17. Time Passing Through Us

I find interesting that, on the week of my birthday, I completely ignored a section of the film where the young woman muses about time, and how some see life as moving through time, but she believed that we are stationary and time passes through us. Time is like a cold wind, stealing our heat and leaving us frozen, like the world they are driving through, supposedly on their way home.

Jake keeps trying to interrupt her train of thought and get her to talk about what she’s thinking, but this time the young woman ignores him, she keeps pushing the thought that time is a cold wind and on this trip, she became the cold wind that blew through his parents. Perhaps it was right to remove this discussion from the time demands of the movie, because it places it in a calmer context, with slightly more distance from the events of the visit and after the show-offy “Influence” segment.

At the end of their visit, the parents are no longer there, only she is there, only the wind. And when Jake demands again what she is thinking, she says slowly, coldly “not much.” He then blames it all on the wine she drank, which clears a path to the discussion of the Cassavettes film.

I could take on the question of time directly, but I have a different thought here, one about other minds and how we try so hard to believe that we understand others and perhaps even have a kinship with other people, based purely on our own mental conceptions, but ultimately everyone is a stranger to us because we are also strangers to ourselves. Pretending to “know” another is a radical claim, given how little humans understand our own feelings at any given time, why we have them, what those feelings are trying to tell us, and what expectations we create from them.

We observe and we communicate, as best we can, thinking that we are figuring the other human being out, but at best we are having a useful monologue with ourselves, just like the young woman trying so hard to keep that singular, internal conversation going, but constantly being demanded upon by someone who has been given the incredible gift of deep understanding that lets him literally hear her thoughts. But even with this gift, Jake cannot take in her thoughts objectively, they are constantly hitting his subjective filter. Due to whatever issue of maturity is eating away at him at any one moment, Jake can’t honestly interpret the thoughts that he can see and hear plainly. Even this superpower goes to waste. He must ask and she must evade.

The core sadness of this movie is that these two people, given this incredible supernatural bond, are still fated to never connect in a meaningful way. He will be forever obsessed with his own demons and insecurities and will miss the deepest, most interesting thoughts the young woman bares for him. Knowing that he cannot engage on the level she needs, the young woman senses that the relationship is wrong and loses both faith and trust in it. She cannot fully articulate why she must get out, but she knows the correct answer all along.

The question I’m left with, as we ramble into the very strange Tulsey Town scene that begins the film’s march to oblivion, is how unique does Kaufman consider this interpersonal failure to be? Is this just one relationship that could never work or is it all relationships? Are all romantic pairings just a dumb rom-com meet cute that throws us into temporary self delusion? Were Jake and the young woman granted an unusual ability to understand and learn from each other but still couldn’t overcome the inevitable, fatal flaw of other minds? And because of this, should we beware of the inevitable fate that faces anyone who looks at their romantic life with the same level of objective clarity and honesty?

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