Friday, 27 March 2015

The Traveller

The traveller set out just before the break of dawn, when the streets were largely deserted, save a few somnambulists, who roamed aimlessly about, still in the midst of a dogged pursuit of reclaiming their fugitive dreams. As customary before every journey, he looked cautiously up. The sky, which was yet liberated totally from the dark spell of night, had on him a peculiar attraction. His initial dread of the unknown was overridden by a mounting feeling of ease and security; the mists that cast seamlessly over the sky were to him the wings that ensured his anonymity; even his solitude seemed less palpably felt.

Not a trace of clouds was visible in the mistbound heaven. Although he fancied he saw, hanging at the furthest end of the perceivable distance, a faint glimpse of a big, bright sun. Blood red.

Quite unexpectedly she appeared, nipping her way to a point of unknown. Her gait was nimble as a hare, but at points hastening like that of an escapee, desperate to put off scent the approaching pursuers. In his remembrance she was always more assured in states where one’s senses were the least certain. She pledged allegiance to the nocturnal; blinding lights gave her violent shudders of fear. Throughout the day she was resigned to shutting in on her own. Once in a while a roguish boy, always under the same pretext of retrieving a lost ball, would stray into her garden on purpose, hoping to seek confirmation of the rumors he’d been hearing, of a grotesque, wizened old lady who developed an instinctive repugnance of daylight, as it reminded her the brutal clarity of the day her lover went away. The sun was brazen, emitting shafts of lights that assailed her from all sides. But she continued to look on, with eyes burning with fire and tears, vainly clinging onto the hope that the departee would soon be moved by her staunchness and turned his head. She persisted until the wind chilled her bones, and the owl cried.

Whenever she closed her eyes the lights would still be dancing in the extended darkness, and the scene of that fateful leave-taking replay again and again, her tears and his relieved sighs. She took to habit of scouring the earth as though in a trance, with only the fading moonlight as her trusty guidance. Stoutly she maintained in her unwavering conviction that her lover would soon return home. Night was the time she felt closest to him; every spectral form that brushed her past she discerned in it a face that, until this day, she failed to expel from her memory.

Quite some time elapsed since he last saw her. A glimpse of her fleeting presence still gave him tremors, of roused sentiments or lingering guilt he could not tell. The same tremors that weighed down his pace to that of almost a trundle, as he walked resolutely away, that day when the sun was blood red, and everything throbbed amidst the scary illumination. Not once did he turn his head but he was listening, the irritable sobbing that erupted convulsively and showed no sign of ceasing; but ceased eventually and he looked back aghast- she was not there.

There was an invisible gap that opened up between their worlds- she the ghost of yesterday, he the eternal traveller. He felt himself transcended, hardening against all tender feelings and sweet illusions. The somnambulists were straggling home with their shattered dreams; the ravens mocked at their folly, relentlessly till they were choked by their own venom. She was plunging further still into the growing darkness that would soon engulf her and her fruitless pursuit. He waited until she became no more than a small, obscure point, still struggling to bob up above the overpowering tide of her illusive reminiscences. And then he hastened on.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Serpent

The life and ruin of me,
The Serpent- I grasp at your immortality in my failing memory.

Numerous conquests far and wide,
Enchanted by your poisonous spell;
Drunk to draught the liqueur of lust from your bottomless well.
Deftly you dallied with their pilgrim love- hearts and souls that writhed and twined.

The incessant sighs of desire that conceals the hisses of ruthless vice.
Your serpentine ways succeeded the deceiving- both the foolish and the wise.
To no avail could they make their reasons just,
Why they thrashed still in your perfidious love.

I was too lured in by your sinuous incantation-
A voluntary prisoner,
Neglected in my chronic incarceration.

Lethe runs in my blood every time you smote my lips your frosty kiss.
Germinating in my gullible heart a love seed that never blossomed.
The withered flower of that counterfeited love- my blindness, now I come to think of it, so wretched and brazen!

But one day your venom cleared my eyes and made me see:
The permanent gloom beneath your lurid sheen.
Vague terrors crept upon you.
Misery resurged anew.

