'AN HONEST MIFF-TAKE: WEEK THREE OF A FESTIVAL DIARY' BY ELOISE GRILLS

This piece is the final installment in Eloise's MIFF 2018 Festival Diary. Their first entry can be found here, and their second entry can be found here.




When I was a kid I was terrified of endings. I still kind of am. This is not unique. I don’t believe I am the only person ever to feel a chill in their soul when the sun leaves for the night, and the daylight hours’ events cannot be elaborated upon any further. I don’t believe I am the only person ever to loathe the end of school holidays, lying awake all night, anticipating every bad thing that would inevitably occur. And yet, I am scared of endings, or the frightening beginnings they suggest, or the fact that there are no endings or beginnings, just the great dispassionate expanse of time like a map with no boundary.

I still feel this anxiety, for example, when I am going home from a holiday with my partner, or when I finish a big project, or at the end of a festival, or an event, or the end of a financial year, etc. I feel it in the undiscovered corners of my map, like a serpent just below the surface of the sea, ready to destroy everything, or to invigorate it in a way I can’t yet comprehend. I feel like an ending will erase me as I know myself.

I wanted to write something where I muse on some essential truth of the festival experience, on the ways in which it has changed, invigorated, shaped me as a person, as an artist, but I don’t think this would be a true thing to write. I mostly feel the same as before, just more enervated and with my eczema flaring up around my nose and my knee sore.

I don’t think going to a festival and sitting in a room alone watching movies can really change me. It has just filled me up more than I am usually filled, filled me up to my edges so I notice how far they stretch. Turned the colours up a bit. Allotted to my life a shade marginally more vibrant than its usual.

It is poor critical form to spoil endings, but then what is the point of an analysis that removes the most potent portion from its arsenal? Is there really such a thing as an ending, anyway, or just an endless thread of middles leading on to more middling middles? Is the thing I fear that there is no break in the chain at all?

DESCRIPTION

FIRST REFORMED
Directed by Paul Schrader

Ethan Hawke is an alcoholic priest with a tragic past, his faith riddled with more holes than Swiss cheese
He works at a souvenir shop
For a large church organisation called “Abundant Life”
He talks to Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried, who is worried about her husband
He has just come back from prison for an environmental protest
Depressed, uninvolved, working Home Depot shifts at her behest
She is pregnant, and he wants to get rid of it

Hawke, playing Toller, is a man of few words, a pastor to a tiny flock
He is writing a diary to be destroyed after twelve months
As a kind of alternative to the prayer he cannot muster
He is having a crisis of faith, destroying his body
Drinking hard brown liquor and consuming no food
Pissing blood in the mornings, in the nights
Sleepless
What do we do when we know the end is coming?
How do we lean into the dark?

DESCRIPTION

Toller visits Michael, Mary’s (Seyfried’s) husband at his house
He says, that in 2050 the world will be unrecognisable
Due to climate change
He says, that if he had a child
He wouldn’t know how to explain that he’d known
What would happen and still let them be born
Toller reveals that he pressured his son to join the military, to honour tradition
To fight in a baseless war, and he died
And then his marriage died, and he was without hope
“Whatever pain it is to bring a child into the world, cannot equal the pain of taking a child from it” Toller says

DESCRIPTION

“Can God forgive us for what we’ve done to this world?” Michael asks
To which Toller replies: “Who can know the mind of God?”

DESCRIPTION

After their first counselling session, Mary calls Toller
Shows him the suicide bomb vest of Michael’s she found in the garage
Toller takes it to hide and then Michael
Kills himself
And Toller begins to self-destruct
Simultaneously coming closer to pregnant Mary
Mary who is filled with faith in God
Mary who is a kind of Virgin Mary
Mary mary full of grace
And all that, but maybe in an interesting way
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Toller is infected with Michael’s despair
He writes on the church board: Will God Forgive Us?
He butts heads with church officials, with the choir leader
Who’d once had an affair with him
We see her leading a young choir in a strangely bloody hymn
Are you washed (are you washed)
  In the blood (in the blood)
  In the soul cleansing blood of the lamb?

DESCRIPTION

He also butts heads with:

  • The leader of the church, played by Cedric the Entertainer
  • The church’s primary donor, a local polluting corporation
Toller begins to hatch a bizarre and pernicious plot

DESCRIPTION

“I know that nothing can change, and I know there is no hope”

How do you face despair with hope?
How do you let your faith run rampant and wild and destructive?
How do you hold two contradictory truths in your mind simultaneously?
How do you embrace the end like an old chum?

DESCRIPTION

There is something transcendental and sublime
Mary’s barefaced love and grace seems to say
I am standing naked but I give no shits

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I got a beer to drink with this movie, my last movie
Because it was so late at night and I wanted to reward myself for not cancelling the session
Because there is something nice to be said about treating yourself
When no one else is around to see

DESCRIPTION

In the last scene music swells, the room is light, filled with ecstasy, miraculous
Whether or not you believe what happens
Whether you believe in an interventionist god
Or someone else
Or something else
Or none at all
Whether or not the ending is symbolic or real or miraculous
When no one else is around to observe you doing it
Maybe there is a point to doing
Doing something dangerous or crazy
Over not doing anything at all

DESCRIPTION



Eloise Grills is an award-winning writer and comics artist specialising in hybrid visual-written form—she's like a more sexily literary Dr Moreau. She recently won the 2018 Woollahra Digital Literary Prize for Nonfiction. In 2018 she was awarded a Felix Meyer Travel Scholarship, was a finalist for the mid-year Walkleys, and is currently shortlisted for TheLifted Brow and RMIT non/fictionLab Prize for Experimental Non-fiction. Her debut comics chapbook, Sexy Female Murderesses, will be published by Glom Press later this year. She tweets and grams as @grillzoid and edits memoir for Scum.