Leonard: “Why does someone have to die…in your book?”
Virginia: “Someone has to die in order that the rest us should value life more…it’s contrast”
Leonard: “And who will die?”…
Virginia: “The poet will die. The visionary.”
It was one of those when somehow everything is perfectly beautiful and wonderful. A trap suffocated the joy that was meant to be expressed a the day, but it danced at the walls of flesh and fat and begged to breathe. I expunged myself of the trap by breathing it to a dear one who is always ready to hear, even if he doesn’t let me hide from the truth when it is a kind of madness and not tragedy that causes my moaning. Then, after we finished talking, I took a risk.
The Hours had been sitting on my bed for what seemed like weeks, even though it had been only day, perhaps because it had been lingering on my heart for years. Through the cramps of womanhood and growing pains, I limped to the bedroom to fetch the movie and curled into myself to hear it play its sweet song over me. Like a river running over the world, it began. I was not prepared for the bittersweet melancholy, but I knew I wasn’t. I had never been. That is why I had taken so long to see the movie, but I knew there was something important inside that I needed to hear.
It unfolded in front of me. The story of three women, the pressure that death pushed upon them at every turn. There is an insane therapist in Pretty Little Liars who tells Spencer that he is studying “The heaviness of air.” He tells her that to some people the air is just heavier than it is to others. These women lived in the heaviness of air. Mental issues, repressed emotions, and the trap of their own lives threatened to crush the very breath out of them. Both Clarissa and Laura are at different points pictured sitting alone talking to someone in another room. During each scene the woman is crying, crushed, and barely able to bear her own suffering. There is a character in the other room who is talking to her, and asks banal questions, demanding answer after answer. The woman proclaims her answers in sunny, carefree purity, and the other accepts them. In contrast, Virginia’s pain is far too obvious to everyone else. She cannot escape the bars that have been put around her to protect her from herself. Suffocation is the core of the three stories, linking the three women in a world of air as heavy as lead, as they strive to choose life.
I watched as they wove their lives through the web of difficulties and attempts to breathe, and connected my own struggles with theirs. I wondered where the message I had been searching for had gone. And finally, in the end, Virginia Woolf told her husband that the poet visionary must die, so that the rest of us might value life more. He is clearly disturbed by this, because she is the writer, and Virginia Woolf’s husband, of all people, should know that her writing spoke not only for its characters but for herself. His worry is well-founded since only minutes later(in movie-time) she drowns herself. It seemed to me though, that there is something to be said for the idea that the poet dies so that the rest of the world may live.
It is cliche to speak of the tortured poets. Some regard them as ridiculous, others as masochistic, others as insane, still others as bittersweet. It is clear, however, that there is something to the poetic soul that endures a melancholy that is mysterious and powerful. I will admit that I disliked The Hours, for it did not leave crystals on the outside world when I emerged from it’s spell. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t cry. I simply breathed. I admire it as a true work of art, but there is something in Virginia Woolf with which I cannot connect, probably the suicide that I hope to eradicate from my traditional set of temptations. It occurred to me, however, that maybe not every poet dies in the same way.
Virginia Woolf physically died, but maybe not every poet longs to take their own life forever, though I am certain no poet escapes moments of that desire. Jack Kerouac, for instance, went On the Road. Perhaps each day he died to the ideal life, and perhaps in dying to the ideal life, he freed those who suffered its heaviness. James Joyce wrote The Portrait of the Artist of the Young Man, about his conversion away from the Faith. The story of his conversion away from Faith, however, renewed my affection for it.(a story for another time) So. perhaps. his death of faith, allowed it to be reborn. There are countless examples of artists and ways that a death of theirs frees others. After all, the greatest poet of all time, physically died, that we may all have life forever.
The heaviness of air is omnipresent in The Hours. It plagues everyone in the film in some way, but the air around Clarissa clears when Laura tells her of nearly choosing death, but then abandoning her children in order to survive. Her death was that of her motherhood, her pride, and her picture perfect life. Richard, Clarissa’s friend and Laura’s daughter, committed suicide. Virginia Woolf, of course, committed suicide. Both Virginia and Richard wanted to die in order to free those around them, but it was Laura’s encounter with death, desire for death, and choice to live that truly freed Clarissa from the heaviness that surrounded her. We all know it is better for the poet, for everyone, to choose not to commit suicide, but this film reminds its viewers that one must still die in some way. Surviving, one will still suffer, but bearing that daily death, may one day free another from their own.