(From an e-mail by Ellie to Vitaly Sumin)
Subject: After thoughts
Many thoughts about today's rehearsal. I think this film could be truly full of depth in so many ways. It was an interesting discussion that of whether or not the cameras are on or off all the time. I think, we came to the conclusion, that Steve thinks he has control over the cameras and turns them on and off as he pleases, BUT we will later find out, Bob has had other hidden camera's the whole time. Was this our general conclusion for the time? I think it is a good one, I particularly like the idea of the duality of Steven... who he is when he knows the camera is watching; who he is when he thinks no one is watching. It is a metaphor, I think, for two ideas... One, the idea of whether or not there is a God watching us at all time... and if he is watching us, how are we being judged. The second idea, is the idea of being watched and judged by other human beings.
I again, highly suggest you read Conversations with God, I think you would really like it. The voice of God says, in this book, "You got me all wrong, you think that I am judging you in the choices you make, you think I will punish you if you make the wrong choice... But I created all of the choices you can make... why would I punish you for choosing something I created?". In the book, God is, in a sense, correcting all of our false ideas of God, which I think what torments so many people.... The idea of right and wrong, good and bad, heaven and hell. We want to classify the world so that we can understand it... it's the whole idea we spoke of today... about how hard it is to live with not knowing.
I think I've said this before, but I'll say it again, I think this film is a representation of the human struggle.
I was thinking of all of the characters in Notes from the New World, and how there are many metaphors within the story. One, I've been playing with in my mind is, if you take all of these characters and make them all part of the same person... What role do they each play inside this persons head? For example... Steve would be the Ego, the I. Irina would be the voice of Pride (or maybe Ellie of pride)... Pride has good intentions, it wants to protect, it's a self-defense and survival mechanism. Sonia is the voice of Love... (or Ellie of love) who wants everything good, has faith, insists on purpose and meaning. Both Sonia and Irina are alluring. Bob, is the false idea of a God who is paternal... who reigns his kingdom with tough love, who judges, who rewards and punishes, the false idea of a God one has to please. Misha is the false idea of a Devil, who is evil, and enticing to temptation, sex, money, drugs. And all of these voices push and pull and confuse....
I'm sure you can come up with more voices than me, voice of reason, voice of intuition, etc. But I think it is interesting... And once again... we go back to light cannot exist without darkness... The voice of love cannot exist without the voice of pride. The choice of hatred automatically gives us the choice of love... and so the world is just as it should be. All of the characters in this film simply make different choices, and they choose their own personal heaven, or their own personal hell.
Let me know what you think... I will keep thinking :)
(From an e-mail by Ellie to Vitaly Sumin)
Subject: More thoughts - long email
Good to see you today and very interesting to consider all of the possibilities of what this film could turn out to be, and all the different choices and directions we can take.
You asked me the other day what books I was reading... And I have recently been reading "Conversations with God" by Neale Donald Walsch, have you read it? Or heard of it? Anyway, I find it very interesting and relevant to any humans' journey on this planet. I highly recommend it. I also see a lot of connections to the film.
I started slowly re-reading the script today. Want to share with you some of my thoughts:
One of the things that is said in Conversations with God, is that all thoughts, actions, feelings, etc... pretty much everything.... derives from one of two things... FEAR or LOVE. This book also says that fear sponsors love sponsors fear sponsors love. In other words the more you love the greater the fear you will have to face... Fear is in a sense a test of love... a test to see if you will choose love or stay in fear. This is the journey we all take day to day... some of us get "farther" than others.
Another thing this book says.... is that we do not live to learn... we live to remember... we live to remember who we really are... inside we know who we are... "Life is an opportunity for you to know experientially what you already know conceptually". And so we have to experience things in order to remember who we really are... And in order to remember who we really are, we have to become who we are not...."You cannot experience yourself as who you are, until you have encountered what you are not"
I mention the above two things because they will connect with some of my following thoughts....
As I read the script and imagined Steve walking through the streets of L.A. shouting "I killed a man" I though... Maybe Bob said to Steve... "You must go out into the world and become the character of 'Notes from the Underground', you must let go of what you want people to see you as, you must let go of how you think yourself to be, that's the only way you can really understand this character". Maybe Bob wants Steve to be brilliant because it makes him look Brilliant.... But maybe Steve is doing it because he is searching for himself.
Steven could represent every human being on this planet... all confused... confused between right and wrong... good and bad... and afraid of their own darkness... holding illusions they've been taught about the devil and God's punishment, etc. A constant fear of death, and lack of faith. What is there to gain in this life if not faith? And how can one gain faith without fighting one's fears to attain a higher Love? (to a higher fear to a higher love to a higher fear to a higher love.)
