After Romulus: Raimond Gaita: senshido.info: Books
Romulus, My Father is a biographical memoir, first published in , written by the Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita. The major literary themes displayed in relation to belonging are that of: belonging to family;; belonging to a place;. Set in early s rural Australia, Romulus, My Father tells the story of a young boy has adapted the film from the memoir by the philosopher Raimond Gaita. Christine suffers from depression and when her relationship. IT is more than 50 years since Raimond Gaita's mother, Christine, killed herself on the verge of turning 30 and his father, Romulus, succumbed.
He looked like a perfectly ordinary chap to me, but she insisted. If a drug addict wants to rob you, which was her fear, it is only because society for no good reason cripples these people financially. It seems to me a reason to be outraged on their behalf, rather than scared of them. It was a street I travelled up and down daily for six months or so while I was living at one end of it, my PO Box at the other.
It is a strip full of crazy people, mostly men, and to begin with I felt as nervous as she did. Strange to think that we fear people simply because they are powerless, that we somehow invest power into their powerlessness. Strange to think we are scared of people because they have nothing and live on the street. So, before long, these were people I knew, not in any intimate way, but in that sense you do people you see every day. I might add that these people were empathetic.
They were quite capable of ignoring you if they felt that is what you wanted. I seem to be scared of making the trip. I come to this point. In the same week that Romulus, My Father received a literary award, with all the glamour attached to such ceremonies, I read from it at the Sacred Heart Mission, in St. Kilda, reluctantly, for I was aware that people came for lunch, not for literature.
At one stage a man, obviously mentally ill, called for me to stop. He raised his head, which he had held in his hands and exclaimed "God is in this book! His words moved me deeply. I remembered the day when my father and Vacek visited me at school. That tribute, by a man destitute of all worldly goods and achievements, quite without status or prestige and also quite mad, moved me, gratified me and convinced me of the worth of what I had done more than all the accolades the book has received.
I hope you all now understand that you must see this movie, read this book. And the publisher for a while had the cheek to at least entertain the thought that maybe it would release it as fiction. Well, I don't think that the sense of my being a witness to my father's goodness would survive anything that looks like carelessness about the facts, and certainly wouldn't survive the addition of a fictitious material.
But I really want to add that I don't have a general view about the mixing of fact and fiction. I just think in this case it was out. In your book A Common Humanity: Thinking about Love and Truth and Justice you quote Simone Weil saying that 'the need for truth is more sacred than any other need, this gives truth a more spiritual value, sacredness rather than simply something that is right or factual'.
I also quote this in A Common Humanity, that he was disgusted by the way the political life of Italy had been polluted by the lies of the fascists. Only something that can be very precious can be polluted. If it is merely useful to you, you can bugger it up in all sorts of ways and reduce its effectiveness. But you don't describe it as having been polluted.
And people can think about truthfulness in their own lives in those kinds of ways where it really matters that you be truthful about, for example, your past, even though your concern to be truthful in that way isn't because you think it will make things better for the future.
You write about depending on Bach to keep you truthful. Don't ask me to explain that! You're playing Bach while you are writing because you say Not so much while but afterwards.
But it was because I knew that in a dramatic story as this one was I had to resist any tendency Because it is sad story. It is a sad story, and I didn't want the sadness to disappear. But I take a vulnerability to pathos to be like a vulnerability to sentimentality, not so much an absence of feeling but as a distortion of feeling.
And I listened to Bach to keep me truthful in that kind of way. Because of the structure? Because of Bach's structure? No, because I think in a lot of Bach's music there is such wonderful and powerful feeling but utterly disciplined in the sense of not yielding to any of those things; sentimentality, pathos and so on.
Romulus, My Father
I listened during the day to Maria Callas, who my mother loved, but I couldn't take too much of that without knowing that the book would be dripping with pathos. Then the film arrives, the proposal for a film, and I remember your struggle with being courted by many offers of filmmaking at the time.
And you were very, very selective, weren't you. Tell me about your attitude to somebody else telling your story. I didn't want a film at all, and the only reason that Richard Roxburgh got the rights is because originally he asked, having come all the way from Africa to London with two bottles of red wine, he got the rights because he asked only in the end for the rights to write a screenplay, my having refused him the rights to the film.
And then one thing led to another and over six years the film was made.
But many times during that I was prepared to say let's call it quits when we couldn't get a screenwriter and so on.
And what were the points at which you felt that you were struggling over that? There were two things, perhaps most especially I think it's very hard to make a film about madness without pathos or sentimentality, and in this case there are three mad characters; Vacek, my mother, and my father.
So I thought the chances of this coming out well were very small. And also because I thought that one of the things that mattered most to me about the book was to characterise the way in which my father could behave to Vacek who was visibly insane.
In the film he is not, in the film he is more or less, as Richard Roxburgh describes him, an amiable homeless man who cooks eggs in his room. But he was visibly mad, and one of the things that I realised about my father and indeed Hora was that they responded to Vacek without a trace of condescension.
And I try in one of these essays in the book to say why I think that is so wondrous. I know that almost everybody would say we should behave like that, and I am now 65 and I have now met about three or four or five people who could do it. And in this new book I try to explain why I think it's such a difficult thing and why it is so wondrous when it occurs. And I thought, well, if I've only seen a handful of people do this in life, why would I think actors could do it?
