The Art Of Not Paying Attention

I was reading through an issue of Entertainment Weekly, when I read that The Seventh Seal was being released as part of the Criterion Collection. I know that the movie is supposed to be about life and death, and God and all that, and that it’s one of those movies that I must see before I die — and I have seen it — it’s just that I don’t remember a damn thing of what I saw. What makes matters worse, is that I watched it in a philosophy class. You see, since I was in a philosophy class, I was supposed to be paying attention. And I thought that I was. Well, truth be told, I payed attention long enough to remember that there was some dude who played chess with Death (who, by the way, looked a little like Observer from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe that was no accident.), and that they’re all dead at the end. It’s not that the movie ended on a sour note that did it, either. Hell, I like bummer movies. And It’s not because it was in black and white. A few of my favorite movies were shot in black and white including Night of the Living Dead and The Bad Seed, both of which end with the deaths of the primary characters. And it wasn’t because the movie was long and boring either. I made it through taking philosophy classes — the realm of the tedious, sleep-inducing lecture. But a strange thing happened while I was watching this movie. It’s like I was never there to see it. Physically I was there, but my mind decided to take the day off (or my experience machine had powered down for repairs or whatever), because anything that happened between the opening credits and when the screen went dark at the end is a blur. (Which, consequently, is kind of the same thing that happened to me when I saw Donnie Darko. The opening credits started, and then everything went black.) Even now when I try to think about what I saw, all I can remember is how much a young Max von Sydow doesn’t look at all like Stellan Skarsgard, who played a younger Father Merin in the prequel(s) to The Exorcist. I remember more about those anal rapes they call the prequels to The Exorcist than I remember anything about an important film of philosophical significance. I know that this movie has lots of philosophical significance and that it is one of those movies that I’m supposed to see before I die, but I don’t really feel that bad for having missed it. I feel bad for lots of things (some of which I’m sure to tell in detail in future posts), but I don’t feel even the slightest bit of guilt for publically saying that I don’t remember anything about this movie. Which makes me think of something that a psych 101 professor said. He said that, for most people, childhood, when they think back on their own, is filled with many memories. They remember trips to the Grand Canyon with the folks, or fishing Lake Erie with granddad (wait, would that be safe?), or having their cheeks pinched past the point of human endurance by grandma’s knitting club (those women could have been guards at Gitmo). The point is, is that for most people, their childhood supplies them with many memories. Many memories of childhood, my psych prof said, is a pretty good indicator that a person had a fairly good childhood. But, for some people, he said, when asked about what they remember about being a kid, they usually say, “nothing”. My professor said that people who truly had a bad childhood don’t remember much, or what they do remember is sketchy at best. The point is, is that there was nothing that happened (while they were kids) that was worth remembering. That’s why they draw a blank when they thing back to when they were young. (And until then, I thought that everyone’s minds suddenly went blank after they reached four.) Anyway, I think that the same thing happened when I saw The Seventh Seal. I really didn’t see anything worth remembering. I’m not saying that the movie sucked (after all, it’s foreign — and that means that it has to be good), but what I am saying is that I already saw Bill and Ted play Twister with Death much more entertainingly. Once you’ve seen the knock-offs, it’s a little hard to appreciate the original. Like when you hear Beatles covers, and then hear the originals… kind of like that. So maybe what I am is a little jaded. Or maybe a little stupid.

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