(Note: Some spoilers.)
Yesterday I finally saw Lemony Snicket. Finally--after all these months. All in all, I felt like it was a rather uneven portrayal, what with the odd combination of humor, outright weirdness coming right out of left field (or really I don't know what field), and the occasional shock of reality, of the unsettling variety. Though the humor was all pretty much so-called "dark," it still seemed an odd fit with the few jolts of "reality" that got thrown in, startling me. Okay, really it was mainly one instance that shocked me a little, and you may laugh when you hear it. It wasn't blood or gore; it wasn't crude or really even offensive. It was just when the boy, Klaus, got slapped by his uncle, Count Olaf. Okay, I'm a weird one, but I can take a certain level of violence and not really be phased by it. Good or bad, that's the truth. But there are certain things that will make me step back, even despite the fact that they might be smaller than the big violent things the movies often wallow in so much. I can watch a man get beat up--no big deal. I see a kid get spit on, and it shocks me. (Real example--Power of One.) Analyzing my reactions would take a whole (much longer) essay, but the bottom line, I think, is that humiliation impacts me far deeper than "mere" violence.
I'm not sure what category the slap falls under, but it just seemed so--I guess real that it startled me. I guess it touched below the surface humor of disastrous events and dire happenings that the movie plays off of, touched deeper to something that seemed realer and more disturbing. Most of the events seemed so outlandish and ridiculous that it stood out in startling contrast. It felt like stepping out of the fantasy movie-land into some real-time videocamera recording...an effect that was jarring. Maybe it epitomized the whole wrongness of the situation, the way the uncle was treating the children--making them slave for him while he made plans to come into their inheritance--and then slapping one of them. Just--treating Klaus like he was worthless and Count Olaf's property to be slapped and pushed around. Disrespected. I think that's at the heart of it. Slaps are hardly the most violent thing you can do to a person, and yet to me they seem to be deeply disrespectful. Like the aforementioned spitting incident; I hate to see a person disrespected or humiliated. I guess there's not much that bothers me more than that.
I'm talking like slapping and spitting are the worst things that can happen to a person in the so-called Real World. I don't mean that at all. I just mean, they seem the closest and realest to my world, the easiest to imagine. While houses burning down and oncoming trains (while you're locked in cars straddling the tracks) and murderous uncles seem far less real to my sphere of experience.
Besides that, the death of a new friend during the course of the movie, the fatal dangers that somehow weren't fatal (at least when Count Olaf underwent them) struck an odd and perhaps surreal chord alongside the humorous tone of the move, dark or not, however you please to call it.
Other little points throughout the movie touched me in a different way. The children as they faced the ruin of their lives and loss of their parents--wandering amid the charred remains of their house; here an unscarred telescope, there a blackened plaything. Later, rolling up their sleeves (or in Violet's case, tying up her hair) as they made the best of a bad situation in a makeshift tent at their uncle's house, with a locket of their parents' profiles watching over them as they played and laughed together. And, at the end, reading the belated letter from their parents, written so many years before, with words of such goodness and hope and all the things the movie purported not to be about. “At times the world may seem like an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe us when we say that there is much more good in it than bad... and what may seem like a series of unfortunate events might, in fact, be the first steps of a journey.” Things didn't turn out perfectly for the kids. Uncle Olaf escaped. Their final fate hangs uneasily in the air, left unknown to us. But the yellowed letter, arriving years late, and all it reminded of the light among the clouds that gives us hope of things better and an underlying sense, was as close to a happy ending as a movie about deplorable circumstances and unfortunate events might dare to be. Though I might've wished for more reason to the hope and sense to the puzzles, and maybe even a little evidence of the goodness, I came away warmed, at least, by the moments that rang true.