Steven takes himself very seriously, he really wants to understand I think, but doesn't know how. He is looking for answers and perhaps he thinks they are in Dostoevsky...
This brings up many questions for me and I feel I need to learn more about Dostoevsky... Who was this man? Was "Notes from the Underground" Dostoevsky's way of saying that we are all doomed? or his way of showing what happens when you choose pride over love? Did Dostoevsky believe that sometimes you have to be what you don't want to be in order to find out who you want to be? Let me know what a good way to learn more about him is... Any good biography?
A possible bio for Sonia, is that she grew up with very spiritual and liberal parents. People who were kind of hippie like and bohemian but well read and intellectual. Like you said, maybe they used to live in the city, but decided to go live in the country and be farmers. But maybe they in a sense were too advanced for the small town they chose to live in, and they were killed during a protest they had against the government or something. Maybe in a sense, they were victims of terrorism because they were too advanced and people didn't like that, it made them uncomfortable. So then Sonia's cousin helps her escape and she goes to the U.S. She knows and understands many of the laws of the universe, but has yet to experience much. She is insightful and has what some may call "an old soul", but her journey hasn't ended, she doesn't know it all.
If Sonia is a very spiritually advanced person... why would she want to love someone like Steve? I think because he challenges her... If she waits around for someone who is just like her... she will be bored... Steven is a way for her to experience what she believes to be true. Another quote from Conversations with God is "It is your souls only desire to turn its grandest concept about itself into it's greatest experience". What does it matter if you know that you have the ability to be very patient... but don't practice patience?
Maybe when Steve says "I killed a man", Sonia is the only one who takes him seriously, who doesn't think he is crazy... who hears his cry for help... For although he didn't kill a man at that point.... he is crying for help... he is desperate... she takes that seriously... She doesn't dismiss him... she cares like no one ever has before... Maybe she needs to care for someone... she is broken from her parents loss and wants to understand why innocent people get murdered? Why if we are all good at heart do we kill each other? (On this note, I have written a short script you might enjoy reading that is very much about the fear of death, and the desire to understand life.)
Steve seems to me, to be very conflicted... Always on the verge of choosing fear or love... and he will momentarily choose one but then immediately shift back to the other. Which means he mostly chooses fear....
I really believe that this film is in it's essence about the fear of love, the rejection of love.... Here's a question... If someone could love you to a greater ability than you can love them back, would you accept their love? Or turn them away? Would you maybe not even see it as love? Maybe you wouldn't believe it? Maybe Sonia in a sense has this greater ability, she is not perfect, but she can love more than Steve can and he doesn't trust this... Why should he trust it? When he has never known true love? Surely he didn't experience it through his parents. And so he is a constant battle... Sonia seems too good to be true... Irina is much more like him...
Here's something that happened to me just a couple of days ago....
I went to the park the other day with my dog, and we played and I laughed a lot and goofed off with him and threw his ball around. There was a homeless guy who was about 40 or 50 feet away. He sat at a picnic table. I noticed him but thought nothing of him. I saw him move around from time to time. Finally after a while I decide to leave the park and me and my dog started walking back to my car... When my dog starts pulling on my leash because he sees that same homeless man now sitting at a bus stop we are about to pass. My dog is very friendly and wants to say hi, but I pull him away because I know not everybody likes dogs walking up to them... Anyway, all of a sudden this homeless man starts yelling at me "Oh get the fuck away from me, leave me alone, you're like a fly I can't get away from you, go away! Go away! Leave me alone!". He was very mean and angry. I stayed very calm... just observing him... My first instinct was to laugh and say to him "I love you" in a matter-a-fact kind of way...But I didn't say anything; I look at him with an ironic smile and walked away. As I walked away I felt terribly sad for him... I wondered what it was like to be him... and why he was so mean to me. I also thought about what I almost said to him.... I was surprised at my first instinct. I kept wondering what it was I had done to upset him. Like I said I never got any closer to him than maybe 40 feet.... And as I thought more and more... I understood... that he is so miserable that seeing someone happy makes him angry... It pisses him off... he doesn't believe in it... and so it annoyed him to see someone happy.... It reminds him of what he doesn't have.... of what he gave up. Here is another quote from Conversations with God.
