Sunday, 31 August 2014

David and Lisa, Lisa and David

First I watched the 1962 movie. A brilliant movie, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the human psyche.

Then I watched the 1998 TV movie presented by Oprah.

After that I read the actual book by Theodore Isaac Rubin, available on internet free of charge right here.

So I feel quite competent to express my views on all three of them.
I cannot say if people who are not interested and have not taken any courses in psychiatry and psychology will gain much pleasure from these works or will even understand the symbolic aspects of the movies. To be honest, at times it seemed to me the actors of the 1998 movie did not quite get them either (and I'm actually talking about Brittany Murphy here). Brittany's portrayal of Lisa seems artificial. Only after reading the book I found out that Lisa was supposed to be 14, and David turned 16 during the book. However, the kids seemed much older than that in 1998 - and not because of the age of the actors (Brittany was 21 and Lukas Haas was 22), but because of the rather sexual connotations the TV movie had in comparison to the 1962 movie, and also the book.
After reading the book I realized there were actually three quite different stories of David and Lisa. First and foremost, in the way that the main characters were treated by the authors. As the book was quite vague about the parents and the causes of David's disorders, the movie makers could make whatever they wanted out of them.

The 1962 movie showed the problems as rooted in David's mother's tense and uptight personality. In many respects this character seemed very plausible and really drove the story-line forwards. Mother was aggressive, demanding, very artificial, very suppressed and suppressing. She took David away from "school" because she did not like the changes in him that had made him more outspoken and communicative. The 1998 mother (played by Allison Janney) had very different considerations. She took David out of the institution because she was shocked and scared for him after seeing the other kids. She also worried about him getting used to being institutionalized. In this version it was not the mother that was to (at least partly) blame for her son's disorders. This is very important. On one hand, it does a lot of good - taking away the stigma that the mothers of special-needs kids often get. The doctor tells the 1998 mother very early on: "Nobody blames you." We learn that David's father has died some years ago, but it does not explain or even try to explain David's problems. Surely his obsession has began much earlier.

What we don't really see in any of the movies but find in the book is that David spends at least two hours every morning getting obsessively clean, washing himself eight times, shaving again and again, devoting a lot of effort to his hair. The 1998 movie left me dubious - on one hand, David's hairdo was such that he could have done himself (surely no hairdresser could ever get near him!), but at the same time it did not fit (at least my) idea of an OCD image, it looked a bit too wild.

The book exposes Lisa's symptoms perfectly. You see immediately what the author (a psychiatrist!) needs you to notice. Lisa's character is quite incoherent, incomprehensible at the beginning. It's not rhyming she does as much as just mumble-jumble repetition of sounds and more or less made-up words. As Lisa's treatment (and relationship) progresses, her texts make more sense. This is where I blame Brittany Murphy. Or perhaps the director, I don't know. She says the rhymes like it's Shakespeare and not something just out of her head, repetitive and very childish. Her emotions seemed much too "normal", sorry for this very vague term, but she did not seem credible as a mentally severely handicapped person. Also, in the "masturbation" scene with the hand - she somehow makes it seem as if it's some other person's hand touching her, not her own discovery of her feminine sexuality. That might have been deliberate and in tune with the whole idea of making this "growing-up" story into a real sexual love story. Meanwhile, as we know, the concept of touch is of very high importance in this story - it's help and healing for some, and horror and torture for others.

This intention to romanticize the story could also be observed in the way that the makers of the 1998 movie changed the gender of at least two people - John (Lisa's "handler") into Maggie, and Simon (David's chess partner, the piano-playing boy) into Natalie. Lisa is supposed to feel some incomprehensible (to her) jealousy because of David's friendship with another person, but instead her jealousy is discreetly made into a much more "romantic", aggressive, possessive notion. No wonder! If Oprah calls this a "love story"! The book does not really lend itself to be perceived as such. It is really a story of slow and perhaps hopeless treatment and improvement, but for it to be a real love story it lacks the possibility of future for this relationship of two people at least one of which might never really reach real adulthood with all its responsibilities and accountability.

David, on the other hand, gets more and more involved with other people, even though he still avoids all physical contact. Watching the movies I wondered how the doctors had examined him, and the book did not disappoint and revealed all the medical notes. As the book is clearly Freudian, the dreams have the greatest significance. I found, however, that the clock scenes in the 1998 movie did not work at all. They were vague and even unmemorable. I suppose the director did not want to take a page straight out of the 1962 movie, but he should have! The book was quite clear about the way the dreams should have been portrayed, and if 1962 movie depicted his gory and very hostile, very aggressive, very destructive dreams as just disturbing, the 1998 scenes were not even that.
The same can be said about the statue in the museum. If we as viewers immediately, even somewhat viscerally  understood Lisa's longing to squeeze into the embrace of the statue between the mother and the child (I remind - we know nothing of Lisa's family or childhood traumas), then the only thing going for the 1998 statue was the complete blankness of the face, void of any features or emotions.

