Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Pawnbroker and Mr. X

One of the most poignant moments in the history of film takes place about three minutes into The Pawnbroker, and coincides with the arrival of X. He shuffles into Cal Nazerman’s shop, extending a tatty lamp towards the pawnbroker. Before he has set it down on the counter, Nazerman has already started the transaction, mechanically going through the motions. With the lamp off his hands, X eagerly yet tentatively shares his thoughts on Herbert Spencer’s Genesis of science with the robot Nazerman. “I particularly like his insistence that science is born of art, not the other way around. To me, this was refreshing, coming from a man who most modern thinkers call old-fashioned.”
Several attempts at response or at least eye-contact fail utterly, and as his speech reaches its Pythagorean climax, Nazerman curtly and silently places his two dollars on the counter. X sees them, but doesn’t want to acknowledge them, knowing that their acceptance will mean the end of this meeting. Then, stuttering, embarrassed at his evidently uninteresting revelation, he confesses “From time to time I like to drop in here, cuz Mr Nazerman, a man gets hungry for talk, good talk...”
“There’s your ticket, and there’s your two dollars,” Nazerman informs him curtly. His short, staccato and precise speech contrasts starkly with X’s laborious, stumbling but empathic voice.
X snaps out of his semi-reverie and mumbles “Naturally, Mr Nazerman, two dollars will be quite alright.”
This last negation of his efforts is too much for the poor man, and his face loses that lively, enthusiastic look. In its place appears a disillusioned, dejected and guilty face. Backing away disappointedly, he says “I, I apologise for, for talking (emphasised with a little throwaway arm movement) so much, Mr Nazerman.”  He is disappointed, but crucially not with the cold and distant Mr Nazerman, but with himself, for having burdened himself on Nazerman. More words come to his mouth, but he is unable to express them. “Forgive me.”
With these words, the sorriest and saddest man I have ever seen hurries out of the Pawnbroker.


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9:46 AM


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