If you lived like Buddha... or Christ... "when you tried to explain your sense of peace, your joy in life, your inner ecstasy, they would listen to your words, but not hear them. They would try to repeat your words, but would add to them. They would wonder how you could have what they cannot find. And then they would grow jealous. Soon jealousy would turn into rage, and in their anger they would try to convince you that it is you who do not understand God. And if they were unsuccessful at tearing you from your joy, they would seek to harm you, so enormous would be their rage. And when you told them it does not matter, that even death cannot interrupt your joy, nor change your truth, they would surely kill you. Then, when they saw the peace with which you accepted death, they would call you a saint, and love you again. For it is the nature of people to love, then destroy, then love again that which they value most."
Another question I think "Notes from the Underground" and "Notes from the New World" pose is... Can people change? Can they change? The "hero" of Underground doesn't change... he continuously rejects love... but doesn't he want to change? Is it possible that after the pain he feels from loosing Lisa, that he might realize it's not worth it to spend your life underground?
Steven doesn't trust Sonia, a part of him wants to and he tries but then fear takes over. How can he trust her when he's been hurt all his life?
In a dream state Steven says he doesn't want to be like the character of Notes, but when he wakes up, Sonia is once again not to be trusted. But in his dream, he basically says, he wants to be better, he wants more.
I'm having a hard time with Sonia's vision. I want her to be grounded in reality..."Reality requires no idealism for it is already ideal". I wonder if instead of having a flashback to a vision she had when she was young... if instead there is some other kind of Omen that leads her to following Steve. Maybe when she sees him dressed as Dostoevsky, she remembers her father's books and how he loved Dostoevsky; maybe she remembers seeing his portrait. She is looking for answers too.
I'm thinking that using Ellies, and broken wings and halos into the film, might distract people from the real message. People who are religious will be looking for the cross on my neck and for Steve to find salvation and people who are not religious could be turned off or become disconnected. I also think it may be stereotypical to use Ellies. Maybe instead, Sonia has moments when she sees energy... maybe she sees Steven's aura... maybe she sees an energy emanating form his heart... a golden light that is dim. The film Amelie comes to mind.... we can get very creative with what Sonia sees and feels.
Last but not least, here is a monologue I wrote a while back that I find somewhat relevant to our theme:
SMALL BUT SIGNIFICANT
I didn't go to the gym this morning... I went to a coffee shop and I ordered my favorite muffin and some coffee and I sat down to read the morning paper... I know... I rarely read the paper, but today I did... And there was this article about nuclear bombs in North Korea and Iran... about the UN treaty we made not to make nuclear bombs...
And as I read it... I started to feel really sad.... really helpless... how is it possible that we can get so caught up in all this fear and despair that people are making nuclear bombs around the world just in case? Just in case they need to strike, knowing how much harm it could cause, knowing it could mean the end of the world... I had this urge to start walking, to just start walking and never stop, to tell people I was walking for peace to tell them to walk with me. I had this urge to take a stand, for once in my life, to ask people to remember what really matters... And I swear I almost got up from my chair... when it occurred to me... that I might get tired... that people might not join me... that I might give up.....I felt so small, so insignificant....I wanted to cry... I'm sitting there in a coffee shop and I want to scream... when it hit me.... that I am small... And the world is too big to conquer... even with peace. It's naive and presumptuous of me to think, even for a moment, that I could conquer the world. See, fighting for world peace? It would give my life meaning, it would validate my existence it would give me a higher purpose. But it's a lack of faith in the first place that would lead me to want to create an illusion for myself that my life has meaning. If I had faith I would know that my life has meaning I would know that simply being gives my life meaning. And so... It's in that search for meaning; in that search to prove that we are right that we find war. I mean if you really believe what you believe... why should you have to fight for it... other than out of a fear of death?
So, I finished my muffin, I finished my coffee and I finished reading the morning paper. And afterwards, I just went home.
I look forward to hearing what you think about what I think... Hope you are well.
(From an e-mail by Ellie to Vitaly Sumin)
Subject: After thoughts...
Great rehearsal today. Lots of different kinds of people and personalities to work with! It will give the film a lot of dimensions, which is great!
Please forward the following quotes to Scott who was interested in who wrote them. I realize now that I mixed two quotes up, here they are:
"The artist's job is to deepen the mystery." - N/A
"Storytelling reveals meaning, without committing the error of defining it." -- Hannah Arendt
In regard to the above quotes and what we left off on at rehearsal, I had a thought on my drive home of a good way to explain good art versus bad art...
