Wednesday, 26 March 2014
The Message for Writers in Midnight in Paris
So I had a chance to attend a special screening of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris at school. Sadly, I was the only one who showed up, but it meant I got the theater to myself. Still, seeing the basic plot of the movie, which when you get down to it, stripping away the fantastical time travelling elements, the comedy, and the unusual love triangle; is in large part about a writer having a chance to meet those who inspired him. A major theme throughout the movie is the question of what defines a "golden age", and the idea that such an event is merely a projection created by our own dissatisfaction with the present.
As a writer, I found myself strongly relating to Gil (that's a sign of some good direction, when you can really connect on an emotional level with Owen Wilson) , and it got me thinking a lot about some of the people who have inspired me. I realized that many of those from whom I drew inspiration were much older writers from previous eras: H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne, among others. At the same time outside of maybe a few odds and ends of Stephen King I never really found a writer of modern literature whose work has really clicked with me.
Like Gil, I suppose I found myself seeing modern art in a similar manner. Being inspired by Lovecraft I suppose I may have viewed the early 20th century when he wrote as a sort of "golden age", and believe me if I had a chance to go back in time and talk to him I'd take it. There's no doubting I could learn something from having a conversation with such writers.
However, in Midnight in Paris we see different people looking back on different periods as "golden ages". Gil sees the 1920's as a golden age, Adriana views the late 19th century the same way, while a group of artists from that era insist that there's no imagination and that they'd rather work during the Renaissance, and so on.
I could theoretically project this same line of thinking onto one of my own inspirations, like Lovecraft. I was heavily inspired by Lovecraft, but Lovecraft was heavily inspired by the earlier works of Edgar Allen Poe. Would it not therefore make sense to consider that he may have seen the 19th century as more of a "golden age". Furthermore Poe was presumably inspired by other writers who came before him, and I can't begin to speculate on who inspired them.
I thought this general idea was rather curious and it really got me thinking about how every great artist draws from those who came before. It's not even confined strictly to literature. Every great director was inspired by someone before them. David Lynch was inspired by Fellini, and Sergio Leone was inspired by Kurosawa. Presumably both of those inspirations also drew from someone else.