So that was one resistance. And I think, whether he did it intentionally or not, it was wise of Richard to portray Vacek as merely a homeless eccentric man because I don't think he could have done what I would have wanted him to do and then I would have been disappointed in the film, and I'm not disappointed in the film.
I say in the essay about the film, when people ask me what I think of it they are always disappointed because I say I like it. Why do you think they're disappointed? Because they're so used to writers saying how they hate the films that have been made about their works. When the film came out I remember you being worried, and there was a scene that was dropped from the film that was in the original screenplay. Yes, there was a scene that was dropped in which I have to talk about them as characters Rai and Christine in the shack Frogmore before Christine has Susan, and she hears voices, thereby making it clear that she is suffering from a form of mental illness.
That scene was dropped, and so when people see the film and they see Christine's incapacity, so marvellously acted by Franka Potente, to look after season they think this is postnatal depression, which leaves them wondering why on earth she came in an out of Raimond's life and all the rest of it.
Romulus, My Father - The National
And when I saw this I told Richard Roxburgh that they would judge her badly, and he said they shouldn't. And I said, well, maybe they should or shouldn't, but the fact is they will. And I have read countless reviews of the film that sort of say things like, well, it was tough and it was a good film, and the poor boy, good thing that he got through it all right and came out reasonably okay at the end, especially having such a bitch of a mother.
That's the sort of sentiment.
And that upset me a lot, and it was no consolation for people to say to me, look, she is just a character in the film, because nobody says to me, look, Franka Potente acted this character who has no existence outside the film, they all say Franka Potente acted Christine your mother really well. So I was deeply hurt by that, and I thought I might want to respond to it in some way So the film had been made by then, or did you know that that scene was going to be dropped?
No, I didn't know until I saw a rough cut of the film that it had been cut. I suspect that was all intentional because they would have known that I would have resisted like mad at that stage. And was it too late to insist that it would be put back in? It was too late. They did this right at the beginning of the shoot. Sorry, on Richard's behalf I should explain, he thought that there was too much madness in the film and another mad scene would just alienate the audience and turn the film into melodrama.
And given that he was making a feature film and not a documentary, that might have been a fair thought. So I'm not saying this to be critical of him. But still, it upset me a lot, and it was one of the many things that was driving me to write about my mother.
Follow the Author
It wasn't the most important thing. And in this book I do comment on the fact that the scene had been cut, but I leave it for an essay on the film rather than the long essay about my mother because I didn't want in that essay about my mother to have any polemical tone or defensive tone.
Let's talk about that last essay about your mother. The way you write, it seems to have generated Perhaps you could just tell us about that and read a little bit. Yes, my wife Yael and I have built a house not all that far from Frogmore, and indeed just over the hill from the camp to which my father was sent when he first came to Australia to build a reservoir and where I had lived for a while with him.
There is no longer a camp there, it's just over the hill. And Hora, after he died his children came to visit us and they came with Hora's grandchildren, and that's a significant part of the story. But weren't you doing exactly that, and don't we try and do that, we put ourselves in the place of others whose lives we can't live but we're trying to understand? Yes, we try to understand, but I think in this case I couldn't really feel as she did.
Romulus, My Father - Wikipedia
But what going to that swamp made clear to me on recollection is that after writing Romulus, partly because I wrote it so quickly I was In fact I sort of oscillated between exhilaration and depression when I wrote it, but I do remember coming back to Melbourne utterly exhilarated. But over the years, and this was before the film, it wasn't the film that triggered this, I became more aware of the quiet desperation of her life rather than the more dramatic episodes like an attempted suicide.
And her lying there in that swamp that night became for me sort of emblematic of that more quiet desperation.Eric Bana
And later on in the book I talk about how utterly terrible her last two years must have been after Mitru had killed himself and she was going from place to place in Melbourne suffering from mental illness herself, going from Melbourne to Ballarat where she had previously been in a psychiatric hospital to go and seek psychiatric care, and there she killed herself.
So it was that deepened sense of the desperate quality of her very brief life in Australia. It's still hard for me actually to get the time span right because I still see it to some degree as a kid and I think, God, it was a long time. But it wasn't, in her case it was eight years. You talk about Emmylou Harris as a musical accompaniment to this part of the story. Tell me about that. Well, one of my daughters, Katie, had given me for my 50th birthday a tape of music that she liked and some of it she knew I liked and so on.
I had intended to write about my father but I thought I might write on weekends and nothing came of it, and I played this for about a week, I just played it again and again. And though I went to write this book about my father, Romulus, My Father, I started writing about my mother. So I should have realised a long time ago that this need to write about her was there strongly and wasn't really satisfied in the writing of Romulus.
Do you think it was the views of other people, those reviews of the film that made you finally put pen to paper about her, because you say that it doesn't happen I thought the reviewers were all full of sincere compassion for the boy, for the film me, but as I say in trying to suggest in those reviews that this was a woman undeserving of my love and indeed of her husband's love, I thought this was no kindness. In fact I think it's an insidious thing in general. One of the things I say in the book And that's a very, very important thing, because I knew how disdainful everybody was of her.
Yes, without being embarrassed by the fact that everybody thought she was utterly irresponsible and so on. I became really aware of this, again, not in my own case, but through a series of accidents I became a kind of ambassador or what's called an ambassador for an organisation called Mirabel which is a wonderful organisation that gives support to kids who have been orphaned or abandoned when their parents were drug addicts.