Over the weekend, I finally got around to renting and watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which I’d been meaning to do for some time. I don’t know why I hadn’t, really. It just seems like this weekend was excellent timing for me.
You see, I found so many parts of myself reflected back at me by the characters, and by the movie itself.
One of the titular characters, Cristina, is consistently described as someone always searching for herself, and for a way to get that elusive, but intangible “more” out of life. She doesn’t know exactly what she wants out of life or love, only what she doesn’t want, and unabashedly admits it.
That is exactly where I am right now. I don’t know precisely what I want out of life. I have some ideas, sure, a few general directions, but few definites or specifics. For instance, I know I don’t want my life to revolve around forty hours in an office, spending my life typing, answering telephones, and fielding generally angry, impatient clients. What do I want to take the place of that? I’m not completely sure.
Also, Cristina wants to be an artist, and any art will do. She has creative energy, but she isn’t sure what to do with it or which way to direct it. She goes to Barcelona with her best friend, Vicky, after a failed relationship and what she considered a failed dalliance in film making, having written, starred in, and directed a short film, which, upon completion, she hated.
I have done that several times: begun and finished a creative project, only to end up being disappointed by or hating the thing once I see it as a whole.
While in Barcelona, Cristina finds herself running in the artists’ social circle after she and Vicky meet the charismatic painter, Juan Antonio, following a gallery opening. With this interaction with local artists of all stripes and under the tutelage of Juan Antonio and his ex-wife Maria Elena, Cristina starts exploring multiple art forms, particularly writing, poetry, and photography. She finds her focus–pun intended–in photography. This is the great gift of the trip for her, finding a focus for the creative energy that she didn’t quite know how to direct, and finding out that what she is best at (photography) was something that she had considered just a hobby and had been really shy about sharing.
I’m looking for that focus, or possibly a pair of them. I suppose that’s why I began blogging, really: to explore, to connect with other artists, and to learn from others, to see how people respond. Also, blogging is more practical and affordable than a whirlwind trip to Barcelona. Haha. Even better, I think I’m starting to find focus, though I do still feel a bit shy and protective of it.
Now, lest you think Cristina is the only character I relate to, let me say that, in relationships, I am very much unlike her. I don’t spontaneously jump into things. I’m terrible at just going with the flow with no idea of where things are headed. Instead, I more closely resemble Vicky prior to her one night with Juan Antonio.
Vicky, at the outset, is very reserved. She values fidelity and commitment, and also steadiness in a partner, which is why she is engaged to be married to Doug, a very–by comparison to the other characters–traditional guy, a steady and solid businessman. She was initially appalled by Juan Antonio’s offer, upon their meeting, of weekend escapades, though she does, in the end, find herself moved and gives in to momentary passion after an impromptu Spanish guitar gathering. You see, it is implied to the viewer that Vicky has been stuffing the more romantic and passionate parts of herself aside, only to, under the influence of Catalan culture, wine, and a moving Spanish guitar performance, momentarily lose her inhibitions and find them.
I have to say, I would have behaved similarly to Vicky in her initial reaction to Juan Antonio. I hate the straight-for-the-panties approach. But, unlike Vicky, I’m not looking for a Doug, nor the kind of relationship she has with him. In fact, so far, I’ve been looking for the passionate artists, but I do also value getting to know someone first, before I consider a passionate and/or romantic relationship. But, I have a bigger obstacle than finding a potential partner: I tend to run away as the tension is mounting.
The intangible but magnetic forces that force us to reveal our feelings and take that leap that could topple the relationship across the line between friendship and into romance or at least really great sex, or, conversely, could lead to rejection, has, in the past, sent me running scared.
In light of my past reactions, I wouldn’t have made it to that all important turning point for Vicky. I would have run as fast and far as my legs would carry me, probably all the way back to Barcelona, whereupon I would set about avoiding Juan Antonio as much as possible and ignoring him when avoidance wasn’t in the cards. (I wouldn’t have married Doug, either, because my feelings for him would be in question, and I just couldn’t get married with that being the case.) Being true to my past form, I would have put thoughts of the men and feelings for them aside and, instead, poured myself into my studies. After all, Vicky’s stated purpose for being in Barcelona in the first place is to work on her Master’s thesis on Catalan culture.
I did the ignore-him-avoid-him-focus-on-your-studies thing more than once during high school and university. Post-university, I came back to my hometown and no one has caught my attention, so I haven’t had to worry about it the past few years.
However, I do hope that these days I’m not quite as scared as I used to be, that I would be a little less Vicky and a little more Cristina if a person of interest crossed my path. I do hope that if I find myself captivated by someone, I don’t throw up walls of pretense or run away, and, instead, stick around to see what happens. Again, I don’t know exactly what I do want, but I know what I don’t want.
Oh, one more thing…Have you seen the tagline for the movie? This is it:
“Life is the ultimate work of art.”
Yes, I think that is brilliant and true. I like–no, LOVE–considering life as a work of art. If there are low points, one could consider them plot points toward the greater outcome, or the shadows in a photo or painting that make the rest of it really pop. Like the movie, and like making art, life can get messy or twisted or tangled, but great things can be born of that mess, those twists and tangles. At the very least, the world doesn’t stop turning when things get messy or twisted or tangled. And the process, the art-making, only ends when our lives do.
Yes, this has been one of those movies that shift things for me, one that I will likely buy and watch again and again when I’m feeling down or lost. It, for me, like two of my other favorites, Elizabethtown and Catch and Release, is a fable and a mirror. I didn’t expect it to be. I merely expected to be entertaining. But, art always seems to have that capability, doesn’t it?
Here’s to going forward, making life art!