Monday, September 5, 2011

The catharsis of tears

From SF Chronicle review
The last couple of days I've gotten to see a really exceptional movie AND finish a book I started last week. Both of them have given me a chance to weep; in fact, at the moment my headache is a direct result of having just finished the book. But first things first: the movie is the film adaptation of the novel Elle s'appelait Sarah (Her Name Is Sarah) by Tatiana de Rosnay. Sarah's Key is playing at our local independent theater right now, and I suspect it will not be coming to national theaters any time soon. It is set in two time periods: 1942 and 2009, depicting an event that I knew nothing about, the roundup of French Jews who were sent by the French government to death camps.

It was a very hard movie to watch, because it felt so incredibly authentic. Told through the eyes of Sarah, a ten-year-old girl who tried to save her little brother by locking him in a closet and taking the key with her when they are forced to leave, she tries everything she can think of to try to get back to her brother. Kristin Scott Thomas plays an American journalist in present-day Paris who discovers the truth and decides to find out what happened to Sarah. Mick LaSalle wrote, in his review for the SF Chronicle:
"Sarah's Key" is a mature refutation of the romantic myth of wartime France as a land of partisans and Resistance fighters, and it's especially welcome to find this in a French film. The Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, in which Jews were placed in a sports stadium under unsanitary conditions, then separated from their families and sent to death camps, is a national disgrace, an atrocity committed by France against French citizens. The movie's stern message is all the more pointed in that the investigation is done by an American, not a French, journalist.
This was decidedly not a feel-good film, but one that made me think and ponder the inhumanity, as well as the many acts of kindness, that occurred during the Holocaust. Scott Thomas and others were simply superb in their portrayals. I left the theater glad to have seen the movie and interested in reading the book. Many years ago I read numerous publications about the Holocaust in order to try to understand it, but as I have learned in my life, there is simply no way to comprehend why we humans do what we do to each other. I am reminded that these kinds of atrocities are occurring all over the world as I write this, because we apparently didn't learn anything from that horrible time. I shed many tears during and after the movie.

And the book I just finished reading that has kept me weeping through the entire last few chapters is Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. This novel depicts some of the ethical questions that are raised by our technological ability to create "designer genes" for medical issues. Anna is conceived by her parents to be a "savior sibling" so that her umbilical cells can be used to help cure her older sister's leukemia. As it turns out, Anna decides at the age of 13 that she no longer wants to continue to give her sister bone marrow transplants and even a kidney. The book explores many of these issues and has a rather surprising ending. Picoult, in an interview from the back of the book, tells this story:
My Sister's Keeper is the first book one of my own kids has read. Kyle, who's twelve, picked it up and immediately got engrossed in it. The day he finished the book, I found him weeping on the couch. He pushed me away and went up to his room and told me that he really didn't want to see me or talk to me for a while — he was that upset. Eventually, when we did sit down to discuss it, he kept asking, "Why? Why did it have to end like that?" The answer I gave him (and you) is this: because this isn't an easy book, and you know from the first page that there are no easy answers. Medically, this ending was a realistic scenario for the family. And thematically, it was the only way to hammer home to all the characters what's truly important in life. ... I even gave a 23rd-hour call to an oncology nurse to ask if there was some other way to end the book. But finally, I came to see that if I wanted to be true to the story, this was the right conclusion.
Well, I wept my eyes out at the ending, too, and if you want to know why, you'll have to read the book yourself. So now I've shed my tears and am happily writing this post, hoping that I'll find something inspiring and uplifting to move me from my tears to a sense of gratitude for a wonderful holiday weekend, even if a bit on the wet side.


  1. I view tears as toxins that need to be shed. And sometimes there are a lot of them (tears and toxins both). And I share your feeling about the horrors we inflict on each other. Scary stuff. Nonetheless there are good people around to balance (hopefully) things out.

  2. Oh gee, I can see my tears flowing after reading your post. I read Anne Frank as a young girl and that book has stayed with me all my life. I also share your feeling about the horrors; WE, as a society inflict on each other and it is quite frightening. I also agree with The Elephant's Child that there are good people around to hopefully balance things out. Thanks DJan - very interesting and open read. Lilly

  3. my sisters keeper i see had a similar effect on you as me...dang it...whew..

    really would like to check out this movie...

