Water from the wound
Water from the wound, such a soulful turn of phrase. I first heard the expression in The Year of Living Dangerously, back when Peter Weir was still making edgy movies, Mel Gibson was sexy, and Sigourney Weaver hadn't met an alien yet. The phrase popped into my mind a few days ago for no particular reason and stayed there. A day or two later, I noticed a post in the feed at OS with that title. Synchronicity.
But what does it mean? That is somewhat ambiguous. In the film, the words are spoken by an Indonesian man high atop a mountain plantation in "old" Java just before the civil war between the communist rebels and President Sukarno's military erupts in 1965. The man, Bembal Roco, works for Gibson, who plays a gauche, ambitious Australian broadcaster. He knows that the coup is doomed, but he is committed to fight for his desperate people despite the corruption of the political process on both sides. When Gibson asks him what "water from the wound" means, the man answers with an expression of unutterable sadness on his face: "It means something that you can never have."
In that context, he is referring to freedom from poverty and dictatorship, something that Indonesia has yet to achieve. He may also be referring to something more personal. Weir is a subtle enough filmmaker to leave the possibility open. Roco asks Gibson's character, "Am I a stupid man for wanting to change my country's condition?" and points out that in the western world, even stupid men are rich and free. That scene and expression have stayed with me for so long -- apart from being in a well-crafted, wonderfully acted and written film that also features Linda Hunt who won an Oscar for her performance -- because it was the first time I viscerally experienced the despair of what living as an ordinary person in the Third World means. I knew intellectually, but it hadn't hit me emotionally. Gibson's character undergoes a similar transformation, and it was doubtless Weir's intent that western audiences unaccustomed to putting a human face on faraway conflicts be made aware of the real cost of our indifference.
Since that time I have travelled extensively in Indonesia, and found the film authentic in its depiction of the country and the expatriate journalist community. Yet that isn't what I am writing about here. What I really want to know is: water from the wound. What does it mean to you?
For me, it is about yearning for a sense of belonging to myself and others that I have never truly experienced. My fierce independence may prevent me from embracing that acceptance, but nevertheless, it is the most important thing in my life that eludes me.
Water from the wound. Enlighten me.