HAVANA TIMES — Who doesn’t remember the emotions we had when we faced life at the peak of our youth?
The discovery of requited love and the strength to dream which we find along with it, the power to go headfirst into the future, a future which we always expect to be wonderful. Happiness brings out the best in us: joy, solidarity, faith in family, the value of friendship…
At what point in this mechanical passing of months and years, of crushing routines, the relentless pursuit for survival or actions to satisfy our own personal ambitions, is this all lost?
The French film “La Vie d’Une Autre”, by Slyvie Testud, beings us face to face with this question.
Maria Sparanski (Juliette Binoche) wakes up one morning in a luxurious home where she lives with her husband, Paul Sparanski (Mathieu Kassovitz). Her strange stupor, her clumsiness when reacting to the environment she finds herself in, tells us that she doesn’t know almost anything about her own situation. It’s as if she has suddenly entered a parallel dimension of her identity.
When she finds out the date, she discovers that she has been asleep for ten years! It’s not like that she had been in a coma for a decade, it’s not that at all: she has lived this whole time without consciousness of how her life has been taking shape.
And she begins to take a hard look at her existence as an authoritarian and a selfish woman, corrupted by success, feared by her staff, a woman who has lost her husband’s love, who doesn’t have friends, who abandoned her parents whilst she prospered. She is even surprised to confirm the fact that she does indeed have a son.
However, the absurd and cruel paradox is that Maria has woken up with the innocence of her first night of love with this man who is now her husband and father of this child. She has woken up with her youthful dreams intact, when she was just an ordinary girl with financial struggles and a father with Alzheimer’s. She has returned to reality in a pure state of love, without deceitfulness or second-guessing.
What should she do in such a situation of unspoken separations, mistrust, competition, this world that her unconciousness has been creating? And while she faces the consequences of her past decisions, the compromises she’s had to make because of her successful career, the proof of her forgotten motherhood (the scar on her lower belly), her husband’s indifference, while she discovers this “other woman”, herself, finding an unrelenting and devastating solitude at every turn. She is afraid and is only able to defend herself with what she has recovered: her sincerity, her vulnerability and her love.
The premise of this movie applies to anyone, because how much do we reflect upon the price we pay just for a little bit of success, of prosperity or alleged maturity?
To what extent is satisfying your dreams evolution, and to what extent is it happiness? In the most common of cases, the frustation of our expectations which we set out to conquer the world with transforms us into dull, miserable and bitter people.
However, losing our innocence is much more than this. It’s losing the way a child sees things, the ability to be happy beyond an imaginary future coming true.
In Cuba, the lack of material prospects, the suffocating political arena and rigid mentalities are eternal causes for our unsatisfaction, bitterness and mediocrity.
Surviving is much more than not just dying, it’s more than feeding a body and keeping it healthy. Even on this website, where national problems which don’t appear in official media are dealt with, the focus invariably centers around disagreement, confrontation and criticism.
Little or nothing is said about the need or the urgency to live full lives while we fight for (or hope for) a socio-political change. Life doesn’t wait for anybody. A lot of the times it takes the death of somebody we love to make us suddenly confront our transient nature.
Innocence isn’t ignorance, it’s not being naive. It’s trusting life’s secret nature. It’s the ability to experience everything we have right now fully, what we are on an existential level and not just on a social level. Realizing that every wave that breaks on the same shore, this cyclic game, like Goethe says, “… seriously skilled people who, cheated by the promise of a happy future, have disappeared before me.” Because “future” is a trap which consumes generation after generation, idealists, altruists and opportunists alike.
“Future” is a part of our paths that we haven’t seen yet and which takes away our present. A path which we’re not even sure how long it will last anyway or where it will take us.