A Clip from Youtube of Heart of a Dog
You once described language as a virus from outer space. You get political in Heart of a Dog when you discuss the homeland security advisement, “If you see something, say something. Hopefully, it’s nothing.” You also talk about Lolabelle understanding 500 words and the speech a vet gives when he suggests putting an animal down. Then there’s mention of Wittgenstein’s notion that “language has the power to create the world.” What are your thoughts on the power of language, which has been such an important theme in your work and in this film?
I think it’s never very satisfying to share your dreams with someone else. In fact, when somebody goes, “I had this dream…” I go, “Oh please, don’t tell me your dream, please!” No! It’s not a film you saw! It’s something like a hallucination that only you have a code for. Now that is a wonderful thing—stories only you appreciate, only you value, and only you understand. That is a really underrated thing in our culture. You have this wonderful dream world that’s only for you. Let’s keep it that way. Don’t try to tell other people what’s going on. It’s like when only you think something is funny. That’s really great. But why do we share stories? Because otherwise, life is too lonely, you know?
I interpret it such that you are telling these things to me. It’s episodic, and therefore it doesn’t feel like a monologue. As a viewer, you get into some stories, and sometimes you just watch, but I made all these connections and took it all in. I could see the film again and have a totally different response.
I think I was exploring this idea: Does language help you in a situation like that? The Tibetans would say it does, because they wrote a whole book about it. They are expressions of grief. The no crying thing is about trying to understand what is going on not with your own emotions, but to pay attention to what’s going on with the drama of the person who is dying and dead. Their idea is to focus on their transition, which will also be used when you die. But it’s to focus on their death, not your reaction to it.