Long before the 2016 election, I remember when some unintentionally irritating people said they were curious to see what a President Trump would actually be like. We all sure found out, and I sincerely hope that the reality of Trump’s administration was significantly less entertaining than a media-besotted public assumed it would be. But given how enthusiastic some still are about him, it’s safe to say that millions are still addicted to the drama. Maybe we’ve become inured, if not entertained, by the possibility of disaster, mesmerized by the mysterious allure of our own undoing.
Film critic David Thomson has always been fascinated by the psychological ambiguities of seeing, especially alone amid a crowd in the dark, and he never ignores the ways in which the movies influence our consciousness, for good or ill. After excitedly rewatching Fritz Lang’s mighty Metropolis, he made sure to remind the reader that when the film first appeared on German screens, Hitler and Goebbels were darkly intrigued by its epic spectacle, too.
So it’s only natural that a film scholar would have much to say about the nature of disasters and why we are so captivated by them, provided of course that they are happening to someone else. His new book Disaster Mon Amour is a unique and almost unclassifiable work combining elements of movie criticism, social commentary, personal reflection, and sometimes veers into semi-surreal metaphors for the persistence of the human experience.
In the most moving section of the book, Thomson and his adult son visit the site of the 1966 Aberfan coal mine disaster in South Wales. A tip of coal waste slid downhill and smothered over a hundred schoolchildren and adults in horrid sludge. “The regulations of the National Coal Board required that such tips be no higher than twenty feet,” Thomson writes. “But throughout the coal field that advice was ignored… it had been growing on the skyline for years, the way so many threats build.” Thomson is quietly outraged at the evasiveness of the response to a tragedy that isn’t widely remembered many years later.
“You know the uneasiness now in opening up the paper—you know there is a war going on in which most of us are clenched against the anxiety and fatigue of being alive.” Isn’t it funny how time-saving technologies and modern conveniences have ironically made us more anxious, bored, distracted, and more filled with dread at the fresh news of something horrible happening somewhere else? Maybe we rubberneck over disasters because we are bored by our relatively cushy safety. Or maybe we can’t avoid the threats as they creep up on us, which only encourages more distraction. Despite its subject matter, Disaster Mon Amour isn’t entirely hopeless, which would be understandable given the gloomy subject matter. It’s more of a tone poem, a meditation on what we think about when we think about disasters, how they always seem to be happening to someone else, until they…
Read Full Story At: The Daily Beast.