Just a Miserable Afternoon

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Moby-Dick

We rented two wooden boats in Altaussee. They look like Venetian gondolas. The boats, or similar ones, were used in the old day to transport salt around the lake. Now they are rented out, for a large sum, to local tourists—including a gondolier, who uses a rowing oar to navigate across the lake.

We skipped the gondolier and the oar and used the motor instead. It was a very cold day and we needed to film some scenes.

Everyone looked miserable. I felt like the cliché of the Hollywood director who tortures his crew in order to get the right footage. The whole scene, the toxic dreams team in yellow raincoats trying to catch a whale in Altaussee was theatre of the absurd. A masochistic act of art making.

The term ‘masochism’ was derived from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian novelist who wrote extensively about how he enjoyed being beaten and subjugated. I wonder if he would have liked to be part of our crew on the lake, subjected to the cold wind and a lot of screaming: Again! Let’s film the scene again!

filming on the lake

Poor Sacher-Masoch. He is no de Sade. Everyone talks about the Marquis de Sade, and Masoch is totally ignored. On the other hand, if anyone likes being ignored it is probably Masoch. The more you ignore him, the more he is turned on. Yes, ignore me, yes, don’t mention my writing, yes, yes, yes…

I’m playing a game of association here: Masoch studied in Graz, Styria. The Altausseer See is a lake in Styria. Maybe Masoch visited the lake, maybe his masochistic spirit still hovers over the lake. Maybe he is responsible for our miserable filming on that Sunday.

My Hebrew family name is Wanunu. In one translated form Wanunu can mean ‘to be tortured,’ in another it has to do with miracles or ‘sons of miracles.’ If Masoch’s example is a warning sign, I hope my name will be associated more with the miracle part of our shooting on Lake Altaussee, and less with the torture part.

I don’t want to be remembered like Charles Boycott, a landlord in Ireland who refused to lower rents during a famine, leading to the original boycott. Or Charles Lynch, a name that needs no explanation.

And I don’t want to be ignored like Sacher-Masoch. I hope that some wonderful footage will come out of the scenes on the lake. ‘Miracle on Lake Altaussee’ actually sounds like a great title for an upcoming Christmas movie. (y)

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