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Silk (2007)
Come Back, or I Shall Die...
Filmmaker(s): François Girard

Based on the best-selling novel by Alessandro Baricco, this visually stunning film tells the story of a French trader who finds unexpected love far away from home.

Silk (2007)

The Folded Letter

Gosh, yet another movie with a delicious idea, but mediocre execution. The thing is boring in a pretty way and vaguely calls up romantic notions of singular love. You may not make it until the end, but I urge you to, because the structure is delicious.

It has a triple frame, skeins between two worlds and a one-armed billiard master who triggers all. One frame is the man in the story, the target of love, sitting in a garden that his now-dead wife has unfolded for him. He is sitting with his wife‘s designated listener, and he recites the story that we have seen leading to this. Another frame is the letter which I will focus on.

This letter is the centerpiece of a scene quite late in the movie. I know this is originally a book, but it seems to be one conceived cinematically so it is fair to say that this scene is likely to have been envisioned first. We have an ordinary, truly nondescript Frenchman who is chosen to be the connection between two worlds, his world of the earth and garden and another exotic world. He finds a love in both worlds, each natural to the forces in that world.

His love at home is played by a dull Keira Knightly. His love in Japan is a Chinese woman, unreachable. This letter is to him in France, from that Chinese woman, writing in Japanese from a location whence she was taken to make her unreachable to him. Now the letter is read to him in the scene that is highly structured. We look at the woman reading, a lovely Asian woman who acts as surrogate writer. We see our man in a mirror, and it is the mirror folds that are wonderful here.

This letter is a mirror of one first passed to him. That letter is literally folded in the Shinto fashion where the strokes of the calligraphy are intended to bleed into each other as metapoetry. This second letter is later unfolded when our man comes back to this reader and all is revealed. Here is the structure:

The Chinese lover who wrote the letter was a second concubine to a warlord with an honoured wife. This lover had her affair with our man through a surrogate concubine. Her letter is read in the scene by another professional surrogate, a (high class) Japanese prostitute in France, who herself is one step removed from her lost European love. She reads the letter as if she were the distant Chinese lover.

But wait! She actually did write the letter in a conflation of folds of distance-surrogacy and the inherent two-world nature of romance.

But wait again, for in yet another fold of the letter we learn that though the alluring prostitute did write the letter, she did not compose it. That was done by the French wife, in a secret act of love.

Love, my folded readers, love as a carefully folded letter.

Here is the letter. Note the peculiar grammar of ‘sense‘ at the end:

My dear master, do not be afraid. Do not move. Do not speak. No one will see us. Stay as you are. I want to look at you. We have the night to ourselves and I want to look at you. Your body for me, your skin, your lips… close your eyes. No one can see us, and I am here at your side. Do you feel me?

When I touch you for the first time, it will be with my lips. You will feel the warmth, but you will not know where. Perhaps it will be on your eyes. I will press my mouth to your eyes and you will feel the warm. Open your eyes now my beloved. Look at me, your eyes on my breasts, your arms lifting me, letting me slide onto you. My faint cry. Your body quivering. There is no end to it, don’t you see?

You will forever be throwing your head back. I will forever be shaking off my tears.

This moment had to be. This moment is, and this moment will continue, from now until forever. We shall not see one another again; what we were meant to do we have done. Believe me my love, we have done it forever.

Preserve your life out of my reach, and if it serves your happiness, do not hesitate for a moment to forget this woman for no sense without a trace of regret. Farewell.

Posted in 2011

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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