a wild tale (or un relato salvajes)

12 September 2015

Today was magic for two reasons: (1) I ditched my efforts at concentrating through Pride and Prejudice and switched to tearing through the scintillating pages of Eat Pray Love and (2) I saw a film today. It was so magical, I can’t even remember the film’s name (I looked it up, it’s Relatos Salvajes), only that I was in a dark, crowded room with people whose native languages spanned from Hebrew to English to Spanish and we all laughed at all the same moments. That was pretty enchanting for me.

I woke up late today because it was Shabbat, so being lazy is encouraged. I lethargically walked around Tel Aviv with my book under one arm and a mission floating about my head: I was going to find the cinema that Google Maps told me was nearby but that I had not yet been able to scout out. If there was one thing that sounded like paradise in this sweltering town, it was a cool dark movie theatre hopefully playing a cool dark film.

I sauntered down King George Street, popping in and out of cafes and shops, investigating future places where I could enjoy a cappuccino, Wi-Fi and one of my books. I got to the Dizengoff Centre only to find all of the stores closed, which I should have expected on a Saturday. My dreams of a cool dark theatre fading, I saw an open door and asked the security guard if there was a cinema here. To which he replied,

Is there a cinema here?” [A thoroughly rhetorical and repetitive question] “Of course there is a cinema here!”

To which I said,

I’ve been looking for one for the past three days!”

And he laughed and told me that it was three levels up.

You’re killing me!”

He laughed as I strolled off, which made me wonder if he just wanted to use an American phrase, because it really wasn’t the you’re-killing-me kind of funny that I couldn’t find the cinema inside of a mall for three consecutive days. Or so I told myself.

Three floors up, I found my way to the cinema. The woman behind the counter at the ticket booth was happy to tell me all of the movies that were playing, quickly adding her own opinions and comments after a short summary of the film:

Hm, yes this is a British movie. Some family road trip movie. Supposed to be a comedy but it’s not funny, don’t see it. Oh, the Amy Winehouse documentary. It was ok. Ugh the Natalie Portman movie,” [Which, for the record, is what I wanted to see.] “SO boring. Don’t see it.” [Guess not] “Oh, this one was good. It’s an Argentinian dark comedy, very funny. I think it has English subtitles.” [After a quick check on her computer] “It does! You should see that one, it’s hilarious.”

Since she works at a movie theatre and was very animated and engaging, I believed her and bought a ticket to see some Argentinian dark comedy that I’ve never heard of at three forty-five on a Saturday. Satisfied with my choice – or more, my coerced selection – I wandered back down the street, found an open café and enjoyed an Israeli breakfast while reading Eat Pray Love and, coincidentally, snorting up half my cappuccino in silently riotous laughter. Hey, it’s a pleasantly funny and witty book.

Three forty-five rolls around and I head back to the cinema. I settle down in my assigned seat (yes, theatre seats are assigned!), switch my phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and wait for the darkness to come. I hear snippets of conversation around me: some in Hebrew, some in English, some in Spanish. It’s a wondrously enveloping feeling, to know that at least three different languages can watch the same thing and feel the same things and laugh at the same things – all at the same time, all together.

The film was actually a collection of about five or six short films – all connected by very visceral experiences of death and loss and anger. It took me by surprise at first, being able to laugh when something horrible was happening onscreen. But the point of the piece was not the seriousness of loss, but a more Tarantino-like approach to themes of vengeance and justice and ethics. Some people did not see it like that and left halfway through.

But I loved it – especially groaning and laughing and gasping all in time with my fellow moviegoers. I think that is my favourite part of going to the cinema, the joint attention, the mutual understanding, the shared experience. And all of that without a word or glance exchanged between the patrons themselves.

So then the curtain closed and I walked home and I went to dinner with the Zellinger family and I walked home and I found Dora waiting for me. She kissed my head and turned off her light and went to sleep.

I was left in the living room with a smile on my face. Without a shared language, Dora and I can still share feelings, experiences, understanding. There are so many times when I wish I could speak Hebrew (and times when I am glad I don’t know what she’s irately yelling at me, frustrated at my lack of comprehension), but I like the knowledge that two people can understand each other beyond language. The lesson that only an experience like this can teach me: that human feelings and actions can take us beyond words, beyond language.

A kiss on the forehead, a bouquet of roses, a wide smile – these things are universal. How glad I am to know, at least, this beautiful language, this human language that connects us all.

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