Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bittersweet


We were discussing Wong Kar Wai's movies the other day when the word bittersweet was mentioned, and I realized that this was a common theme that characterized many of my favorite works of art (and was even my favorite kind of chocolate). That everything comes to an end is both the best and worst thing about life, and the promise of the future is forever tinged with the pain of having to let go of the past. The life we make is only one of all that could have been, and that is precisely what makes it both worthwhile and heartbreaking. Like this final passage from Winnie-the-Pooh (in which Christopher Robin and Pooh come to an Enchanted Place and we leave them there), one that is particularly close to my heart.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"When I'm - when - Pooh!"
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"

"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much. They don't let you."
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.
"Yes, Christopher Robin?" said Pooh helpfully.
"Pooh, when I'm - you know - when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Just Me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"Thats good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise you wont forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little.
"How old shall I be then?"
"Ninety-nine."
Pooh nodded.
"I promise," he said.
Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt Pooh's paw.
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite -" he stopped and tried again - "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

2 comments:

natalie said...

i know what you mean now, and now i really want to watch wong kar wai movies!! that excerpt from winnie the pooh is heartwrenching. bittersweet is what gets me the most too, i think...that bit that makes you want to cry, but not all the way. that is why i love peter pan (the book) so much, and lord of the rings (the book), an affair to remember (the movie), and to a certain extent, to kill a mockingbird (the book). what are your other favorite bittersweet things? i want to experience them!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes! What especially breaks my own heart, is that the second-to last picture is quite bittersweet, but the final illustration for "The House at Pooh Corner" is such a cheery image (by the wonderful Ernest H. Shepard).

I am partial to the bittersweet ending of "The Brothers Karamazov," but I have to refrain from quoting it. Natalie will kill me if I ruin it for her.

Oh, and I have to squeal a bit about Wong Kar Wai. I love his films, because they are so slowly paced, but so full of these perfect moments: Faye Wong dancing to California Dreamin', Takeshi Kaneshiro cleaning Brigette Lin's shoes, and Tony Leung talking to his soap and towel and stuffed animal. None of those were really bittersweet, but each one is a complete, wonderful little character revelation. I love that.
-jw