movie mirror

who where what where - May 2, 2014m
 

We spend so much time, energy, and money looking for meaningful stories…

Obviously, we’re driven by a need…

This strong need drove me to see the movie After Hours three times in three weeks, back in 1985.*

In the years afterward, directed by that need, I returned to the movie, ever so often.

I thought I merely enjoyed the crazy menagerie of characters and satirical dialogue…

Only recently, did I finally ask myself: Why was that story so important to me?

The answer is so obvious—no wonder I missed it.

Paul Hackett, the main character of After Hours, is a young man caught between two worlds.

In the opening scene, we see Paul at his low-level job in a Manhattan business office.  He’s clearly bored…

His mind and eyes drift, until he focuses on a family photo at a co-worker’s desk.  We then realize: the people around Paul inhabit a world different from his.

After work that evening, we find him sitting alone in a coffee shop reading Henry Miller.  This is obviously a routine with him—just as it was with me, when I was in my early-twenties.

However, on this particular night, he’s drawn into a parallel universe—the Soho district.

It’s an arty world, but not a world of art.  People play roles here—they’ve created characters for themselves.  They talk, but don’t really communicate—don’t connect.

Paul doesn’t fit in this world either.  Which isn’t to say that he’s real while everyone else is inauthentic…

Near the end of the movie, as he relates his night-long ordeal to a tired listener, he seems possessed.  He has a story to tell!—an adventure for his biography.  His life has gained in consequence—he’s gone through something.  This little odyssey is a mark on his belt.

After Hours mirrors my early life in so many ways.  Whenever I’ve returned to those scenes, I’ve experienced a type of catharsis, without even realizing it.  A catharsis of laughter, not tears.

Through this dark comedy, I’ve received some empathy.  Those who shaped this story must have some understanding of my dilemma.

So…a movie about isolation actually made me feel a little less isolated.

But there’s even more to the equation…

By reflecting my life experience, the story gives that experience added meaning…

Now, it’s not just my personal dilemma—it’s a human dilemma…

It’s an archetype.  Perhaps an archetypal journey.  For some of us, anyway.

Our new mythology needs stories that are meaningful to diverse populations—to people not just of different cultures, but of different eras…

Stories with depths for us to explore.

But our new mythology should also encourage us to explore those stories we discover along our separate paths…

…stories that seem to have been made for us, personally.

If we don’t look deeper, we may think we’re just enjoying the goofy dialogue and the chase scene…

…and not get the full benefit of the mirror.

(* After Hours was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Joseph Minion.  Not your typical Scorsese movie…or is it?  Paul Hackett was played to perfection by Griffin Dunne.  But the whole cast is great.)

© 2014, Michael R. Patton
a SOULTIME journey

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, essayist, cartoonist, graphic artist, peace miller, new mythologist, and fledgling world citizen.... I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and have lived and worked all over the United States.... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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