Sleep and The Ice Storm

by Suw on May 18, 2003

Sleep. That was my mission this weekend. Sleep and the forcible removal of work from the agenda. I think I?ve succeeded on both counts. I?ve spent 21 of the last 48 hours asleep, and fully intend to squeeze in another nine hours before Monday starts back with the tedium. I?ve managed to actually not do anything too remotely worklike as well. I had planned to do some stuff today, but I?d rather get up at 6am tomorrow to do it instead.

Trouble is, I have become somewhat institutionalised over the 14 months. I?m used to either working or thinking about work. When I?m not working, I tend to be waiting. I wait for a variety of things – people to come online, answers to email, something half decent to come on TV.

I really don?t much like waiting – it disengages you from your own life. You become a spectator, standing on the fringes of the crowd and wondering what?s going on, and whether that man with the large flaming brand is really going to shove it halfway down his own throat in the name of entertainment. You become an observer, instead of a participant.

So, to stave off the waiting today, and to satisfy both my need to do nothing whatsoever and my urge to watch something really bloody miserable, I put the Ice Storm DVD on.

Dysfunction. Denial. Death. I?m still not sure if I actually like this film or not. This was one of the films where I read the script first and tried to get to grips with the idea of the film before seeing it. I tried to bring the whole thing to life in my head before it was brought to life on screen.

When I?d finished reading the script, which I did in one hit, I really had a few problems getting my head round it. I was left with that kinda mildly confused feeling the comes very shortly before the word ?What??. Then I watched the film, and things became no clearer at all.

Second time round, I think I?m a bit more aware of the subtle relationships and the stuff that?s communicated by body language and background movements alone. There?s so much in this film that isn?t stated, and it?s so open to interpretation that it?s verging on Daoist.

The obvious theme is one of sexual dysfunction. Ben is fucking his neighbour Janey, because his wife Elena?s not interested any more. Janey?s fucking anything that stops moving long enough, but hating herself for it. Elena?s fucking Janey?s husband Jim but only very briefly (and call me lucky but I didn?t know sex could be quite *that* brief) in the car.

Even the kids are trying to get it on, except Paul can?t figure out how – in an attempt to keep his lecherous friend Francis away from Libbets, the object of his affections, he ends up drugging them both into a coma. And Wendy isn?t quite sure what sex is exactly yet. If she knew a bit more about what went where, she?s have had her leg over a while back, but instead she settles for dry humping with the not quite all there Mikey, and snuggling with his younger brother Sandy.

Really though, the film?s more about communication, and the lack thereof. Ben and Elena aren?t communicating, and frankly with the amount of shit he talks that?s no great surprise. Janey and Jim aren?t talking because he?s never there. Wendy and Mikey/Sandy do nothing more than grunt at each other and hope for the best.

In fact, there?s only one sound relationship in the whole film and that?s the brother-sister bond between Wendy and Paul, or Charles and Charles as they call each other. They are the only two in the whole film to actually communicate at all. And, about normal stuff too.


Charles. Have you been keeping out of my shit? Have you refrained from entering the sacred precincts of my room?


I have not touched your sh–

(looks at father)


One thing that The Ice Storm does really, really well is make me thankful that my life?s not that fucked up. I think that?s why I watch it. I?m pretty sure that it?s not for any other reason. The acting is a little ropy in places. The gamelan score is ok but a little grating after a while. And you do tend to lose sympathy for the characters as the film progresses and they become irritatingly more and more self-centred.

But at least when it gets to the end you can sigh, and think ?Thank fuck that?s not me.?

And then go watch Wonder Boys, which is a truly great film.

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