I was lucky enough to go along to an afternoon put on by the space|space crew over in Paddington called The Enthusiast; a tight nit crew of laid back peeps hanging out in their shed-like space, chatting about what they’re enthused about and chewing on candy whilst being projecting s film. As I perceive, each afternoon (held once a month) will feature a different Enthusiast, enthused about a different subject and projecting it upon the rest of the crew. It was enjoyable and refreshing and we like these guys even more after we attended their first exhibition Cosmic Peephole (featuring a glock light box, a beautiful bird roof installation and a live psychadelic liquid light projection (ala Psychochemical Algae rhythm) with a guitar impro amonst other cool stuff)! These guys are getting the non-pretentious but seriously sweet experimental art show dig!
Enthusiast #1 featured some Laika enthusiasm; the small dog sent to space as a test, and without food inevitably starving to death. The preceding speech of Hallstrom’s film screening came from the heart of Caiti Dircks who lovingly spoke of the sadness she felt for Laika and related to young Ingemar of the film to come. There were book excerpts and we listened to an Arcade Fire track Neighbourhood #2 (Laika):
Our mother should have just named you Laika!
It's for your own good
It's for the neighborhood
Proving how far the story of Laika has spread and affected people.Then she spoke of her ideas about our last moments of life and took a photo of us all to remind her and show others, perhaps when she is old, that she had all these wonderful friends who hung out and did fun things together. Though not in the inner circle, Alex and I hope to attend again and get to know these people better so that our presence in that photo may not be lost somewhere down the track.
Lasse Hallstrom’s a generous director with a lot of love for his audience. He is delicate and sensitive without resorting to sensationalism or cliché story arches to prompt an emotional response. In both his handling of characters and his projection onto his audience, the human ambiguities present in the story are treated in a European style of filmmaking, easing you and guiding you as you join a little boy’s journey.
Ingemar surveys the world with innocent wonder and an almost alien curiosity as he naively tries to find his place in an adult world. His struggle continues to end in hopelessness, as he fails daily to let his mother rest through her terminal illness, his accidental misbehaving sending her into hysterical fits of screaming and crying. He seems takes control of his own sweet controlled universe where he happily devotes himself to his girlfriend and she he, innocently and shortlived he decides to live out in the field with his dog, with the objective of giving his mother- who he idealises despite her notable absence and negligence- some time to get better.
However well his attempted mature distancing of life’s very real dramas, where worse troubles such as Laika’s plight into space and subsequent death which narrated at the forefront of Ingemar’s galaxy, his naivety only makes his tragedy even more devastating. His mother will die, he will be “left over,” and he will have to figure out how to grow up wondering why “you didn’t want me, Mama?”
When he is cast out, after several incidents such as setting the haystacks where he intended to live ablaze and with his brother and him having to be self-sustaining with a mother in bed and a father out on the horizon somewhere picking bananas, he is sent to live with his uncle in a surreal town of quirky characters; each with an idiosyncrasy and each with a small gift of wisdom to help Ingemar come to grips with childhood and his own worth. He leaves his dog behind, hoping he too won’t suffer the plight of Laika.
Issues of sex and death surround the plot and make it an overwhelmingly relatable experience about the difficulties of learning how to find a place for these in a tiny but growing heart. I want to use the word gem again, but I won’t but this little film has everything so if you haven’t seen it- find it and watch it, it’ll make you feel nice.