All in all, the 1998 movie seemed dumbed down and lacked the logic of the 1962 movie and the book. There was no catharsis in the scene where David insists on dropping the rhyming and speaking normally. Lisa just gives in for no apparent reason, while in the 1962 movie we see how scared Lisa is of losing her defense mechanism and how she reacts to a direct order from David, as from a paternal figure. It's the same with the final scene in the museum. The 1962 gives us a step-by-step account of how Lisa's and David's trust has grown. In the 1998 movie we see David's outstretched hand as a gesture of pity or mercy, not as a result of his own learning to trust people and overcome his demons. What I loved in the final scene was the much shorter physical distance from the museum to the car. With my current (very limited) understanding of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, the doctor would not have left everything in the hands of fate staying in the car several hundred metres away. We don't even see the person who has in many ways orchestrated the scene. The 1998 movie seems more plausible that way (the doctor could have easily observed the events on the stairs from the car without seeming indifferent or bold), and I really liked the symbolic way he opened the back door of the car for the "love couple" coming downstairs and holding hands.

Overall, a very good material for students of psychology, and I include my opinions in such detail for just one purpose - to watch the movies again and read my comments once I'm a full-fledged psychologist myself. I really loved the characters of the psychiatrist in both movies. He embodied everything I'm striving and hoping to be - a very sensitive, composed, benevolent, never judgmental professional. And Wikipedia provides a whole list of movies for further exploration of what has so clinically been dubbed "the human condition".

Monday, 18 August 2014

Summer's Almost Gone

Sadly, it's quite possible that today was the last time we went for a swim this year. It's getting increasingly cold, and the water is increasingly hard to get into. Still, after you've sweated out a good deal doing some manual labour (I piled all the firewood in neat(ish) stacks today!), there's nothing like shocking yourself with a cold, cold swim in the river.

The dog can't be persuaded, though.

Summer's Almost Gone.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

I'm no Princess

But my husband got quite romantic today and took me (without the kids, yay!) to Rundale Palace, the most opulent and impressive palace in Latvia. I've been there three or four times, and, to be honest, not much has changed there, but it's the first time in my life that I'm really really REALLY interested in the palace park.

So we drove a bit more than an hour to Bauska, quite a sleepy city that looked weirdly deserted. It was great getting there, there's nothing like talking all the way about all the things that I want to talk about without the kids listening.

Someone had poured some washing liquid or detergent in the fountain.

We saw a wonderful private garden that I would have loved to see more of.

We spent quite a long time looking for a place to eat. Any place with reasonable food at a reasonable price. Everything was closed on Sundays. I thought Sundays were the most profitable days, but I suppose it's just me.
Finally we found a strange place called "The Tavern". It looked rather cheap and dirty, a bit like a diner in American movies where a frumpy exhausted wife serves some mediocre food and her grumpy husband stands behind the counter. Only it wasn't like that. The food wasn't particularly cheap, and I must say, not too good either, and we waited almost an hour for it. But we were hungry and willing to overlook anything, even the very sour raspberries that tasted a lot like vinegar.

Then we went to the palace. It's huge and it's astounding, and as soon as you get in you feel that you would never want to live there, and you wonder how on earth they kept warm in there.

But we weren't allowed to take pictures (I didn't want to pay for that, knowing that I could never take better pictures than on their web page), so this is the only one I took, because there is some man in the painting with a fly above the lip.

You can't really see it in this photo very well, but there's a fly. It reminds me of this very popular picture. It must be a thing - an insect on the lip. A note to myself - must research.

All in all, I was quite happy when the tour was over and we were out in the park. It was a feast for my eyes, and Arthur indulged me, so we went to look at every plant and every gazebo.

I definitely want a pergola, and Arthur promised to make me one - "some day".

On the way home we were stopped by the police for speeding. We were very disappointed, because we hadn't noticed the sign and we don't ever go over the speed limit on purpose. After some 20 minutes spent nervously waiting for the policeman to write the ticked for 40 euros, we were set free with just a warning, and the policeman told Arthur to by flowers for his wife (me!) for those 40 euros. As if I needed flowers - it was enough to be set free without the fine!

Upon our return home we found out that kids had had two other kids over, and they had spent the whole day with them. As soon as the old folks are out of the house, the young ones are having a party!

It's Sunday night as I'm writing these words, and tomorrow is a new week with (hopefully) a lot of work. And I have to get my stuff together about the weight-loss stuff, it's getting me down a lot lately.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Pleasure of Making Things

I don't make new clothes very often any more. Basically because I can't keep up with the demands of fashion for two style-conscious young men who are quite anxious when it comes to being seen in uncool stuff. And also - I know how much my time costs, so it's usually not cost-effective to spend four or five hours, or much more, to make something that I could buy if I worked hard for two or three hours. But I do love sewing, and there are some things I can run away with. Those are the things that rarely get seen by others - like pants or shorts for wearing at home, and also pajamas. Making them fills me with immense pride in my own craftiness and allows me to learn new things. The lingering summer heat has provided me with a perfect opportunity to brush up on those pant sewing skills that are badly underdeveloped and unused. (Did I tell you I can only make pants with elastic waist and bed-clothes, and such? I'm no good with more complicated designs like stretchy fabrics, T-shirts or - God forbid - a dress!)

