23 December 2008

Le temps qui reste | Time to Leave

Directed by Francois Ozon, Le temps qui reste is more like a philosophical tract on death and life. The film is probably by far the best rendition of Italo Calvino's classic statement that "the ultimate meaning to which all stories refer to has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death".

Romain, the main protagonist in this film, scarcely believes himself when his doctor tells him that he only has months to live due to a growing tumor in his body. A successful photographer who takes everything for granted, Romain finds the whole situation difficult to take. With his success, he never reveals his own vulnerability, preferring to create his own small world of which he's a sole ruler.

However, his cancer diagnosis changes the whole picture. Not only does he need to communicate, but he also needs care. He can't turn to his family, which he has ignored for a long time. He believes that his parents don't have the gut to get divorced and that his sister is married to a loser. He doesn't wait to make it clear that he doesn't like her child either. So we see that Romain's success both in career and in love just spoils him, making him take everything for granted.

His incoming death makes him feel more vulnerable. Yet, it's pretty strange yet understandable that he chooses not to tell his family the truth about his health, but rather to confide in his grandmother, with whom he is no longer in touch and who he knows will die soon too. This encounter with the grandmother functions as a turn in the film, when Romain seems to learn something and change his attitude towards life. (It's my personal opinion, though, that Ozon should've made it clearer what Romain actually realises after his conversation with his grandmother. I still feel the gap is rather quite big here.)

Coincidentally, Romain happens to run into a couple who desperately want to have a child but simply are unable to due to the sterility on the husband's part. Romain offers to help, hoping that the son will be his legacy on earth. And Romain then seems to be happy after this, feeling his life fulfilled and realising that while he's dying there's another life about to begin.

What do I think about this? I just don't like it, of course. Needless to say, I hate children like the early Romain, as I find them pretty noisy and needy. Wouldn't it be more heroic if Romain just dies alone and accepts his own solitude without leaving anything in the world. If I were him, I definitely wouldn't want to have any children. My personal statement is that we've done enough to make this world a bad place. Perhaps it'd be better altogether if the earth doesn't have humans. We only create more rubbish and heat, doing nothing but gratifying our personal selfish needs.

Also, I feel like if we have children, we are bound to have expectations that will eventually do more harm to them. This is because, whether unwittingly or not, our children will try to live up to our expectations and they'll hurt themselves for this. Maybe the concept of having children to continue your line of descent is quite imperialist, as it means that you believe that you're good enough and that your children should be given a chance to continue developing this world. But the question is: do we have such a right to think so righteously about ourselves?

Perhaps it's something to do with age. Maybe I'll want to have children when I grow older. Let's wait and see.

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