Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Last night, we watched “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. This is the movie rendition of the first three books of the series entitled (oddly enough) “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Given the subject material and style, I should have enjoyed the movie. In fact, Crystal had begun watching it earlier and thought that I would like it. I didn’t. In fact, I went to bed depressed. And that’s the odd part about all this. I’ve watched equally surreal and depressing movies before. For instance, I rank “Edward Scissorhands” as a favorite movie of mine, and I think that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was a hoot. Granted, “Edward Scissorhands” still makes me cry every time I see it, but still I find a certain satisfaction in the story. What was so different about “A Series of Unfortunate Events”? So, this morning, I was trying to put words to my feelings. Normally, I don’t have a problem with this, but this was one of those exceptions. Finally, I figured out what was bothering me. The plot of the movie was one tragedy after another afflicting these three children. Just as an example, two of their relatives are murdered by the villain, one of them being abandoned in the middle of a lake to be eaten by leeches. This is, of course, in addition to the “unfortunate event” that kicks off the story: the death of their parents when their house burns down. Early in the movie, the narrator (nominally Lemony Snicket, the author) says, “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels; and if you haven't, you cannot possibly imagine it.” But, see, I have lost someone very important to me. This is serious stuff, and I expect that any story about such a thing be serious. Instead, I felt that the movie was flippantly horrible. In many ways, it reminded me of the Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. The events being portrayed were awful, and the story understood that they were awful, but, still, the surreal world in which they occurred seemed to make light of the tragedies that beset these three children. Even the dreary tone of the narrator seemed to suggest that the gloom and doom is really all just part of the joke. And still, I don’t feel like I’ve really explained myself. A wise person once said, “Never judge a book by its movie”, and I try to abide by this adage. Maybe the books are different. Maybe the books handle this material with more care and respect than the movie. But I don’t know. I really don’t know. All I know is that, every day, children all across the world lose their parents to tragic accidents. And it’s not funny. No, not funny at all.


Blogger greenemama said...

i don't think that the books (equally dark) are flippant or jocular regarding the death of the parents or the subsequent bad things that happen to the children. i think we are intended to find the thwarting of count olaf and other villains humorous, the genius of the children inspiring, and the language itself of the story engaging.

i do see, however, how such a subject would strike a nerve when one has experienced such loss.

(((seth, gabrielle, fritz, others)))

12/07/2005 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra said...

Then perhaps I'll give them a read.

Part of what I was struggling to reconcile is that, as Crystal pointed out, the movie seemed like the sort of story that I would write, and I see her point. I probably would write about an equally dark situation, using it to point to the light.

Maybe it just hit a nerve. I really don't know.

12/07/2005 01:48:00 PM  

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