You coiled in your unrepented guilt-
Like a grain of insolent pride trembled before the jaw of sorrow’s mill.

The fall of the fallen;
The weak of the malevolent.

Evil eventually forsook you, that limpid, frigid night.
Under your stoic disguise out came the plaintive sigh,
And the voiceless cry.

Violent and entire you sloughed off your quivering heart and abrasive skin.
But nothing could assuage the grief of the guiltless phantoms-
Always would they chant the endless song of your unredeemed sin.

On the eve of your Sleep you shed an honest tear and whispered to me:
“No one could wipe me off his memory.”

The life and ruin of me,

The Serpent- I grasp at your immortality in my failing memory.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Review: Psycho (1960)

Psycho is in a class of its own; its brilliance insuperable by many. Released in 1960, in the wake of a spate of successful films, Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho as if it were his last, foregoing the wry humour and beguiling romance that set the tone of his previous films, and favouring the clinically menacing. Such bold and drastic departure from the familiar Hitchcock bent yielded a result that continues to fascinate and astound its viewers decades after its release, and is indisputably the paramount of horror films, with many filmmakers strove to follow its example and consequently failed. Pioneering a new genre called the “slasher film” without too heavily depending on the gratuitous violence and gore, Hitchcock evokes the old school horror, the preoccupation of which is a mixture of psychology and suspense.

The film promises no let-up on its shuddering excitement; the audience’s breath is held bated from start to finish. One important factor of its success is that it plumbs the mortal fears we can all relate to. For instance, the fear that breeds out of the gnawing guilt of having committed a reckless wrongdoing. The sequence with Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) driving away with the stolen money and incidentally having a curious cop tagging along is no less of a gripping moment worthy of note than the famous shower scene.

After failing to master her discomfiture under the dogged inquiry of the cop, Marion decides to exchange for a new car to cover up the suspicion. The aftermath of such rash act is like an unwakeable nightmare where one narrowly escapes from one mishap only to find oneself in another- dismayed that the cop pursues her to the car dealership, Marion hastily shoves a thick layer of cash to the dealer and flees, too late to calculate on this ill-conceived precaution, which only invites more questioning on her furtiveness. These extremely tense moments are accompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s score, the frantic, hurtling pace of which accentuates our growing fear of what more disasters might lay in store for the hapless Marion.

Anthony Perkins plays the bashful, twitchy, enigmatic motel proprietor who helps finalising Marion’s “comeuppance.” He is one of the primal examples of calm menace, who hides behind his seemingly smooth, innocent façade, and is actuated into impulsive acts of violence when an object of desire conjures up keen pangs of repugnance and hatred. Such unsettling behaviour is attributed to a lifelong thrall to his domineering mother, whose memory he keeps alive by occasionally merging her personality with his. He loves and abhors his mother in equal measure, turning aggressive and agitated once a harmless suggestion is hazarded to have her institutionalised. Perkins said in an interview that he felt inclined to sympathise with his character’s perverseness because he believed his conflicting nature to be the result of a bruised past.

Perkins’s vivid and subtle portrayal of the notorious figure had cemented its spot as one of the most memorable in the cinematic history, whereas the actor suffered from an interminable period of typecasting. He reprised the role in three sequels, but none of them achieved the same historical significance as the original. Hitchcock’s ingenious directing technique also has much to be thanked for for the character’s formidable presence. As is instanced in the prolonged sequence with the killer meticulously moping away the blood and making sure the room is spick-and-span before freighting the body to a nearby swamp and sinking it, the director chooses to dwell on the chilling sophistication of a seasoned killer with his spoliation of evidence. The horror of the calm after the storm can be even more hair-raising than that of a sudden assault.

The austere aesthetic of the camerawork endows the film with a hard-boiled exactness that resembles a documentary. Seeing the film one is reminded of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Jules Dassin’s noir masterpiece The Naked City (1948), in that what ultimately horrifies us is not the graphic expressions of vice and villainy, but a prevailing sense of matter-of-factness that attends the story of crime.