Monday, February 15, 2010

No answers

As Lost kicks into the business end of its final season, the inane moaning about a lack of concrete answers is only going to increase. Some of it will be perfectly valid, most of it will be petty nit-picking. But it’s impossible to devise an ending that panders to such an extraordinarily wide audience.

It’s already started – irritating YouTube songs, demanding answers to questions nobody else cares about. Complaints that the season has is the worst ever. After two bloody episodes.

I hope they don’t answer all of Lost’s mysteries. Some resolution is nice, and a bit of redemption can go a long way in a climax, but it won’t be the end of the world if every loose thread isn’t tied up.

I don’t want the answers. I just want an ending. If it’s not the one I wanted, then it’s my problem.

Isn’t it?

* * *

I recently had the good fortune of stumbling across the Red Riding Trilogy – three movies of complexity and darkness, set around the time the Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose.

Based on the novels of David Pearce, each film is an incredibly well made piece of work with some truly stunning acting and some extraordinary storytelling that doesn’t just refuse to hold your hand, it intentionally blindfolds you and shoves you into a world of uncertainty.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely, but was surprised to find myself frustrated by a lack of clear explanation for the events of the three movies when it all wrapped up.

When the credits finally flowed, I realised I’d been hanging out for a big old chunky expository scene, with characters sitting down and explaining all the nuances that had been missed. I was waiting for a full explanation of what prompted the massacre at the club in 1974, or what exactly had been going on in the underground lair that Piggot found.

My reaction to it was stupid, because none of this needed to be spelt out. Over the days since watching the films, they’ve stuck in the head like nothing else this year. A lack of answers actually made the entire experience far more rewarding.

It was even more stupid, because that lack of easy resolution was an integral part of the story the movies was telling - things disappear, people go away, whispers become fact become rumour in less than a decade. There are tantalising glimpses of the truth, but no character sees the full picture, why should the audience expect any better?

While I’m still not sure what happened in the Red Riding movies, that didn’t stop a genuine emotional reaction at its climax, when all sorts of redemption and strength are found in a single shot of unlikely salvation. That’s more important than any nice, clean wrap-up.

* * *

I love the fact that I can’t figure out David Lynch films, and that parts of The Invisibles still thrill me with mystery.

Mulholland Drive was never better than before everybody figured out the Right Answer. It was a hell of a ride, seeing explanations form out of the critical consensus, the endless blog posts, the late night discussions over doughnuts. But it wasn’t as much fun as seeing it for the first time – after a ridiculously indulgent weekend, completely lost and going for the ride.

Just because I didn’t understand exactly what was happening, it didn’t mean the Cowboy was any less creepy, and that bit where the guy goes behind the diner was still the scariest fucking thing I’d ever seen, even if it didn’t make any kind of narrative sense.

And I spent months going over that film in my head, over and over and over again, and never really coming up with anything concrete. The movie experience doesn’t have to be restricted to the time in the movie theatre.

My personal favourite theory is still my first one – that it was all the work of malfunctioning fictionsuits playing a game that had been stored on a scratched disc. But then again, I was reading a lot of Morrison’s turn-of-the-century work at the time.

As for The Invisibles, it’s still an absolute pleasure to flick through a random issue of Morrison’s love letter to the nineties and puzzle over what it all means. I don’t care if I don’t get every reference, or every explanation. It still thrills.

* * *

Narrative isn’t just a puzzle, waiting to be solved. It’s also something to be experienced and to be immersed in.

Judging by the way it’s gone so far, when Lost does end, it will surely be an invigorating and frustrating finish. And that’s all we’ll ever need.

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