It Was Mother

It Was The

It Was The
Wayras Olivier
NOVEMBER 2018


T HE SUBTLE MANNER in which one can be held captive by a piece of music that moves in mysterious ways is a rather obvious set-up. Melody and harmony release the good, the beautiful and the true, a pay-off that’s been prearranged to bestow a hearing to anyone in times of need. This subtlety is also said to be a characteristic of God, along with a specific repercussion—its notes become unlistenable if the visceral is subordinated to the literal. As for the melodist, the more unbelievable their verse sounds, the greater the likelihood that they’ll be pious, insisting that the verse simply composed itself. Illogical, yes, but you can see this in celebrated verses all the time.

Take for example how illogical this one sounds: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Inscrutable as the Gospel of John is—it logically opens this way—for several reasons, not least of which is to remind the pious of the ensuing and potential nihilism that occurs if indeed they are unable to keep their word when going through a sentence of confusion.

Being recreant of God, however, is a painfully weak film plot. Only two films have ever really pulled it off. One is The Last Temptation of Christ. It was made several decades ago, and it had the Catholic-Right protesting Martin Scorsese’s daring adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel about the Son of Man declining his historically foundational agony and torment on that notable April day.

The inalienably fallible Jesus—fallible because he’s both God and man—breaks his word in the middle of his most spiritually regnant hour. Erected in that awkward, painful, and humiliating position, Jesus gives into his temptation for the ordinary as he excuses himself from the resurrection by stepping off and down from the cross in the name of marriage, children, and a more peaceful and dignified death from old age. In the film, the unseemly Jesus performs a denuded transaction with Mary, only to later repent by supplicating God for foreordination. In other words, his being was dying to try multiple things, before it could die trying for one thing. The former, of course, outraged the moral majority.

Two, the theatrical, (not the director’s cut) of Amadeus, Miloš Forman’s adaptation of Peter Schaffer’s highly fictitious yarn about Italian court composer Antonio Salieri grappling with the hermeneutics of God’s tendency to play favorites. That he presumed with perfect clarity to know the mind of God muddles the musically obstruent Salieri, once he discovers that God’s sound, rhythm, melody, harmony, and form only correspond and come together through Mozart, the prodigal son, blessed with the power to resonate. The rather unjust and arbitrary manner in which God does this introduces Salieri to masochism, that combination of unchecked envy and unbalanced adoration that blends grotesque, sending the mild and sweet composer straight to hell—a nineteenth century infirmary. It would be correct to suggest that the film is about music; it would be more accurate to suggest that the film is about apostasy, before finally, and definitively, suggesting that the film is about unrequited love—that irreducible pang from being stilled by the power of the beautiful which will not in return itself be moved.

W.