Friday, March 25, 2011

On the art of cinematic napping

The Drunken Faun by Johan Tobias Sergel. One of the all-time great nappers.

I have, especially in my later years, become somewhat notorious for falling asleep during films. This is true whether I see them at home, at a friend's house or at the theater. It equally applies to art films, action movies, long films and short ones. This might seem a bit incongruous with my highfalutin view of film and my belief that we need to be mentally and spiritually focused when we watch films. Aside from admitting the fact that I, like, any good Christian, tend to struggle a great deal with practicing what I preach, I would in addition like to offer some thoughts on why it is not altogether a bad thing to nap during films - as long as one makes every effort to view the rest of the piece in a less somnolent state - and why it might not be altogether opposed to taking films very seriously as art. 

(A caveat: What follows is based on the unproven hypothesis that napping during my cinematic sojourns is not solely the result of my Updikian appetite for bourbon. Although a definite influence on the matter at hand, I believe that the Wild Turkey does not tell the whole story).

I find the experience of watching a film incredibly calming. Aside from the psychosomatic influence of dim lights, focusing one's attention upon flickering images and sitting very still in a comfortable chair, I believe there is a certain kind of meditative quality to the experience of art, one that transcends both the rational and emotional aspects of our being - what we could call the noetic or spiritual aspect of art. This quality touches on the fact that art gives form and order to seemingly chaotic and random elements. Few mediums accomplish this to the same extent that film does. The raw material of images, sounds, music and words come together in astounding ways, revealing meaning and truth in myriad ways. 

Art, in its ability to make beauty manifest, offers a refuge from the crazy, dark and absurd world that makes up a great deal of our day to day lives. Yet, paradoxically, this refuge is not an escape from the everyday, it is in no way a pseudo-reality, a fantasy world, to which we "escape" for fun and from which we must then return to the confusion of our lives. Rather, this refuge infuses our everyday lives. It shows us our true lives, what the world is actually like, if only we have eyes to see it as it truly is. Art is a refuge in the same way that a Buddhist will take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha; it is an oasis in the desert and when we drink from its waters it reveals the desert to have been an illusion. Just like a Christian is to center their entire existence on the day of Resurrection, making their celebration of the Liturgy on Sundays seep and flow into every second of the "everydayness" of the rest of the week (opposed to the "Sunday Christian" who is full of piety on that one day and then wallows in secular darkness the rest of the week) art allows us to see our lives in the light of the beauty that it presents. 

This experience I have just described, an experience of a world that makes sense and is full of meaning, is both incredibly exciting but also very calming. It is a place of peace. It is a place where I want to take a nap. There is something so comforting about the thought that there are films in this world. I am reminded of the words of Borges: "I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books." The same goes for films. 

It brings peace to my soul to think that I live in a world where Woody Allen has made Manhattan, where Scorcese has made Taxi Driver, where Ozu has made Late Spring. This is a fine place to be alive in. A fine place to take a nap. 


Reido Bandito said...

no sale

agust symeon said...

What?!? Common. That was as good of a defense of napping as one could give. Admit it, our cinematic viewings just wouldn't be the same without the occasional GĂșsti nap.

ross charles said...

I like this idea quite a bit--that it is comforting to know such things exist. But I, too, began to lose the connection to napping. I think the bourbon makes a better excuse (at least, that's usually my excuse).

Reid has often been subject to my failings in this regard as well.

e said...

whoooo! I felt like taking a nap while reading this post. Which could be ironic justification for your defense... or it's poetic condemnation.

agust symeon said...

Everett, I would feel honored by your Dostoyevskian napping. The slumber of a nihilist is but music to the ears of the lowly aesthete.

Reido Bandito said...

I just realized that all 3 of you have repeatedly decided sleeping was better than watching a movie with me.

I'm not disgusted. Just disappointed...