The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World

did you read the profile of céline sciamma that came out recently? in the theater, I kept thinking about this:

In canonical, historically male storytelling, Sciamma suggested, the character’s desire is itself a source of conflict: “ ‘I wanna be rich, but I’m in love with that girl.’ Or, ‘I have to be the Godfather, but I wish I could be an artist.’ There’s the official desire, and there’s the secret desire. There’s never just one desire.” For a long time, she said, she had looked at her life with “conflicted desire.” Had the subtext perhaps been “that big conflict in desire that is designed for us by society—every woman?” Part of her new freedom, she said, was, at forty-three, “knowing now this very clear thing in my life, that I won’t be a mother.”

Today, when she thinks about her work, she no longer has two warring thoughts: on the one hand, “Oh I love my job, I’m all about my job, I do my best, I’m so privileged,” and, on the other, “I’m tired, and I never go on holiday, what is my private life?”

“Now I’m, like, ‘No, this is my life! I make films because I like the life that I lead making films.’ It’s all career. It’s not, like, ‘Oh, I’m making films, so I don’t have a wife.’ I make films also to fall in love, because I’m gonna travel, I’m gonna meet people. It’s not like then it has a downside. That’s your life.”

What if the thing you’ve been weighing against “life” is itself life? What if it’s all one thing, and not a bunch of trade-offs? “I’m not saying that you have to love it all,” Sciamma said. “But, yes, you should love it all.”

anyway, this film wasn’t the one for me. I think, maybe, it was striving for this view of sciamma’s but missed. in the profile, she talks about standard storytelling structures as rooted in violence, in patriarchal predestination, and the late-story beats feel more contrived and more thoughtlessly cruel to Julie in this contextual framing than I might have thought had I not read this article yesterday. maybe it’s because Trier is a man, I don’t know. I think you can argue that Julie’s journey is one where she gets to a place of contentment in the end, but what propels her there and what hampers that conclusion is that all the motivating factors are external factors. where is Julie’s internality? what do I know about her, really? I know she’s “lost,” or whatever, but what if I don’t care about a pretty white heterosexual ciswoman discovering feminism for twelve minutes in service of writing one viral article about blowjobs? who cares? does she care?
when she told eivind that she could really be herself around him, I didn’t believe her. because I don’t think she knows who that self is. which I guess is the point. but the really extraordinary thought of sciamma’s is that that place of joyful acceptance is both a choice and not a choice. it lives inside you and you have to square up to it. you don’t have to love it all but you should love it all. I just—to make a miscarriage and the death of your one-time lover the things that catapult you to your personal peace? and to not even show that journey, from that violence of deaths to a future of contented aloneness? it’s hollow, to me.

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