Distance(s) #15

Young Mr. Lincoln - John Ford, 1939, 35mm

Quei loro incontri - Straub-Huillet, 2006, 35mm


Virtue is unvirtuous, reason unreasonable, intolerance rules everywhere, everyway. For the Augustinian-Irish-Catholic John Ford, sin is inescapable; without God’s grace, we are lost. Thus Ford’s movies are melodramas set-to-music of darkness battling light – in myriad shades of grey. Each life is a pilgrimage and a cross.

Demeter: Who could have guessed that their wretched lives could hold such riches? For them I am a fierce mountain, bristling with forest; I am cloud and cave, goddess of harvests and towers and cities; Lady of the Lions, goddess of cradle and tomb, and mother of Core. Everything I am I owe to them.

Dionysus: They're always talking about me, too.

Demeter: Then shouldn't we help them more, Dionysus? Make amends to them somehow? Stand at their side in the brief instant of their lives?

Dionysus: You gave them grain, Deo. I gave them the vine. Let them be. What more do they need?

Demeter: I don't know why it is, but our gifts are always ambiguous. Double-bladed axes. My Son Triptolemus almost had his throat cut when he brought that Scythian stranger his gift of grain. Even your gifts cause the shredding of innocent blood, Dionysus. Or so I hear.

Dionysus: But they wouldn't be men if they weren't miserable. Death is what they're born for. It's death that drives them to their efforts, to memory and foresight. And don't go supposing, Deo, that their blood is any better than the wheat or wine with which we feed it. Blood is vile, foul, wretched.

Demeter: You're young, Iacchus, and you don't know that they discovered us in blood. You course restlessly through the world, and for you death is like wine: exalting, an ecstasy. But you forget that mortals have suffered every story they tell of us. How many mortal mothers have lost their Core and never seen her again? Even today the richest offering they make is blood.

Dionysus: Is it an offering, Deo? You know better than I that there was a time when they thought that in killing their victims they were killing us.

Demeter: Can you blame them? This is why I said they discovered us in blood. If for them death is the end and the beginning, then they have to kill us in order to see us reborn. They are very unhappy, Iacchus.

Dionysus: You think so? They seem stupid to me. But maybe not. They are so mortal that by killing themselves they give a meaning to life. They have to live and die their own stories.

--Cesare Pavese, Dialogues with Leuco, 1947, trans. William Arrowsmith & D.S Carne-Ross (Eridanos, 1989), p.176-177.

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