Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two in the Hand

"Once out of the hospital, Patrick Wallingford moved quickly back to New York, where his career blossomed. He was made the anchor for the evening news; his popularity soared. He's once been a faintly mocking commentator on the kind of calamity that had befallen him; he'd heretofore behaved as if there were less sympathy for the bizarre death, the bizarre loss, the bizarre grief, simply because they were bizarre. He knew now that the bizarre was commonplace, hence not bizarre at all. It was all death, all loss, all grief - no matter how stupid. Somehow, as an anchor, he conveyed this, and thereby made people feel cautiously better about what was indisputably bad."

From The Fourth Hand by John Irving

It was Hand Transplant Week here in BPG Land... first of all, I finished reading John Irving's surprising The Fourth Hand, an unlikely love story, one which was inspired by a question posed by the author's wife: what if the widow of a man whose hand was donated asked to have visitation rights with the hand, once attached to its recipient?

Then, TCM showed the 1924 German Expressionist silent classic, Orlacs Hände (The Hands of Orlac, 1924). Conrad Veidt plays a pianist who loses his hands in a terrible train accident. He's given the hands of a man, freshly executed for robber and murder. He finds that his hands seem to have a mind of their own... you may be able to guess what happens... or maybe not.

In both book and film, the hands take on an erotic power, coupled with the notion of not just muscle memory, but pure memory and desire of personality.

The film had some compelling imagery, as might be expected. The first scene showed Orlac's wife eagerly anticipating her husband's return from a concert tour, as she reads a letter in which details how his hands will touch her. Her husband's caress is a powerful source of their love and erotic bond, so when he hesitates after surgery to touch her with the murderer's hands, their relationship takes a downward turn.


This nightmare scene was breathtaking.

I couldn't place Conrad Veidt's face for a long time... then it came to me: Major Strasser in Casablanca!

You didn't need 3D to feel the power of those hands.

As I watched the film, I performed my weekly manicure. What irony, I thought, and how lucky I am to have two working hands. Completely blessed.


Tess Kincaid said...

I saw this on TCM, as well! I was completely fascinated...

Blog Princess G said...