A year ago today, one of my all time favourite actors died of a drug overdose. I love film, not in a I’m-an-expert kind of way but rather in that I get attached to roles played by certain actors, delivery of lines that resonate with me for reasons that make sense only to me. That sometimes a performance will create a tender place right inside me that will remain with me forever.
To explain my sadness the day I heard he’d died I had to remember the day I’d heard of Heath Ledger’s passing, angered somewhat by this term accidental overdose. Surely one can do the math if you’re running from place to place for this and that, somehow it’s not going to work out, I thought to myself. Then I went to see The Dark Knight (the role he is most known for though I hold very dear his performance in Brokeback Mountain), my favourite of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I was tearful and heart sore when I turned to my husband and said Ledger had so much to give and we’ll never get to see the rest.
A tad dramatic you may think but not if the cinema is your church and film is one of four things that really feeds your soul (family, music and the written word).
Thinking of that statement now, it was selfish. It dehumanised the man because he was there to feed my soul. We never mind when an artist’s own darkness feeds a role we so thoroughly enjoy but god forbid we understand that darkness can be part of painful journey of addiction.
We’re judgmental of addictions, intolerant almost because we think to ourselves how can anyone who has everything (seemingly) not get it together or how indulgent they just can’t help themselves. That is the way that business is, we think. Perhaps the business only seems that way because it is public though at the same time it is true that artists are prone to behaviours that are not always met with the right treatment.
Some of the greatest artists have also been the most tortured.
I don’t know any of these people personally, only how their work has impacted me and perhaps more importantly how it has allowed for this little opportunity to think about what price they pay to give of themselves to feed my own hopes and dreams, cure some of my own darkness or even just provide insight to it.
We all have our own darkness, some more than others. Perhaps we can look into our own darkness and make a very small attempt to gain insight into his darkness and to think of the work of Phillip Seymour Hoffman who as Tom Junod said in an elegant piece on Esquire’s website following his death ‘He held up a mirror to those who could barely stand to look at themselves and invited us not only to take a peek but to see someone we recognized.’
The people who make our world beautiful with their art don’t have to be role models, likeable people and do the ‘right thing’ and live the ‘right’ way like robots so that we can enjoy jeering at them when they fall.
Because is it not the most beautiful, maybe just the only true, thing about being human? To be flawed and fragile.