August 11, 1900 [A Storm at Sea]

The camera, stationary, moves with the ship—and allows the ocean to move, rising and falling, displaying itself with alarming strength. I can remember the experience as a boy, at once exciting and terrifying (more the latter, I'll admit), mitigated only by the grayness of everything, from the deck to the sky to the sea itself, until it merged into the past, a dream and memory of when I was small. Here, the cinema matches that truth, its shades of gray perfectly suited to the North Atlantic's impassive face. The hints of Crane's "The Open Boat" add to the effect, at once perilous and distant, something almost as much inside myself as on the screen, real because it seems to want to fade into me even as I watch it, the camera shifting suddenly to bring us more rising waves, the boat inconsequential, there only as a place from which to view the storm—and perhaps then important after all, the camera's extension, still in our eyes while the sky tilts, the ocean runs downhill, and we remain high and dry.

I am grateful to be relieved of politics and business, and left alone in the theater with simple planes moving between sky and sea, everything else as distant and ineffectual as that fellow in Crane's story who runs along the shore, of seeming insignificance to the experience in the boat. And while Crane's narrator is justly anguished by that distance, I hang onto the deck rail and gaze in calm attention.


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