Cancer is not funny… right?
A French film which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last Friday challenges that assumption. Called a “defiantly upbeat tragibuffoonery,” “Le Bruit Des Glacons,” or “The Clink of Ice” breaks the mold of tear jerking, lesson teaching, softly lit cancer movies; questioning the way we deal with hardship.
The main character is an award-winning novelist whose life is, well… completely depressing. Not only has he recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor, his wife has just left him, and he has lost all inspiration for his work.
Cue the cliché classical music.
In most movies that deal with adversity and disease, this would be the point where a loved-one steps in, to comfort and reassure. Instead, a pudgy, forty something year-old stranger shows up announcing, “I am your cancer.”
We have seen plenty of consoling doctors, plenty of weeping spouses, and plenty of sad endings in cancer movies, but never a physical incarnation of the disease. Movies like Brian’s Song and Love Story have taught us that dealing with cancer is difficult, and that the one’s we love don’t always make it. They have tricked us into thinking that there isn’t a way to deal with the disease that doesn’t revolve around crying and hugging.
Both in the movie and in real life cancer is anything but enjoyable. Yet, however debilitating and scary it may be, the disease does not target one’s sense of humor. Cancer patients are capable of laughter. Especially when their cancer is in the form of a middleaged man.
The novelist in “The Clink of Ice” does not sit back and weep about his position or the cancer that is making his life a living hell; he argues with him, he laughs with him, and he pushes him off a balcony!
I bet that all cancer patients wish they could just whack their disease in the stomach, knocking all the wind out of it. So why hasn’t someone taken this approach before?
Most filmmakers tread softly around sensitive subjects, such as death and deadly diseases. The question to ask; are they overly concerned with box-office numbers or initial impressions? Are they worried they’ll be pegged as insensitive or cruel?
I, personally, think we should quit tiptoeing. I think we should push more short men in three-piece suits off of balconies! Why make something that is already sad in real life depressing in the movies? We should open our mouths and let loose laughs, even if it is not politically correct.
The self-help literature tells cancer patients to take control of their disease, to live life to it’s fullest. Society should help them do that. By always saying the word cancer in hushed tones, by making movies that gloss over complicated emotions, and by always taking a downbeat approach to the subject, we ignore our ability to take a positive line of attack to even the most negative subjects.
“The Clink of Ice” may not consider cancer in the standard, realistic way of dealing with disease, but its certainly good for a laugh, and often that’s what we need more than tears or a lesson; a good laugh.