I've made more camouflage fabric shorts over the years than I care to count. There are at least three reasons for that.
1) The fabric is dead easy to sew - it has lines on the wrong side that make measuring, drawing and cutting incredibly convenient.
2) It's a rather safe bet that the boys are going to wear them. The novelty has worn off over the last four or five years, I must admit, and I wouldn't buy camouflage any more now, but I got this fabric last year and just didn't get around to sewing. You can never know if the boys would actually wear the blue or green, or black, or grey that I would imagine the boys would like when buying the fabric, and I know from experience that taking them (or the husband, for that matter) to the fabric store with me not only bores the living daylight out of them, but also completely ruins the magical joy that I experience in such venues.
3) Camouflage fabric disguises dirt! What's not to love?

I've noticed the shorts I've made a couple (three? four? hopefully not five!) years ago have "shrunk" on the boys to the extent they almost need to lie down to pull them on. A sure sign of growing! And an even more sure sign of a need for new shorts!

Sewing is like gardening - you can only learn by doing, and by now I have a pretty clear idea of what works and what doesn't. Like, now I know The Boys need deep pockets in the front - they have wallets, and money, and phones now! I hadn't done sewn in pockets before, but it really proved to be very easy. I'll keep making them. I also know I need a wider elastic, but I don't see a visit to a fabric store any time soon, so I'll have to do with a rather narrow one for the waist.

It's a real treat to take time away from work, especially on such hot days as these, to make something new. To hide in the bedroom with closed curtains to block out the light, to have some gardening programs providing heavenly and inspiring background noise, and to cut, and sew, and iron (yes, even iron in 37 degrees Celsius), and to come out for brief moments to measure someone's waist or to ask someone to try on the almost finished garment, and then - yes, to present it to a boy who's happy not just because he really needs new shorts, but also because he knows how much pleasure his mom has in her own private blissful sanctuary behind the closed doors of the bedroom - sewing away.

(I couldn't choose one picture, because - just look at the dog!)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Summer Heat Wave

It's so hot it's very hard to get down to work. We spend our days swimming in the river, and I spend my nights translating.
The garden seems a bit tired - or it might be just me. Lobelias have spread and filled out all the space, so it looks nice. It's always interesting to see which plants take over the garden. It's lobelias this year because I've sown literally hundreds from seed and now I have lobelias everywhere. Surely it's going to be something quite different next year.

Each year my knowledge and understanding of gardening grows, and so do my ambitions.
There are things I know I won't be sowing again any time soon - like the leafy goosefoot (chenopodium foliosum) that I'm quite disappointed in. It's called "spinach strawberry" in my native language, and it tastes nothing like strawberries. If anything, it tastes like spinach, a bit bland and to some extent even a bit unpleasant. It gets better if it's very ripe, but still... It does have some ornamental value, however.

Gladioli are starting to burst open, and the blood red silk is spilling out. I love gladioli, but I hope they wait a bit. I planted them later on purpose - to have flowers to give the teachers on September 1. I do hope they wait just four more weeks... But you can't keep a flower in the bud if it's determined to come out.

I've harvested the onions - not a lot, and not very big, but those are just some nice side-effects of having spring-onions up till now.

On Friday we got the firewood delivered. It's one of those seasons - like you have a strawberry season, and then there's the car repair season, and there's firewood season. I will have to find time to put it all away in neat rows in the shed... But not today. It's just too hot.

It was just as hot yesterday, and I suggested we went on a nightly roadtrip to the seaside. It was the best decision - the trip was not as excruciating in our AC-less car, and the beach was rather vacant, if not for some youths in tents. The water was just perfect, and I did just a tiny little bit of skinny-dipping in the dark while the kids had their sandwiches in the dunes. Made my husband excited about swimming in the sea as well.

I'm longing for a thunderstorm. The last one was four days ago, and it seems like an eternity. Everything is dry, and I'm tired of this heat. Will I really have to go downstairs to the cellar and search for the electric fan? I hate wasting electricity on things I can do without, bet I have a huge job to do this night, and perhaps it's time I admitted I really can't do without it.
But four days ago we had a thunderstorm that was also long overdue, and I sat on the stairs outside the house and let the water cool me down, and the dog was so anxious about the thunder I had to comfort him constantly.

Oh, good times. is not my friend and predicts some rain no sooner that next Thursday with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius every single day...
But it's summer, and in just seven or eight months I'll be ready to give up anything just to have some warm weather again.