“Memories of movies are strand over strand with memories of my life. During the quarter of a century (roughly from 1935 to 1960) in which going to the movies was a normal part of my week, it would no more have occurred to me to write a study of movies than to write my autobiography”-from the preface of Stanley Cavell’s The World Viewed: Reflections On The Ontology Of Film
I believe it’s true of anyone who feels passionately about the cinema that, as Cavell puts it, “memories of movies are strand over strand with memories” of one’s life. Every time people even talk about Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight I think of my first girlfriend and the man in the theater who overdosed and prompted the theater manager to empty the theater we were in. Similarly, Ringo Lam’s City On Fire always makes me think of my walk to work at The Video Store when I was a Junior in High School (Sunday mornings my brother and I always watched a Hong Kong action film before I went to work). I have found that the films that I have the strongest memory attachments or the most memories with tend to be my favorites; I suppose that is true of most people.
In my adolescence I had acne, I was at least 8 inches taller than any other kid my age and I had the face of someone four years older than I actually was. I was an outcast, just like everyone else. That’s how I felt when I saw Beyond The Clouds (1994). I had seen The American Friend so I knew who Wim Wenders was but I had not seen any of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films.
What struck me was how Beyond The Clouds so delicately recreated so many emotions, both familiar and unfamiliar. So seamlessly do these narratives intwine and accent one another that one might miss the dialogue occurring between each separate vignette. This was Antonioni’s last film and I think he finally said everything he ever wanted to say about how our contemporary existential quandary subverts human romantic impulses. He takes an existentialist’s view on questions like “is there just one special person for all of us?”, “is love eternal?”, “would things be different if I had told her how I felt?”; that answer is always “no”. And yet, despite these cold realizations each character still remains somewhat hopeful. The hope that the Romantic could be the truth is what sustains, that is what Beyond The Clouds is about.
When I was fourteen or fifteen that meant something to me, it sustained me I suppose, in a way. Today it represents a bittersweet truth. Having been in some relationships, having experienced the euphorias and the suffering life has to give that are just incomprehensible when you are twelve, I have to admit my perspective on Antonioni’s last film has changed. You realize that the only way one can remain hopeful in the face of the existential machinations of our society and our relationships is to learn to live with regret. Regret is what unites all of the narratives, all of the characters in Beyond The Clouds.