essays by Shé

Posts Tagged ‘film’

Hungary 1989

In Love on October 27, 2022 at 3:08 pm

I got the part in Howling V. Hunh. I was sure they’d give it to the blonder cheerleader frequenting the Mary Lou callbacks, but no — I’m going to Budapest. For years I’d been saying my last name was Hungarian (it isn’t), now I’d be there — filming! — for five weeks.

Got my passport, gathered an entourage to see me off at the airport, and away I went, toting my Prozac, The Courage to Heal, and Johnny’s Puppy.

Cast and crew stayed at an old hotel. I was next door to Victoria Catlin, who went on to Twin Peaks fame; she graciously shared her dried pears.

Milk came in a bag, most folks smoked, and a pair of shoes cost Hungarians a month’s wages. I grew up on food stamps, but was suddenly rich in the Eastern Bloc. The producers found me a dance studio that played old Michael Jackson hits in the ballet class. Stephanie Faulkner (her character was killed early in the movie) defended me to a big German woman in the baths (my hair wasn’t covered). I bought, for the first and only time, a couture dress, as well as a silk-lined wool cape to help with the winter weather.

Down the avenue, on one of my rambles, I found a sidewalk flower vendor. We took to each other straight away: she, short, brunette, and friendly; me, tall, blonde, and sad. Instant smiles commenced. She did not speak a word of English, I spoke a few words of Hungarian (köszönöm, igen, nem, kesztyűt, zokni — thank you, yes, no, gloves, socks). But we both spoke the language of flowers. Each week I visited her, and came away revived. My tribe!

I hung out with the FX team (I was the werewolf), and my translator took me to dinner in the country where I tried venison. But there came a day late in the Mafilm shoot when the dour people of Budapest actually smiled (the flower lady had been the exception). It was some sort of holiday: kids rode on men’s shoulders holding balloons, adults laughed and sang, musicians played in Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square). Rumored to be a poet’s birthday, but also — wow! — the end of Communism. It was as if the White Witch of Narnia had finally been vanquished. And I was privileged to see it.

Hungary 1989, photo by Shé
Hungary 1989, photo by Shé

Essay #2: the monster is a puppet

In Love on March 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I recently watched The Empire Strikes Back. George Lucas came on before the film to explain that this was a different version than had first appeared in movie theatres. In the original, he said, “the ice monster was a hand puppet.”

His comment struck me.
The terrifying monster that almost kills Luke Skywalker…was a small hand puppet.

How many of my monsters — or fears — are merely puppets?

Here’s a recent example: I couldn’t pay the rent on time this month. For days my mind threw up grim images of an angry landlord, eviction, living under bridges, homeless in the rain. When I finally got the courage to call him, he said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’re all right. We’d hate to lose you.”

Monster? Hand puppet, operated by my mind.

Fear contracts: muscles, vision, life. I’ve been stuck in a contraction, bracing myself against the next bad thing. Fear has run me down, squeezed me small, hidden me away.

I have been flinching at life, not living it.

Fear was no longer a useful message, but a screaming background noise I tried to ignore. I pushed past fear, moving fast, hoping she wouldn’t catch up.

During a difficult conversation with my dad recently he said, “You are living such a marginal life.” And he is right. I have been cramped and small and walking on a thin line, trying not to fall. Living on the margins, instead of within the full text of life, spread out, taking up space.

I marginalized myself, trying to be good, perfect, lovable, wanted.
Thinking I had to deserve happiness.
I didn’t know that monster was a puppet. I thought it was going to kill me.

During the same conversation, I told my father I used to try to be the daughter I thought he wanted, which is why we never had a truthful interaction. I was afraid he wouldn’t love the real me.

My father said, “You never had to do anything except be your own happy self.”

And that’s the real monster, believing I’m not enough.
Spending time and energy trying to prove otherwise.

Fear is afraid. And what should you do when, say, little kids are afraid?
Ignore them? Scream at them?
Condemnation is not a useful healing tool.

Lately I’ve tried something a little different: dancing with Fear. Listening to her. Holding her on my lap. Breathing.

This is not always easy to do.
It’s so tempting to run away or drown her out with distractions, e-mail, DVDs, whiskey.

It takes practice.
When I remember, I acknowledge instead of ignore, dance instead of fight, listen instead of run. I say to Fear,
Come into my heart and lie down
Rest your weary self
You are enough – right now.

The monster is only a puppet.
You can take your hand out anytime.

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