I will not put this movie (French 2018), in “The Arts” section because it is a psychological drama that hits on the topic of sexual abuse, narcissism and women being left alone for several generations; much like Antonia’s Line (Netherlands, 1995). The film starts out in the 1950’s post WWII France. If you are a great film lover, as I am, you will know when you see the cover and the title, it just hits you – I must watch this film. What really piqued my interest was the title “An Impossible Love,” which hit home for me. I saw other things in the description that I ignored at first until it came up on the screen. I love the way Catherine Corsini handles abuse of a child in this film. Extremely subtle. The topic does not even come up until much later in the film. The child’s older lover tells the mother, not to let her daughter visit the father anymore. The shock on the mother’s face, to realize a man she has loved for 16 years, but who has rejected her all the same, is now sexually abusing their daughter. The shock to finally take in the missing pieces of this puzzle “Rachel” has created, her fantasy that he was a great lover, that they had something special together, suddenly unravels before her eyes. Virginie Efira (with the help of the cameraman), gives a somatic demonstration of soul searching, confusion, awareness and reality in just a few seconds of this film.Continue reading
Recently, I mentioned that I had returned to reading the Bible during a particularly challenging period of my life. After sitting in a church service on Mother’s Day, I heard the guest lecturer speak about Job’s patience. I could barely hear most of what this person said because, like many speakers, they don’t understand the concept of “put the mic near your mouth.” Therefore, I have no idea what she actually said, it was just those two words that sat in my head. Why was Job patient? What happened to him? I went home and began reading this chapter. I quickly realized how much I could relate to Job and how his struggles with God, which were inflicted by God, were similar to my own and those of the clients I serve (and most anyone who has struggled and feels it was – too much to bear).
In reading Job, you will first learn that he is quite well off for that time period. He has many acres, livestock, married and about ten children, more sons than daughters. Sons back then would have been more worthwhile than daughters, for the work they could perform on the property. Also, they would bring in more families to the household whereas the daughter would probably leave to join her husband and his family. The stage is set to let us know that he is in a good place financially. He is also a God-fearing family man. He is not worried about anything except the wrath of God.Continue reading
“Love is a many splendored thing, Love lifts us up where we belong.” from Moulin Rouge with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in a duet. I love listening to raw music sung by people who are not necessarily singers but are quite good. I love love, I love being in love, I love feeling love in all its glory. And yet, for most of my life it has come to an end. In fact, it has felt like the end from the beginning. I have lived with several men in my life and never once felt like I was in my own home. Passionate, immature, cocky, egotistical, frightened, PTSD love that was once my life. Now, for once in my life, I am in love with a man who I can be uncomfortable with and this allows me to grow. Someone who allows me to be myself so that I am able to come into myself as a woman. I feel safe and secure, being in love. It feels like it took forever to get here. And yet, we have taken things very very slow. Like it should be. And it makes so much more sense!
A victim of domestic violence has a lot of anger inside toward the perpetrator. Before I escaped my ex-husband I attempted suicide because I did not know that I could escape his prison. I did not know I had choices. I could walk away, although it wasn’t easy, or I could just sit there and not take any control over my life or my son’s.
There were many times when I thought about attempting suicide and there are many things that I wrote, much of which makes no sense now, during those brief periods of depression. My writing helped me to think things through. Consequently I have many journals that I will probably burn some day.
As someone who has been through trauma and survived it, I find this form of treatment [Cognitive Processing Therapy or CPT] to be the best and most healing of those that are out there for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This is a way of being involved in the treatment process – directly. It is a technique that helps one to look at their beliefs, through the help of a psychotherapist and re-examine them in a non-traumatic setting. It is not re-traumatizing (but your symptoms can elevate at first) and you are doing all the work. There are other techniques for working with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and you should find the one that fits best for you.
In her book, “A Wartime Memoir: Hungary 1944-1945,”Alaine tells about a life changing year that instead of being her downfall, became her life’s purpose. Sitting ducks with a changing guard, from Russian to German on an on-going, what seemed like a never ending basis, she travels from Transylvania (then hoping to remain with Hungary) to Csákvár, in Hungary and back again. In the end, you can imagine the frustration in knowing, if she had never left, her life would have remained simple an innocent.
What is beautiful about this book is that she is not talking like a psychologist but instead, goes back in her mind to re-live painfully traumatic experiences at the age of 19, as if she were that age once more. As a psychotherapist myself, I get the sense that she probably never went through her own course of treatment. This is because she continues to repeat over and over “I do not remember…” This is typical of a sexual abuse survivor or someone who was horribly traumatized at a young age and blocks the exact details of the trauma from their mind, for their own “assumed” well-being. Ironic, as she was a psychologist yet even today, people in this profession are closed off to doing their own work. It is important so that they can properly support others without transferring their own pain onto the client or confusing the client’s story with their own. I am not condemning her though because this was more typical of this time period. I grew up with Hungarians (refugees from the revolution), none of whom went into therapy and all of whom went through some of their own harrowing ordeals. Not least of which was fleeing their beloved homeland.
Alaine was born in Kolozsvár, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (at this time known as the city of Cluj-Napoca). Now it is Romania and it was in 1944-1945 as well. This was a time of unrest between the Romanians and Hungarians, power struggles on the Romanian part that included violence and discrimination against the Hungarians who lived there. Alaine’s father gave her this male name because of two reasons. One, he did not know French and so unaware that it was a man’s name but Two, his only purpose was finding a name that was not able to be translated into Romanian.
At the onset of 1944, Alaine, at 19, was married to her childhood sweetheart János. Within a few months into their honeymoon period, he gives her gonorrhea. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, it is at this point when he detaches from her and begins to be an emotionally abusive husband. She has the luck of being a strong woman, though terribly naïve. His mother, Mami, happens to work for the Esterházy family, who are of noble origins. It is here that they will go to live and because of him that she follows the family as they escape into Hungary to live and work at another estate, which will be the beginning of the end of Alaine’s life as she knows it. In Csákvar, what seems to bring some peace and safety for a short time, ends up being the front lines, which means constant harassment or torture from either the Germans or the Russians. For women, as with all wars, she and other villagers will be gang raped on what appears to be a daily basis, and at this time, she is under the impression that her husband was executed. The most impressive lines that she writes of her first account of abuse goes like this:
He put the photograph [of she and her husband] on the nightstand and laid me down on the bed. I was afraid he would not give me the picture. When he was done, he took the picture into his hand and showed it to me again…
When she writes, she is not writing like a writer in this book. She states facts, over and over. There are no pictures drawn and yet there is a story being told. Fuzzy memories are re-told and sometimes they are not even in order, so you have to re-read to catch yourself. It is as if you are sitting with her and she is telling you a story. When I got to the line “When he was done,” it came at me so quickly; I had to read it a few times to let it register. “Oh, okay,” I thought, this is how she is protecting herself and the audience. Even though she is not talking like a psychologist, she is consciously protecting throughout the book.
At some point, days, maybe a month or so later, she is escorted to a cellar, with 79 other Hungarians, who are doing their best to survive. They will go through days or months (you are never sure of the timeline but the book is only one year), of not bathing, very little food and at one point no water, ritual defecating and urinating (they can only go outside to do this during the 10 minutes of ceasefire which occurs daily at the same time), as well as lice and natural body odors. She is only with Mami and her dachshund “Filike,” who she holds at her breast, under a coat which no one notices until the end of her time there.
Alaine does spend a lot of time talking about blood and guts and waste, more than any other writer I have seen when it comes to war zones. One does wonder how people use the toilet during these times. When she mentions herself running away from a gang rape sequence, she talks about running through the snow with a slip on and blood being caked on her body and in her panties. She mentions being in the cellar when she pulls her shirt away from her body and a woman notices the skin of a sore coming with it. She is telling us about how you just keep going, no matter what, becoming oblivious to your own vanity.
The war is at the end, in 1945, when this part of her story comes to a close. She returns to Budapest, still without her husband, to be reunited with family; who will then return to Kolozsvár. She is saved from being labeled a whore, as most women will be in this time period, because her family are good people and she finally denies what happened. By this time the gonorrhea and the life conditions she has just endured have taken its toll on her body. She is hospitalized for some time before she will recover and get some of her life back. The irony is that she will never be able to bear a child and this was the fault of her own husband. The sardonic twist is the realization that all those Russian soldiers had went home to their wives passing on her venereal disease to them.
She and János will part ways and soon she will meet her second husband Miklós Mészöly, who went on to become a famous Hungarian writer. Alaine will go on to become the founder of the first children’s hospice program and win two different awards. She receives the Tibor Déry Award in 1992 (for this book, which was written in 1991) and The Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary in 2001. Alaine’s husband dies in 2001 and she will pass six years later.
Post-Script: What is horribly frustrating about the book is the writing and translation. Albert Tezla is the translator and having read a great number of translated books from several different countries, this is pathetic. You would almost think he didn’t speak English because the sentences come across as broken and unedited. I believe he is translating word for word, rather than trying to put it together in some organized fashion. It is also possible that Alaine was never edited since Albert was not either. I think this is embarrassing to both the writer and the country itself. While I am not a prolific writer myself and certainly need to be edited, I am self-published and have no professional acclaim to add to my repertoire. I was disappointed to say the least. However, this story, edited or not, annoying with the redundancy or not, needed to be told. What I have noticed when I find anything about women in history, this is so often the case. It is sad because I can’t recall any time when I have seen the same about men.
Back in the mid-80’s, I lived and worked in LA and was trying to get into modeling. I was not naïve to the “casting couch” as I had read the non-fiction “Hollywood Babylon” (published in 1959) as a teenager and knew this was a dirty world. My last time to try and make a go of it was with an agency looking for older models (I was 26-ish by then). They were off of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd. It was in a building across from the famous newsstand which may or may not exist anymore (do people still buy trade magazines and newspapers?). The guy who ran this agency worked with his wife, a beautiful Swedish/Norwegian looking blonde lady who was very pregnant with their first child. He took me and another younger woman to Malibu and we spent the day doing photos for our portfolios. We were in bathing suits and had to endure two Mexican men ogling us from over the side of a cliff we were under. We also had to endure this man/photographer telling us about his days with Playgirl magazine (when he was a model) and the size of his male part and how great he was.