Ten minutes into watching the Spanish movie, A Gun in Each Hand, it occurred to me, “Ah, this is the world I want to create! This is what it looks like!”
For anyone who’s ever heard me speak about “moving the Unsaid to the Said” and what it brings to the world, this is it. Up on the screen, a director called Cesc Gay, had gotten it and created it.
The film consists of five vignettes, each featuring different characters, usually one man talking to another man. That’s all that “happens”. One character has a conversation with another character, and there are five such conversations.
The first conversation is a masterpiece. A man in his 40s walks into the courtyard of a Barcelona apartment block and stands waiting at the lift. The lift descends and opens. There’s a person inside hunched up against the back of the lift who doesn’t get out. Eventually, we see it’s a man who’s crying, and trying to hide his distress. As the crying man collects himself and steps out of the lift, the two men recognise each other. They are old friends who’ve not seen each other for 10 years.
Hesistantly at first, the two men sit on the stairs of the apartment block and discuss their lives. The man who has been crying has just visited his psychotherapist – “he’s German, you know” – is taking little pills, is “still married” to his wife and has two kids. Things haven’t been too good for the last year or two.
The other man is at the apartment block, he says, to see a divorce lawyer. He lost his job at the newspaper last year, and has moved back to his mother’s house. “And I’m 46,” he says to the other man. The other asks, “Do you have kids?”
“No,” he says shaking his head and smiling ruefully,
I thought I did once, but it turned out not to be mine.
He says, smiling his ravishing smile, and looking so warmly and deeply into the eyes of the other man,
No, man, I’m a total loser.
They talk like this for about 20 minutes, and at the end they go their separate ways, one out into the world of little pills, the other to the world of the divorce lawyer.
And that’s it. The next scene opens with two new characters in a different situation. And the movie goes on in this way for four more vignettes, and then finishes with a final scene where things are “wrapped up”.
The wrapping-up is a symptom of something that happens midway through the film: it starts to editorialise and loses power from that moment on. So, the second half does not compare with the first. Nevertheless, it is a funny and insightful film, and I’m excited to see on screen what my beautiful, courageous world could look like, and what it sometimes already looks like.
“What does it look like?” you ask. This is my answer for today:
Like two people giving up “looking-good” and saying what’s really going on for them; two people discovering in themselves the courage to speak about what really matters; two people giving the gift of their vulnerability and humanity to another; entrusting themselves to the generosity of another; and in the process, experiencing the profound connection and intimacy that each of us seeks.
The film also had me think of my own prehistory in the world of the Unsaid. Five years ago, things were very different for me. Most days, my dominant experience was either despair or rage, and I swung constantly between the two. There were happier moments occasionally. The default, however, was pretty grim.
My experience today is radically different. My circumstances are not necessarily changed. I deal with the same issues most people do: broken relationships, relationships that don’t work, financial worries, ageing, people that let me down, hostile people, and so on. At the same time, my experience of myself and my experience of the world is utterly changed.
One way I think about the transition is in my relation to the Unsaid. Previously, I didn’t know how to move things from the Unsaid to the Said, and there were two things in particular that didn’t work.
I used to blow myself up. I’d store up some resentment, some injury and then inevitably there would come the day when I would explode. I would hurt myself dreadfully doing this, and the people around me were usually bewildered.
The second thing I would do is to speak my complaint, not what lay behind the complaint. The person on the end of it, of course, would just shut down, or try to shut me down, because all they could hear was blame. I didn’t know how to look to see what I was really experiencing and speak that instead. All I could see was the complaint. I couldn’t see the fear, mistake or shortcoming – ie, my fear, mistake or shortcoming – which the complaint was covering up.
Nowadays, I know how to move the Unsaid to the Said with safety, and in such a way that there’s no loss of power, freedom or self-expression.
Life is very different.