentle.