At the end of François Truffaut’s film, The 400 Blows, the boy, Antoine, runs away from humanity, racing into the sea. It seems like the last place he might hope for something – some future, or amount of love; the film ends with him, the openness of an overcast sky, and the sea. La mère. Having spent the last few hours of the film struggling to adapt to parental antipathy, one hopes Antoine has found a sense of belonging at last. The disappointment of an ambivalent biological mother, combined with a stepfather’s abandonment, makes him ever more at odds with the human world he was borne into. It offers no reliable support. This final scene – the result of an escape from reform school – suggests that, as a last gasp, Antoine might transfer human need and hope onto the material, nonhuman world; perhaps, at the end, his ability to submerge in the literal sea offers a real, maternal nourishment not otherwise available to him.
The metaphor stands out lovely and bright.
In reality, however, the ocean is unruly, cold, and frighteningly powerful.
Bas Jan Ader left the earth behind entirely when, in 1975, he set out to cross the Atlantic in a homemade dingy. During his In Search of the Miraculous, he was lost to the sea.
Rebecca Mir writes love letters to her ocean. These letters will never be answered, despite her earnest and poetic intentions. It is an unrequited, long distance love affair. And though the effort might strain to suggest an anthropomorphic interpretation of that awesome salt water body, the illiterate object of her affection defies translation, being ultimately too strange, too independent, unpredictable, and nonhuman to domesticate itself. It is both one thing, one ocean, and yet also it is many, comprising parts, being full to the brim of ecologies, life forms, and variant depths: the beginning of life and a poetic emissary for the human subconscious, ever defiant of both fixity and reason.
Consider the rock, tossed, tussled, and worn smooth from the ocean’s body – it is the ocean’s direct reply, for the memory of its movement remains fixed in time on the surface of the rock. In that at least, Mir might find an answer.