Moonlight (2016) – The proustian moment

THIS week I went to see Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins at the cinema; so I’m going to write about the movie here and therefore my post will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen this movie yet which is based on a play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, written by McCraney; you can stop reading now. Moonlight received critical acclaim upon its release and was regarded as one of the best films of 2016. At the 74th Golden Globe Awards it won Best Motion Picture – Drama and was nominated in five other categories. The film received eight Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Ali, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins and McCraney.

Moonlight (2016)

The movie depicts the chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young black man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. He’s known as Chiron and we watch his struggles since early schoolboy days growing up with a crack-addicted mother and being bullied at school. He’s quiet and has a hard time in his efforts to try communicating.  Words seems to fail him and adults complain he doesn’t speak much. He’s also a big time trying to escape his bullies and after being chased down the local drug dealer Juan finds him in his hiding place. He takes Chiron home and a lifetime friendship develop between them and Juan’s girlfriend Theresa. Although Juan sells drugs to Chiron’s mother Paula the friendship goes on through the years until Juan’s death. Chiron continues to be friend with Theresa. At High School young Chiron is bullied for being gay and doesn’t have any strength or potential friends to protect himself.

The Proustian moment in Moonlight

It was interesting to watch Moonlight because it does contain what is called a proustian moment.1 It’s communicated to us through Chiron’s High School friend Kevin who finally decides he will call Chiron and invite him to dinner where he works. At school they had an one-time sexual encounter at the beach and things could have gone well between them after that, but Kevin is talked into by Chiron’s bullies to hit him. They two men meet at the restaurant and it’s a bit of an awkward moment since they haven’t seen each other since high School. Kevin prepares a “chef’s special,” but Chiron is reluctant to speak or drink with his old friend who once knocked him out at school. Kevin seems taken a back that Chiron once silent and shy is a drug dealer making business in Atlanta. When he enters the restaurant tall and well build Kevin doesn’t recognize him. Chiron finally asks why he’s been summoned and Kevin reveals he thought of him after a customer who resembled Chiron entered the restaurant. He also remembered Chiron at that moment through a song. When he first called Chiron on the phone he promised to play that special song. The way this is communicated to the audience reveals Kevin’s proustian moment. Kevin tells Chiron that, although his life may not have turned out the way he hoped, he is still happy. He has a child and likes to work as a cook. The major similarity is that both men has done time. Chiron admits he has never been intimate with another person since their encounter on the beach. As Kevin comforts him, Chiron thinks back to his time as a child on the beach.

Sources

wikipedia.org

imdb.com

 

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  1. The term is also known as Proustian memory; or involuntary memory. Proust viewed involuntary memory as containing the “essence of the past”, claiming that it was lacking from voluntary memory. In his novel, he describes an incident where he was eating tea soaked cake, and a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt was “revealed” to him. 
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