  4. Oh my, I don't think I've got what it takes to see this move or read the book. Serious stuff.

  5. My oldest granddaughter Amanda had read "My Sister's Keeper" and recommended it to me, there's a movie of it too DJann, although I liked the book better.

  6. Tears can be so cathartic. And it's understandable why one would weep for the inhumanity we see all around us. Both of these sound as though they offer the opportunity to see the world differently. Sometimes I shun it and sometimes I know I need to embrace it.

    I will look for both.

  7. I knew about the movie, "My Sister's Keeper", but had no desire to see it. I think that will be true for reading the book too.
    I have read/seen/heard a lot about the Holocaust and now I think I've had enough of that topic too. I hurts too much to have this inhumanity portrayed so realistically when I feel helpless to do anything about it.
    I had a good cry the other night at the end of "The Help". That will do me for now.

  8. I find it difficult to read heavy dark stuff. Some people enjoy reading and thinking about these issues. I did see Schindler'sist and really liked it. We do however, have to keep in mind the atrocities that are committed and like you try to understand why they are committed and hope that there is a way to prvent them.

  9. I read" Sarah's Key," but really had no desire to see the movie. Now, maybe I will reconsider.

    When I finished "My Sister's Keeper," I gave it to my doctor. She and I had quite an interesting discussion about the book. Picoult is a bit too much of a patterned writer for me, but I did think she wrote a very thought provoking book with "My Sister's Keeper."

  10. It was a tough I will skip the Debbie Downer stuff for now. This morning on the way to the funeral we saw a dead( Or sleeping) dog at the edge of the road. On the way back I closed my eyes and said "If it is still there it is just sleeping." It reduced me to tears. I have no idea whose dog it even was..
    I find that once I start it is like a river that flows and flows..silly old woman that I am anyway. I am not usually a weepy dame:(

  11. Tears make me sick, mentally and physically. I prefer to laugh.

  12. I enjoyed reading your post and also the comments here. I don't think I would choose to see the movie. I have come to a place in my life that I just do not want any more hurt and I hurt just as much for other people and it hurts terribly to know what human beings do to each other. There are always groups of people who really do believe they are more important and deserve more than other people. Where they ever can justify it I do not know. I have to try so hard not to hate them and that puts me in the same place as them. Yikes.

    I am a fan of Jodi Picoult. I do agree with Retired English Teacher's comment about Picoult's being a patterned writer but I have read every one of her books and appreciate the subject matter in each one. It is another fun way to get to know you more by reading this post.

  13. Independent movies are so superior to mainstream movies. But those book/movies sound like tough ones. I bet you are ready for a good comedy now. They don't make very many good ones though.

  14. It sounds as if your next movie should be a comedy! I'll check out both of these, though. Indie movies are usually excellent,even when sad and authentic.

  15. Thanks for the recommendations. The movie is on my DO list for this eve. I hope I get to it becauseI haven't seen one in a bit.

  16. I have both these movies in my Netflix queue. Sarah's Key isn't available yet, but I have it on my saved list.

    I watch and read the difficult stuff as well as the humorous and everything in between, I guess. We are all those things. That is what makes us so precious and so horrible. And makes me cry...when we forget how precious we are.

    We cry when our hearts feel empty and when our hearts overflow. I think your heart overflows, Jan. :):)

  17. Both the movie and book sound excellent. Since the movie will probably not show up at our one theater I will have to wait for the streaming version.

    I have some rather heavy reading waiting in my stacks right now for an upcoming blog tour next month so I'll hold off on Sarah's Key.

  18. Sometimes we just need to know, don't we. What the Jews suffered during the holocaust, before and after, is unbearably terrible, yet we are still being cruel to each other, EVEN NOW. As the review says, we didn't learn anything, apparently.
    The book sounds interesting. I think we are coming round to this kind of thing happening, i.e. growing body parts, exchanging body parts, cloning etc. and it doesn't sit comfortably with me either.
    Where on earth will it all end?
    I'm glad my post today was a funny one. I hope it cheered you up.

  19. Thanks for sharing this! I'm quite intrigued by Sarah's Key and am going to look it up asap! It's been a while since I've seen a French film, we don't get too many of them here in Alicante. :s

    It's strange how crying can leave you feeling so good afterwards... minus the runny nose of course! ;o)


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