Life’s A Big Hot Mess: Thinking About Home While Watching ‘News From Home’

Posted in Blog, Movies by - March 18, 2020
Life’s A Big Hot Mess: Thinking About Home While Watching ‘News From Home’

Day 2

I wonder if there’s a point to analyzing why I’m watching what I’m watching. If I do, I’m certain that I’ll find some silly reason for why I’ve decided to sit down and watch “X,” essentially trying to mentally create a form of quarantine watching as praxis.

Take News From Home, for example, the film that I watched yesterday evening (with a spill over into today). Akerman’s masterpiece is one that I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time, but did I choose to do so because I secretly deep down long for urban spaces. Listen, I grew up in Edmonton, the dictionary definition of what Arcade Fire was talking about in “Spraw II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” Have any of you Edmontonians driven down Manning Road recently? Why is there so much space devoted to suburban blocks and strip malls?

Part of what I love about Toronto is that it’s what I imagine a real city is like. There’s a real public transit system, and you can also walk pretty freely downtown if need be. It’s gentrified to hell, for sure, but there are also spaces that aren’t this way. I love the ability to ride the subway to just about any place I could reasonably have a reason to go to. There are lots of problems, don’t get me wrong. No place is perfect. It costs an arm, a leg and your first-born child to live here, but I would argue that the reason for that is that people actually want to live in Toronto.

News From Home isn’t about Toronto. It’s not even really about New York, to be honest. It’s about a person’s relationship with the world around them. It’s observational and probing. Like all of Akerman’s work, it’s shot with the similar style of long takes, sometimes static and sometimes in sweeping motion. It’s incredibly poetic. It’s achingly nostalgic for home, and simultaneously finding wonderment in the world around you.

Part of what is fascinating about News From Home is that Akerman gives you very little in the way of context clues. You’re forced to piece together details, and guess regarding the accuracy of these reports from home. It’s secretly an ingenious way to drag you into her mindset of this time. You’re seeing what she’s seeing. You’re hearing what’s on her mind. You see it fade away as the present clears itself up.

I went for a walk this morning. I had been putting it off for a few days. Everything action I partake in right now is built around two considerations. One, if I don’t have it, will I get it? Two, if I do have it, will I give it to someone? It’s tremendously stupid and paranoid, but my anxious brain can’t help it. I stuck to the sidewalks on my walk, held my hoodie up over my mouth like a makeshift mask, and cut across the street if I could see anyone walking towards me. The only thing that keeps my mind off those two questions right now is movies and marking, and the former conjures up all sorts of thoughts ancillary related to the pandemic.

Good lord was said walk necessary. That twenty minutes and the roughly thirty minutes that followed were euphoric. I made all kinds of plans to talk to this person, and talk to that person. I’ve always considered myself to be an introvert, because I try not to bother people. What I’m realizing about this week is just how much I really enjoy seeing people that I like in the spaces that I see them. I worked a pretty crummy lifesaving job for a number of years, but I loved it. I didn’t love it for the pay, or the fact that they probably exploited the hell out of my labour. I loved it for the people that I got to see each and every time I went to work. The same goes for my school stuff right now. I love getting to see my friends. Not getting to see them right now, and being locked inside, is the hardest part of this week. The walking helped alleviate one of those two things.

I called my parents yesterday, for the second time in two days. Normally, they receive a weekly phone call, but in light of the stress I really wanted to hear their voice. I also talked to my partner, who gets a weekly FaceTime. We giggled about creepy pastas. Part of me thinks I should record these calls over the next few days in order to make Calls From Home, a film in which I overlay said recordings with images from my present world. Maybe if I had access to some Bolex Cameras instead of my just my phone. Maybe if I was actually creative. Maybe if I had the observational powers like Akerman does I’d be able to make something this beautiful. I walked past some people playing with their dogs in a park; how does that compare to some street baseball where the blocky high-rises are just as much of a cathedral as the confines of Yankee Stadium, probably mere miles away?

Maybe, I’m just not brave enough to properly make a piece of vulnerable art like News From Home. The part of this that wrecked me was the news of Chantal’s father falling ill. Her mother wishes that she were home right now. Thankfully, no one in my family has gotten sick yet, but I worry about them across the board. I worry about my grandfather, a man now into his 90s. He’s pretty healthy for a man of that age, but he also goes to walk West Edmonton Mall each and every day. I worry about him.

These stresses are probably not going to let up. It is only Day 2. At this point, none of us know what the last day is going to be. If there is one thing that’s making this all way harder than it presently is, it is the reality that this would be comparatively a cakewalk if we knew that things would be relatively normal come March 31st, or Good Friday, or April 30th, and so on and so forth. We don’t know that. All we know is that it will eventually cease. It’s the waiting that’s the hardest part.

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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