Climbing Eros: Poetry
CHARLIE: I’m thinking of your writing for Climbing Eros. Beka and I spend a lot of time walking, always have, individually and together, and I’m drawn to the practice of walking as a way of devotion. And you spend a lot of time walking. I recall telling you late last spring that we were planning to shoot a short film in Greece to explore the stages of pilgrimage. I had in mind the location and Jean-Luc Marion‘s concept that “Loving requires distance and the crossing of distance.” We’d already landed on the title as a way to nod to Marion and to the highest point on the island, Mt. Eros. How did you find your way into crafting the dual poems for the piece?
DAMON: I thought about pilgrimage in a general sense of confession and return. Given this, it’s not difficult to imagine two people—one who starts a pilgrimage, carrying a need for confession and another who has made her confession. They are different people. In fact, there is a distance between them and one that should be crossed. Yet I found myself empathizing more with the one who has returned. Her journey has been made. Now, her story can be told. But who will listen? It seems inevitable that the person who returns will live with silence. While the person who must confess must also discover what story will be told. Also, we have this curious business of the script being a poem or, really, more of a poetic sequence. That was a late revelation for me. When did you realize this piece leaned towards the poetic?
CHARLIE: It took that turn in the editing process, I think. There’s something about the visual imagery that asks a viewer to hold still. There is movement and development, of course, but the present moment is as important as where the hikers may be walking or what the painter’s work might become. There’s not a sense that we need to get to the end as one does with prose or a more plot-dependent film. For one thing, there’s not a whole lot of conflict to propel a viewer forward. And that’s by design. In a pilgrimage, the journey itself—really each step—is as important as the destination. The film moves forward, but if we’ve done our job well, I hope viewers sit with a moment the way they might with a poet’s couplet.
DAMON: Crossing a distance, walking, making a pilgrimage—these experiences take time. While a destination has purpose, I’m not convinced purpose, insofar as purpose signifies a singular event or destination, is what’s most desired, tempting though it may be. As you say in the film, “Starting out we have visions of grandeur.” Yet this too is only a part. It’s a little like reading a poem. There is the poem itself, but we reach the poem through its words and lines. From any of these, from a word, a line or the poem itself, we might encounter a moment. We learn to trust a moment has its own rewards. Similarly, we can trust such moments in Climbing Eros. We can do this with or without a conventional plot or a conventional beginning, middle, and end. The voice-overs certainly are not conventional, and I didn’t appreciate the poetic touch of the piece until I heard you and Beka read. But as other moments go in this film, I hope the words give as much as they can.
This is the second of three CONVERSATIONS about Climbing Eros, a short documentary about crossing distance and returning to earth.