In his statement to his film Mr Turner, Mike Leigh says:
“Back at the turn of the century, when ‘Topsy-Turvy’ was released, I wrote that it was “a film about all of us who suffer and strain to make other people laugh.”
Now I have again turned the camera round on ourselves, we who try to be artists, with all the struggles our calling demands. But making people laugh, hard as it is, is one thing; moving them to experience the profound, the sublime, the spiritual, the epic beauty and the terrifying drama of what it means to be alive on our planet – well, that’s altogether something else, and few of us ever achieve it, much as we may try.
Yet Turner the man was eccentric, anarchic, vulnerable, imperfect, erratic and sometimes uncouth. He could be selfish and disingenuous, mean yet generous, and he was capable of great passion and poetry.
Mr Turner is about the tensions and contrasts between this very mortal man and his timeless work, between his fragility and his strength.”
I enjoy films which are about complex people and I read this after seeing the film. Too often it feels as though society puts people into boxes and has no time to consider those who are outside the box. The business of the arts is to explore characters and the world they lived/live in.
Turner seemed not to engage with the reality of his own responsibilities yet his paintings engage realistically with the world of nature. I look at the paintings and their wildness strikes a chord with me – the emotions I can’t always engage with are almost acknowledged by the art and artist instead – on my behalf.
The same could be said of Beethoven the composer. The classical pianist James Rhodes says ‘his music is the very definition of “interiority” – music became about feelings, about looking within and expressing things hitherto unsayable…Study Shakespeare and he will show us who we are. Listen to Beethoven, a man tormented and isolated, who wrote simply to justify his artistic and intellectual existence, and he will show us who we could be.’
Another who was labelled as odd was Alan Turing – the code breaker in World War Two. At the time, he didn’t behave or talk like ‘the group’ he was working with, but they learnt to respect and work with him – all portrayed brilliantly in the film The Imitation Game. We should be careful of the word ‘odd’ – life is complex, and we sometimes need complex people to illuminate our own lives, whether we see our lives as black and white, or grey. As Oscar Wilde says ‘the true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.’ And let us remember we are all human – so complexity generally comes with that.