“We feel an unforeseen relief at the end of the tragedy.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
Patrick hurls the book through a (closed) window. At four o’clock in the morning
Then, he charges into this parents’ bedroom to debrief the tragedy:
“The whole time you’re rooting for this Hemingway guy to survive the war and to be with Catherine, the woman he loves… and he does! He survives… after getting blown up… and he escapes to Switzerland with Catherine… but now Catherine’s pregnant. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Patrick, just released from a psych ward, wants to fix his broken marriage but he’s obviously deluded. Positive thinking, he thinks, is going to win back his wife.
“And they escape up into the mountains and they’re gonna be happy, and they’re gonna be drinking wine and they dance… [but] you think he ends it there? No! He writes another ending. She dies.”
Hemingway’s tragedy has poisoned Patrick’s mind.
“Dad! I mean, the world’s hard enough as it is. Can’t somebody say, “Hey, let’s be positive? Let’s have a good ending to the story?”
Patrick’s rant predicts the climax—it could stand as the subtext of our hero’s actions as he resolves key personal issues in the closing minutes.
The tone of the film is mildly comic, so we know from the get-go that it’s going to end well enough. But if Silver Linings has one weakness, it’s exactly that—the Hollywood ending.
I challenge Patrick to retrieve his Hemingway and revisit that ending. Look again at the protagonist in that Swiss hospital room where his wife has just died. He’s just died, too, so to speak. He stands at the window, looking out.
That’s how it ends. It’s terribly sad, and at the same time, according to Nikos Kazantzakis, the story isn’t over.
“We know that though the hero may die, may be reduced to bloodstained mire beneath some invisible heel, there is something within him that will not die.”
Look again at the Hemingway character at the window. What’s he looking at? Keep watching as Kazantzakis explains how we might appreciate this tragic scene:
“Apparently there is a power outside and inside man which has one aim and only one—to rise. Where? Up towards what? No one knows.”
Is this the silver lining of failure?
The “unforeseen relief at the end of the tragedy”—is this the nourishment imbedded in a good tragedy?
The writer would seem to be asking us to conjure up the “relief” in our own hearts.
Kazantzakis suggests that we instinctively understand this mystical aspect of tragedy. We might even yearn to be a Macbeth or an Othello, but the demands of everyday life steer us well clear of any such possibility.
As a result, says Kazantzakis, it’s our fate to be left behind “in the tepid mud to limp through life, limp through love, limp through desire.”
And limp off to the movies. Yikes!
Let’s end this gloomy post with the final lines of Patrick’s rant. Visualize his parents cowering under their covers:
MOM: Pat, you owe us an apology.
PATRICK: Mom, for what? I’m not going to apologize for this. You know what I will do? I will apologize on behalf of Ernest Hemingway, because that’s who’s to blame here.
[Silver Linings is written by David O. Russell.]