Amidst the thrilling 10,000-meter victory of a British and American, a freely united, two-man team that together had strategized the grueling half-hour race against the predominantly Ethiopian front-runners?!
These two men, one white, one black, inspired each other and themselves into a Silver and Gold medal, respectively?!
During all of that Herculean agony and post-race euphoria, I was requested by Ottawa Life Magazine to return to that publication as a writer.
Of course, the political boundaries are to be understood.
Ottawa Life Magazine, with that publication’s lifelong support of Liberalism and, particularly this year, the moderated but still Leftist dreams of Canada’s NDP, Ottawa Life doesn’t want to defeat its own best efforts with a wildly roguish, American, pro-Life Conservative and his “rants”.
I can sympathize. In my drinking days, TIME Magazine expressed its own impatience with my “freedom of screech.”
Sober now, I not only can, like a good Olympics fan, abide by the “stadium rules,” I can run the race with the same mutually shared ecstasy of these two extraordinary heroes of the 2012 Olympics.
Since my last offering for Ottawa Life, Toto the Hero, has garnered a few appreciative acknowledgements, I’d like to stay with that film for an even deeper look.
Here again is this film’s hero in utter abandon over the divinely painful gems of love within a poem by Paul Verlaine.
Who was the object of Paul Verlaine’s “greatest love”?
With that as perhaps a subtext to our hero’s own forbidden love for his… his sister?!
Our hero is absolutely certain that he, as a baby, had been switched in the hospital and his sister, the woman he loves more than life itself, cannot possibly be his sister.
A fire in the nursery robbed him not only of his birthright but of his one true and almost unspeakably passionate obsession!
Here also we see the two lovers in their childhood, burdened with the, yes, absolutely exquisite pain of their forbidden love.
Like flowers in the Belgian breeze, those two sway together with the music.
Is it any wonder that a poem of Paul Verlaine can cause such agony in the heart of our tragically ancient hero?
Ancient Greek Tragedy’s greatest theme.
Incest ravages the certain eternity of all the human audiences that will ever attend a performance of Oedipus Rex.
Does our Toto le Héros blind himself as Oedipus does?
Our French Laurence Olivier
His character triumphs in a profoundly greater way than Oedipus.
Should I spoil the surprise ending for you?
It is much too transcendent an achievement by director Jaco Van Dormael and his latter-day Oedipus, Michel Bouquet, to keep you in suspense for long. To not share it with you.
To begin with, the entire film is simultaneously an impressively informed walk through the history of great dramatic literature, interwoven with an intellectual’s own private relationship to a pair of resonantly evocative names.
The villain is called Alfred Kant.
With revenge as this film’s central motive, such a name is not pulled out of the brilliant creator’s hat lightly.
The hero, whose childhood idol has always been a comic book hero named Toto, is named Thomas Van Hazebrouk.
The “haze” around our hero’s fantasies will certainly “brook” no criticism from me! I adore Toto the Hero!!
What, however, will our Toto the Hero do when he finally confronts Alfred Kant, that man, that boy, that child, that infant… that villain whose lavishly spoiled existence as a holder of wealth and eventually political power could have been our own favorite hero’s lifelong triumph?!
Othello himself could not have experienced a greater jealousy than that of our Toto!
Here is where I must beg you to pause and reflect upon your own jealousies in life.
I only make that request because of the eventual self-loathing that always accompanies an increasingly insane jealousy.
It is that simultaneous self-loathing within our hero and his lost dreams that, how shall I say, “loads the gun.”
In other words, and in a phrase I wish you to keep in mind till the end of this article, “Pain, of any sort, loads the gun.”
We, the audience, rather like that proverbial bullet in the chamber, are about to be exploded out of the barrel of this drama with a shocking sense of liberation.
While a bloodbath is what we are justly preparing ourselves for, there’s the underlying theme of Love, with its familial and forbidden shapes and forms, rumbling within this film’s momentum.
What will our Toto do?!
What did the greatest lover of all time do?
No, not Casanova who seems to have bedded all of Venice.
No, not even the man who lays down his life for his friends.
The man who laid down his life for his mortal enemies.
He who died for the sins of those he had once hated!
Those he’d correctly labeled as hypocrites!!
Sounds insane, I know.
There is, however, a reward waiting.
After hearing that Mr. Kant, the villain of this tale, is about to be murdered by his deadliest enemies, those waiting just outside the door of his home?!
What does our hero do?
He orders Kant to leave and undergoes the price of that assault himself.
Toto dies for the sins of his lifelong nemesis, Alfred Kant.
A set of mysterious hands wash Toto’s body before he’s cremated.
Ultimately we, the audience, are lifted up in a plane, high above the Belgian countryside and Toto’s ashes?
Toto’s ashes are poured out of the plane and onto the rolling countryside below.
What we hear, however, and for the first time?
Toto the Hero’s laughter!
Michel Bouquet’s laughter!!
In it, there’s a level of joy and liberation that was recently recaptured for me by America’s Galen Rupp and Great Britain’s Mo Farah of the Olympics’ 10,000-meter marathon.
This brings me to my own liberation: the realization that love and pain have now, for myself at any rate, become redundant.
Or, as I said in my first article on Toto the Hero, “All of Life is somehow perfect!”
The pain endured by Olympic athletes in the seemingly sadistic agonies of a 10,000- meter race or the nightmare of the sculls, those rowing buckets we’ve seen hurtling alongside a river bank, spectators cycling along with them?!
The revelations I’ve heard about how such athletes prepare themselves for the Pain, the Pain, the Pain!!
If you can, please see, as often as possible, the exhausted ecstasies of Mo Farah, first- time winner of the Olympics’ 10,000-meter marathon.
All that pain was for a chance at the heavenly ecstasies of triumph!
Triumph’s ever-accompanying disbelief that indeed it happened.
I can’t believe I won!!
Without all that pain, the prize of bliss would be virtually impossible to feel.
Your love would never have been tested!!!
Love and pain?
They’re inextricably wedded.
What is a great life but love and pain, pain and love?
When you realize that, then you know why I can declare, without the slightest hesitation, that not only is Life Love itself and that Love is Life!
Because of the implacable marriage of Love and Pain, Life is Perfect!!
You don’t agree?
I’m 71 years of age.
Perhaps it takes that long for some of us to understand.
I’m in no hurry.
Not any longer.