This week, help me welcome Matthew Krause to the Mess That Is Me. Matthew and I met via Twitter, a great place to connect with fellow writers and other enjoyable people. He has written such screenplays as Of Radical Evil, Play Action, and Boadicea, Warrior Queen of the Celts. He has also written Strays: the Glaring Chronicles, a novel about a secret order of shape shifting cats that come out of hiding to save mankind. Taken from his website, Matthew Krause is an "award-winning screenwriter, independent filmmaker, teacher, and mentor. Although he writes in multiple genres, the common theme in all of his work is man's eternal struggle to find those pockets of nobility in a sea of human frailty." Be sure to check out the links above to learn more about this talented writer and author.
Thank you, Matthew for joining us today, and for such a great article, a valuable life lesson, which we all should hear and take to heart. I didn't sleep through it. Promise. Neither will our readers. Enjoy!
Sleep Through Movies, Sleep Through Life
Ben Egan’s economy car sinks into the river. Waters rise, and Ben struggles to get out. Ben’s voiceover narrative begins with: “You’re probably wondering how I got into this fix …”
The movie is called River Street, and unless you were living in Australia in the mid 1990s, you’ve probably never heard of it. Aden Young stars as Ben, a cocky, slick-talking property developer who thinks he is set for life: He is engaged to the boss’s daughter and is being offered a 50% share of a controversial river-front property deal.
One afternoon, while walking in the park, Ben stops to show some young boys how to hit a cricket ball. He winds up breaking the window to his own car, setting off the alarm. When he reaches into the window to retrieve the cricket ball, a passing policeman arrests him, and while being detained Ben misses the river property auction and gets in dutch with his boss. To make matters worse, Ben is sentenced to community service at a local day center. Here he will befriend a young tearaway, fall in love with Wendy, the center’s strong-willed manager, and come to question his own values.
Never heard of this flick, right? Neither had I until the summer of 1997 when it was the early in-flight movie on a 19-hour Qantas cross-Pacific flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. I found the film’s first half-hour delightful, with a clever script, charismatic cast, and a star-making performance by blindingly cute Essie Davis as Wendy.
And then I fell asleep.
When I awoke, the final credits for River Street were rolling. I had missed the whole thing. Never mind, I told myself. Sooner or later, this movie has to come to the States, either on cable or DVD, and I’ll be able to catch it. It’s not like it’s going to fall off the face of the earth.
The crazy thing is, it did fall off the face of the earth. At this writing some 16 years later, I have yet to see the film. River Street never found distribution in the States. What’s more, only minimal information can be found about the film on IMDb (there isn’t even a poster image), and if you do a search on Rotten Tomatoes, the only thing that comes up is 1953 noir classic 99 River Street. You can’t even find a trailer for the damn thing on YouTube, let alone a clip, and forget doing an image search on Google or Bing.
How strange is it for a film that was once screened on a trans-Pacific Qantas flight to be almost a nonentity on the freaking worldwide web?
Now, I know I didn’t dream this thing. There are copies of River Street available on Amazon.com (although the “poster” image for the film is so minimalist it looks like a bootleg copy), and it is listed in the filmographies of Aden Young and Essie Davis on Wikipedia.
Still, as a film buff I find this weird. I mean, I’ve found rabid online fanbases on the web for some really obscure and crappy movies. You can’t tell me one doesn’t exist for River Street.
I find myself often reflecting on River Street as well as the flight on which I almost watched it. When I awoke on that flight at film’s end, I told myself that it was no big deal, that I would catch the movie later.
And yet, to this day I never have.
On the commentary track of Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare On Elm Street, he states that in his mind Freddy Kruger represented a number of evils, social, spiritual, and political, and that when Nancy says her famous line, “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep,” it was a call to the audience to not “fall asleep” on what is going on around them.
Perhaps there is something to that.
Today, I look back on that Qantas flight as a symbolic snapshot. How many other moments have I slept through? It’s hard to tell; I was asleep after all. And the longer I or any of us sleep, the more we close our eyes to what Kate Bush called the “moments of pleasure” in her 1993 song of the same name. Who knows how many of those moments I have missed? Who knows how many I have slept through?
Sleeping through River Street is not a big deal, but sleeping through life is. In the time since that Australia trip (my first journey out of the States), I have traveled with my wife to over 20 different countries, experiencing some of the most beautiful cities in the world.
And yet the moments on those trips that I cling to most have been small and wonderful, usually marked by human interaction: singing Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come” with two French musicians in a Paris café; playful banter with Jean-Jacque, a spirited native at a primate sanctuary in Cameroon; watching Irish rugby with a bunch of rowdy locals in a pub in Kilcoole; nights at an inn in Bad Vigaun, Austria, where the locals still gathered to sit around and actually talk to one another.
|Matthew and his dad|
And back home, there is my father. I lost Dad in December of last year, but if there is a saving grace, it’s that I got clean and sober in time to enjoy his last two decades of life with him. Prior to sobriety, I was asleep. I missed out on father-son moments and just the sheer inspiration of this good man’s presence because drugs and alcohol were more important.
Thank God I woke up in time for that.
I love movies because I love stories, and I love stories because I love characters, good and bad, who live and love and interact on a daily basis. I may have slept through these fictional interactions when I nodded off during River Street, but I have fought sleep ever since. There is too much going on in the world, too many things to see, and what’s more, too many people to meet.
I don’t want to miss another second. I don’t want to wake up just in time for the credits.
No matter what your circumstance is in life, neither should you.
Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.
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