“We are denied even the heroism of true tuberculosis”
The purity of watching films involves moments where the process requires a dynamic involvement instead of a passive acceptance of visuals exuding little else that entertainment or pathos. Films of Andrei Tarkovsky or Ingmar Bergman have this quality, demanding a complete mental and physical commitment so thoroughly repudiated by today’s casual movie watchers in order to reach the deeper treasures of a film’s superficial presentation. Requiring a level of commitment and intellectual curiosity that takes some time to develop and too easily lost in an age where social media beckons constant visitations.
And, so with that comes Scarred Hearts. A remarkable film exhibiting the quality and pace of of Lars von Trier’s Dogville and Breaking the Waves with the psychological setting of Penny Marshall’s Awakening and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A film based on the novel from Romanian writer, Max Blecher, depicts the life of Emanuel (Lucian Teodor Rus), who spends his days at a sanatorium in hopes of correcting a rare spinal diseases in the technological advancements of 1930s medicine (i.e. encased in a body cast). Falling in love with another patient, Emanuel narrates his and his fellow patients’ attempts to live life to the fullest as their bodies slowly fade away, but their minds refuse to give up.
Scarred Heart is not an easy film to watch in 2018. As noted by film critic Ben Kenigsberg (NEW YORK TIMES), the director, Radu Jude (I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians), spends his time with fixed shots without the sensationalized use of music or visual effects, “keep[ing] the camera perfectly still while Emanuel, screaming, has a giant needle full of pus drained from an abscess.” A film that “remains demanding and at times obscure,” a film that operates on two levels to tell the story with title card poetry, while unfolding the narrative in the methods of Russian theatre. Demanding but at the same time richly rewarding. A film that forces you to wrestle with the physical limitations of our own bodies, the spirit of community, and the bleak existence that we find ourselves in the small spaces of our own existential uncertainty. A film that explores the beauty of reading without despensing the need for the human (carnal) touch.
The very idea of becoming confined in a moment in time awaiting the other side of convalescence — armed with the knowledge that the world moves on and time will offer you no experiential deferments — is harrowing.