You’re sitting in a comfortable chair, watching the opening scenes of Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, and it looks damned hot. Everyone on the screen is somehow sweaty looking and dusty, and even the shots at dawn look too hot to breathe. For just a second, you envision brush fires, and you recall scenes from Paris, Texas and Days of Heaven. As things go on, though, you focus on Caleb’s (Adrian Pasdar) face as he reckons with a sickness he doesn’t understand.
You think about Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen). His smirk both terrifies and exhilarates you. You hear his voice, all gravel as he describes eternal life and all the fun illegal things his crew of friends get up to. They’re all attractive and sleek, although you are not sure about Homer (Joshua John Miller), who seems to sweat and grease up quite a bit faster than an average twelve-year old should.
And you feel terror.
Everything Hooker, Mae (Jenny Wright), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) and Severen (Bill Paxton, having a great time) say sounds pretty darn great, to be honest. In the back half of your thirties, it is hard to see any future. We’re always at war. The planet is heating up. You sip your Pamplemousse LaCroix in the dark as Hooker explains how long he’s been alive.
It is a long time. It is a very long time.
Every story about immortal life arrives at the same conclusion: it is a curse. Everyone you know will die, and you will witness ruin and damnation, helpless to stop it. But here comes this Bande à part with their bar fights and aluminum foil, and although their wartime allegiances and general attitude––especially Severen, who is six kinds of impossible to hang out with, cool spur be damned––are obviously, clearly bad, and you imagine that you know how to make it work. Three or four days of sickness pales in comparison to what seems to be on offer, if you can find a way to go it alone without these people.
The long list of books you thought you would never read. Every record you would never hear. The entire Criterion Collection. Satantango. Berlin Alexanderplatz in one sitting! Solitary activities (you have always preferred those anyhow––an image flashes through your mind of reading alone on a perfect afternoon); solitary activities (but so is dying––an image of you alone on a bed, wrinkled with regret).
The sun might present a problem, though. Daylight works fast on these people. But, you remember, you hate the sun! You sneeze when you exit a building for the glare. You squint without sunglasses, so you might as well have them all the time. The sun saps your energy. You burn in fifteen minutes and although you will burn quite a bit faster, you are not worried. You have always been a night fog man.
Yes, you think, I could make this work. But you worry, then, that maybe these guys wouldn’t like you very much. You have a bad attitude and you avoid parties. Would they even want to hang out with you and bless you with the gift of unlimited Blu-ray time? Maybe they wouldn’t like your smell, your bitter humors. They have no need of a charity case. You would need to prove valuable, somehow. Maybe they need a sixth guy, but you worry that, in the end, you would just be sustenance.
But: the economy is fake. We’re in an eternal war. All you’ve ever been, really, is sustenance for some other guy. The list of your accomplishments is short. You are a good person, never did anybody any harm, never shirked at work, never shied away from taking responsibility when you goofed up, but you feel like a beige person against an eggshell wall. Next to the global fast company, you are a tiny cog. You are not sure that anyone will remember you ten years after you pass on. The idea that you yourself could be the one who forgets creeps in.
And these people up on the screen offer a reason to live, and here’s this kid, this Caleb, who is such a romantic that he cannot see the forest for the trees. He staggers around with notions of love in his head, the poor sap. Sure, he has a family, as you do. His fear makes sense. But he could have it all if he played his cards right: family, eternity, love. It is the dream of heaven on earth, life everlasting with the people you care about, and this boy without a fully formed prefrontal cortex, he wants a cure. He wants to ride horses and he wants to die.
You, no, you want to live.
Edited by Michelle Baroody
Playing at the Trylon from Friday, February 7 to Sunday, February 9, Near Dark screens on 35mm, courtesy of the Twin Cities Psychotronic Film Society. Purchase tickets and learn more about this screening and others at trylon.org.