Saturday, October 2, 2010

Kafka's Dog


I know, I'm supposed to be gone. But I ran into a friend at our local Cafe Zinc this morning and he asked me why I had disappeared... And besides, there's Kafka's dog to write about. Just for this one day, then...

We watched this movie last night on a rented DVD, Hachi, A Dog's Tale, with the ever-charming Richard Gere and Joan Allen. The real-life story, transplanted to small town America from early 20th Japan, concerns a college professor who adopts an abandoned dog--an Akita--or who is rather adopted by the dog. They bond. Dog accompanies master (well, human companion) to the train station every day to see him off to work, and returns faithfully each day to the train station to welcome him home. Until the professor dies of a sudden heart attack. After which, the faithful pooch returns to the train station day after day for the rest of his life, awaiting his soul mate's return.

Okay, I wept. Buckets. I defy even the coldest of cold hearts to sit through this movie dry-eyed. Richard Gere dying is bad enough. But then that mourning dog, returning dutifully to wait at the train station day by day and week by week with those mournful eyes...

The message, of course, is dogged loyalty--beyond the meager capacity of us human beings and outlasting mere mortality. Who could be but inspired?

But there's another, perhaps darker side to the story. You'll remember Franz Kafka's tale of the man who seeks access to "the law." He comes to the door, but is turned away by the doorkeeper. He returns the next day, the following day, and the day after that. He learns that this is not the only door and that other, sterner doorkeepers await him if he gets past this one. But he keeps returning. We know--he knows--he will never get past the first doorkeeper, let alone the others, but he never gives up. He sits waiting for admission at the door.

So even as I wept at Hachi's forlorn odyssey, I couldn't help wishing he were just a little bit... smarter. He was unable, for the rest of his life, to change the soft-wiring that governed his behavior. He just kept repeating the same action for the rest of his life, with never a hope of adapting to the new circumstance. His tragic life was marked also by a good measure of pathos.

But anyway, see it and have a good weep. I'm all in favor of the waterworks, which are a fine way to flush out some of the emotional congestion. In this election season, I personally welcomed the release. And now, back to my project. See you when I can no longer help myself...

5 comments:

mandt said...

Hachiku lives on in a much beloved statue in Shibuya,

Anonymous said...

while taking The Dude for his morning walk we were followed home by what appears to be a black lab mix.
Wonder if his owner has been missing.
Stuart

Mark said...

Miss you, Peter. Anxiously awaiting your return to the blogosphere.

-Mark

Mark said...

That was supposed to say "eagerly," not "anxiously." I just fell into one of my own neurotic pet-peeves!

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, all. Back soon!