Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Thought on The Road and Fire

Having finally kicked myself sharply enough to find a way to watch the film adaptation of The Road (thanks, LN, for the spur), I have but a single thought on which I may or may not later expand depending on further reflection and my ever-swerving mood swings.

It would seem Peter Travers missed something pretty fundamental here:

The Road becomes heartening against the odds of what McCarthy called the “dimming” of the world. In this haunting portrait of America as no country for old men or young, Hillcoat — through the artistry of Mortensen and Smit-McPhee — carries the fire of our shared humanity and lets it burn bright and true.
Fire can be seen as the spark of hope, and it can also be seen as the means of destruction, and both are true -- in in the film, in the book, and in real life. In the film, fire is a source of light and warmth that keeps the man and his son moving forward, but is also a danger they must flee more than once, and, in a recollection of the last moments of the pre-destroyed world, the source of an alarming glow on the horizon that signaled the end's beginning. Fire is the source of the ashen air that blots out the sun and stops the cycle of life, and also the site around which the two characters have their last positive human interaction with a fellow traveler. It lights their way into dark places, but it also (more so in the book than in the film) betrays their location by night. It is, in the form of the pistol and the flare gun, a means of defense, a lethal weapon against others, and a suicidal final option.

To carry the fire is to carry hope and woe. For all the wandering and striving, and despite the suggestion of motion in the idea of "the road," it's far from certain that anything has moved by the film's end: fire remains fire, horrors offset possibilities, and everything is as gray as ash.

The book left me so heartsick as to be physically sick for three or four days. I expect the same as I continue processing the film, so I've lined up plenty of soup and blankets. And a flare gun.

1 comment:

larryniven said...

"It lights their way into dark places, but it also (more so in the book than in the film) betrays their location by night."

Yeah, that was a bit of an awkward omission from the movie. That's a pretty basic thing about fires, so it was weird not to see them even address it.

"Fire can be seen as the spark of hope, and it can also be seen as the means of destruction, and both are true -- in in the film, in the book, and in real life. In the film, fire is a source of light and warmth that keeps the man and his son moving forward, but is also a danger they must flee more than once, and, in a recollection of the last moments of the pre-destroyed world, the source of an alarming glow on the horizon that signaled the end's beginning."

Ah - very good point. That irony escaped me as well, I have to admit; I'll have to bear it in mind when reading the book.