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Saturday 11 December 2010

This too shall pass

It's such a strange feeling when you experience something meaningful, with people outside of your normal experiences - and you know you'll never experience them in the same way again.

I was in Amsterdam in September, and found myself sitting in a cafe, watching a documentary about 9/11 with the owner. He didn't speak great English, but we communicated so much, so many shared feelings; as we watched a thing which felt as fresh and painful as nine years ago. And then another guy came in, and watched the last hour with us. It was strangely poignant. I'm English, the owner was Turkish and the customer Dutch. And we watched the TV screen in near silence, together. Nobody ever does anything in silence together. It was important somehow.

And then I was in The Hague for a conference with a bunch of people I'd never met, and four days later they were the best of friends. But then we went home, to literally thirty different countries around the world. And now we know we'll never all be in the same room again. We have different plans, different visa situations, different priorities. But our connection on those days went beyond what you can explain in tangibles.

I think that's what film is about. It's about capturing that. Capturing things we feel and experience and people we find; 'cause it's the only damn way we know to hold on to all the things that pass. The girl leaves, but she can live in a screenplay forever. The friend dies, but we can leave our impression of him up on a cinema screen for all to see.

Writing is about imagination a lot of the time. But it's also about looking very precisely at the things you're yearning for, that you've felt, that you miss. That's why 'Almost Famous' is everyone's favorite movie; it captures what it is to fall in love with everyone you meet on the journey, on Thunder Road. It'll never be the same again, so enjoy it, indulge in it, remember it and write everything you remember about it.

I am always longing for that. My favorite moments in life and in movies are about people being in places they weren't meant to be, connecting with people they never expected to find. That's 'Adventureland,' that's 'Before Sunrise,' that's sitting in Amsterdam with two strangers watching history and building a new, better world, just by being together in silence and understanding each other.


  1. What a lovely way of looking at things. I think what hurts the most is the loss after said enjoyment. I want those moments to last forever. That impromptu bbq on a balcony in the outskirts of London, that 5am walk to a lighthouse in a Sydney beach town, the motorcycle ride on the waterfront of gorgeous Copenhagen.. things that are so easily taken for granted in the moment.

  2. Beautiful post. I too loved 'Before Sunrise' because it was such a random thing to do, fall in love with stranger.

  3. You have, very succinctly, just described the reason I love movies, and probably the reason that I watch the same ones over and over again.

    I loved Before Sunrise, probably because it's so familiar to me. I met my husband in a similar fashion. I think I like Before Sunset even better, though. I wish they'd make a third.

  4. You have wonderful way of getting to the heart of the subject. Very well said.

  5. That's a different and great text, you really know how to write about life and movies.
    I like your texts, they're meaningful and makes me wonder, try to make my life and other's lifes better. Thanks, for making my life better:)
    Sorry about my english, I'm working on it:)

  6. thanks all!

    Anonymous - thanks for the lovely comment, but I wish you weren't anonymous; I'd love to know who you are! Please tell us your name, or where you're from, or something about you!

  7. Wow, its amazing to see people that are so different to find something that can effect them as well. Great job, you always blow my mind, hope to be able to see thing like you do one day.

  8. Great stuff. I feel like the end of "Shakespeare In Love" totally captures what you're talking about, the way he uses the new play to make Viola live on forever.

  9. Great post. I've spent much of this year travelling and returning home, meeting people and then losing contact, experiencing magic and slowly forgetting about it. I'm working hard now to get as many of these magic moments down as I can before they're all forgotten. I identify entirely with your post and love your writing.