February 21, 2011
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I’m sitting in the dark of a movie theatre, immersed in images, a depiction of a life lived in the century before this. Paintings, the talk of art and of life. Faded photographs mixed with images of paintings radiating with color. It’s a movie about Otto Modersohn, a German painter, made by his great-grandson*. A movie about his art, but just as much about his wives and their art. These women, their stories, they resound in me, touch me to the core of my being. Their desire, their longing, I can feel it. Their journal entries reach out from across the oceans of time and grab me. I am mesmerized. The past becomes alive. These women become alive.
His second wife, Paula Modersohn-Becker, a brilliant artist, more significant than her husband as the judgement of posterity would show. She wants to be free, she wants to live without the ties of a marriage, and he tries to meet her half-way. He let’s her go to Paris, let’s her leave their life behind. In 1906 that decision must have been more than radical, for both of them. But then he goes after her. Maybe it was a mutual agreement as stated in the movie, but when I hear the lines from her diary about her burning desire to be free and then the later realization that “she wasn’t made to stand alone” I can’t help but wonder. Was it resignation or maybe pity, or a combination of both, that made her ask him to come and join her? She gets pregnant and they leave Paris to go back home. She gives birth to a daughter and then passes away. What does that mean? I don’t know. But I know what it’s like to want to be free, to want to get rid of the emotional ties, the shackles of love that hold you prisoner in a life you don’t want to live. It hurts so bad. And sitting there in the movie theatre I can really feel her pain. The movie has me in a firm grip. I’m enchanted by all these stories, these women and their struggle to maintain the balance between society’s expectations and their own dreams. Read more of this post