March 20, 2012

Watching Ordet

The farm woman who has died in childbirth is stretched out in an open coffin as her weeping husband sits beside her. The mad brother who thinks he is the second coming of Christ walks into the room holding the hand of the couple's young daughter. As the small group of mourning relatives and friends looks on, wondering what blasphemy or sacrilege is about to be committed at this solemn moment, the would-be incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth addresses the dead woman in a calm and quiet voice. Rise up, he commands her, lift yourself out of your coffin and return to the world of the living. Seconds later, the woman's hands begin to move. You think it must be a hallucination, that the point of view has shifted from objective reality to the mind of the addled brother. But no. The woman opens her eyes, and just seconds after that she sits up, fully restored to life.
There is a large crowd in the theater, and half the audience bursts out laughing when they see this miraculous resurrection. You don't begrudge them their skepticism, but for you it is a transcendent moment, and you sit there clutching your sister's arm as tears roll down your cheeks. What cannot happen has happened, and you are stunned by what you have witnessed.
Something changes in you after that.
-- Paul Auster, from Invisible (2009).