Margaret and the Blight Man Was Born for

Near the end of Kenneth Lonergan’s film, Margaret, a seventeen-year-old girl sits next to her mother in a theater, watching a duet from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman.

The voices of two opera singers climb toward each other from opposite sides of the stage—rising in their plaints like two vines, hoping to unite in an arch above. The girl’s attention is rapt, her face straining at the union aspired for.

But then the singers fall back, collapsing in a cascade of defeat. The voices seem to mourn their loss—not only of the other, but also of themselves, as though in this failure to join they have discovered their own transience.

At that moment, the girl in the audience breaks loose in a storm of grief. She grasps for her mother, who grasps for her, and the spectacle all around them rings to a close. [Read more…]