If you make a drawing, say of the human body, and you make it flat, it's not interesting; there is nothing more to see because it's all there, its one dimensional. But if you draw it in 3D, giving the muscles curves, texture and tones... then it inspires curiosity as to what's on the other side of what you are seeing. It is alluring and it draws you in because it has a life of its own... it's part of a 3 dimensional world and there is more to it than just what you see...
If you look at the Mona Lisa, there is something to the curves of her face and her eyes and her lips, there is an expression, there is more than just a picture that says "I have a nose, eyes, lips and hair"... She has something on her mind.... but what is it? It's up to each person that looks into her face to implant what she might be thinking... a reflection of what is inside of them.
In a sense, in creating a movie with so many different people, it's like trying to draw a human body that is movement, in action.... as soon as you start to draw it, it moves and then moves again... In a sense we are trying to recreate life through art... and perhaps a film comes closest to representing life because it is in movement...because it is a whole series of pictures into which people can implant their thoughts, life and experience, in order to relate it to their lives. What a challenge (!) and a gift.
Good to see you and we are in touch,
Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. -- Voltaire (For a terrorist to be certain that he is doing what God wants for him to do is absurd! And yet, he believes it enough to die for it)
There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it. -- William James
Hate is frustrated love.
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. -- Stanislaw Jerzy.
Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. -- Iris Murdoch
To know is to be prideful, to believe is to be courageous.
Morality is moral only when it is voluntary.
Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it. -- Bertrand Russell
Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. -- Andre Gide
(From an e-mail by Ellie to Vitaly Sumin)
Subject: More of Ellie's notes and thoughts...
I look forward to our meeting tomorrow. Here are some more of my thoughts. We'll have plenty to talk about tomorrow!
Notes and thoughts:
Although it is not a musical film, I can see music playing a very important role. Sonia in a sense is the music in this film... the emotional music, she doesn't say much but her presence and her eyes speak greatly.
I see Sonia as very expressive. She doesn't speak the language and knows that her main means of communication is her expression. I can see her looking rather childish when she is mat at Steven for talking to Irina. A very honest expression of disappointment.
There's a point in the film when Sonia is in the car singing in Spanish to a song that is about Ellies and demos who manipulate people in love. Do you have a song in mind? If not, I would like to attempt writing one, and then you can decide if it's appropriate. Let me know what you think of that.
Maybe Sonia sees in him his courage as an actor, his passion, indeed a wounded soul unknowingly in search for love. And he is an Ellie in her life just as she becomes an Ellie in his, and I suppose we are all Ellies in somebody's eyes because we have the ability to affect each other.
Perhaps the key is simply the omen that unites Sonia's personal legend with Steve's personal legend. It is the key to a treasure, the key that leads them to take the adventure, but the real treasure is the love that Sonia and Steve find throughout their struggle.
I think Sonia certainly wants to make him alive again. She is following her heart (to quote "the Alchemist"), because she saw the omen and feels strongly that it will lead her to fulfilling her Personal Legend. She has faith.
It is certainly a film about humanity, and I agree, that anybody can be a coward or a hero and everybody has their weaknesses. I don't think there is a single character in this film who's not flawed. Even Sonia is flawed, even Sonia feels fear and hate and jealousy and frustration. As humans, we are not perfect, we are simply beings that belong to the same world, a world in which we can choose to live and be and accept who we are, or we can choose to deny our true selves, our existence and our truth.
Sonia may see and know that she wants love, where Steve may simply be walking towards an oasis that looks like it will nourish him and then when he gets here he finds the love of his life and realizes that it was love he was seeking after all. In a sense, they both have good instincts, but Steve doubts himself more. Sonia has the depth that Steve longs for.
If Love is a way to Death and Eternity, once we learn to love, is that all we need to know? Is that why we are afraid of love? Because it is the final answer, and if we achieve it, we won't know what else to do, or perhaps we will leave this world. Do we not find pleasure in being alive and fear that this pleasure will no longer exist after Death?
Sonia hides, but not behind a mask, she simply hides to protect herself from harm and to protect her love from Steve. But she has no mask, she is real, open and honest. Could it be she has had a good life? And maybe Irina has the same soul but had a tough and bad life, and so Irina is stained and hurt and broken, but also has a depth and longing for love.
When Sonia and Steven are together, it seems their innocence comes out. When she is chasing Steven in one of the opening scenes when she first starts to follow him, I picture them almost like children playing tag or hide and go seek. Also, when they are at the beach playing with the waves.
Irina is a survivor, she is looking out for herself. She calculates what she needs to do to get what she wants. At one point, after she has killed man, she has a moment of choice where she can either kill or manipulate Steven. Irina knows her powers of seduction and realizes, Steven is the "perfect idiot" for her to manipulate.
At that point, Steven also has a choice, he can turn her in for murder, or he can allow himself to be seduced into helping her, so that he can have her in his play. Does he choose terrorism over peace? Is he choosing to be a moral terrorist? What does he really want? Why does he choose to help her? He wants love. Didn't he become an actor because he longs for depth, admiration, respect, understanding? Doesn't he want to be successful to achieve all these things? Isn't it partially his desire for love and partially his pride that leads him and motivate him to work so hard on his part?
You say, "Terrorism may represent a search for love of God because of a lack of love on Earth. Love is a way to Death and Eternity. That's why it scares us". BUT, does this justify terrorism? If all humans want love and all humans are born good and therefore have good intentions, why is it, that through our want for love, and our desire to be good and our good intentions, we do so many awful things to each other. Isn't the very search for love a lack of love in the first place? Had we not been deprived of love as children, would we be full of love and therefore not seek it to such an extreme that we kill people out of love? Here is a quote I have pasted on my wall in my room:
"If you love yourself, you love everybody else as you do yourself. As long as you love another person less than you love yourself, you will not really succeed in loving yourself, but if you love all alike, including yourself, you will love them as one person and that person is both God & Man. Thus he is a great and righteous person who, loving himself, loves all others equally."
Love of God does not come separate from love of man. It is my opinion that they both come together, not one above the other. We simply cannot love God as much as God loves us, but we can love another human being as much as they love us.
Think about the tale of Lucifer. He was an Ellie of God who didn't want to serve humans, he only wanted to serve God, he felt only God was worthy of being served - Lucifer signifies pride. This Ellie was prideful and so God banished him from his kingdom. So Lucifer becomes the devil, and the devil is the source of all evil. And so, aren't terrorists being prideful when they choose to believe they are serving God above Man? Isn't serving Man, serving God?
When Steven wakes up from his nightmare.... He says what he really feels "I'm a zero... I'm a betrayer of society... I didn't report the murder! I'm a coward. And I don't have friends... I don't have somebody to love... I'm a piece of shit! But more than that, this world is a piece of shit". We see the world as a reflection of how we see ourselves. When a terrorist sees the world as a horrible place that needs to be corrected, it's really himself that is in horrible condition and needs to be corrected or helped. But the terrorist deludes himself into believing that it isn't him, it's everything around him. He finds it too painful to look inside and admit that perhaps he was hurt when he was a child, perhaps he didn't receive enough love. He wants to be above his pain and above others, he wants to be a savior and he wants to conquer the world. His pride wins, and yet behind the pride there is a strong motivation and desire for love, behind his pride is a good intention... but this good intention and this desire for love is just terribly misguided. One of my favorite quotes is:
"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for those who want to rule it." -- H.L. Mencken
A terrorist is a coward. A terrorist is not at peace, and that is why he is motivated... He longs to be at peace and decides that he would be at peace if it wasn't for everyone else... And yet the lack of peace is inside him... He's just too afraid to look inside, to have faith in himself and in others. Another one of my favorite quotes:
"Courage is the price that Life extracts for granting peace." -- Amelia Earhart
MORE QUOTES I THINK YOU WOULD ENJOY:
"There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't." -- Robert Benchley
"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." - Voltaire (For a terrorist to be certain that he is doing what God wants for him to do is absurd!)
"There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it." -- William James (This happens a lot with religion, it speak a lot of truth, but people misinterpret it, people who want to take it literally and who doesn't learn it and apply it through experience)
"Hate is frustrated love."
"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." -- Stanislaw Jerzy
"Nirvana remains open to anyone who has fully come to understand that we are already there." -- Elizabeth Gilbert.
"Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real." -- Iris Murdoch
"To know is to be prideful, to believe is to be courageous."
"Morality is moral only when it is voluntary."
"The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past." --
"The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in our prosperity but in the development of our souls." -- Alelsamdr Splzjemotsum
"Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist, since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it." -- Bertrand Russell
"Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it." -- Andre Gide
"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves." -- Carl Jung
"Every nation ridicules other nations, and they are all right."
"Storytelling reveals meaning, without committing the error of defining it." -- Hannah Arendt
"All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from and to, and why."
"Man's loneliness is but his fear of life."
"Politicians take things a part and then try to find a better way to put them back together... Teachers take things a part in order to teach that they are all part of the same thing... Artists aim to show that you can't take anything apart... nothing is separate."