Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Significant Moments: Mama Loschen

Jules Clément Naudet and Thomas Gédéon Naudet are French filmmakers. The brothers, residents of the United States since 1989, were in New York City at the time of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Jules captured footage of American Airlines Flight 11 hitting the North tower of the World Trade Center.

The brothers graduated from Tisch School of the Arts in 1995. Their first film, Hope, Gloves and Redemption (2000) centered on young boxers in training in the Bronx and Spanish Harlem, and included coverage of the 1998 New York Daily News Golden Gloves tournament.

The Naudet brothers were in the process of making a documentary on New York firefighters, following Antonio "Tony" Benetatos, a rookie firefighter or "probie", through his experiences in Fire Department of New York (FDNY) academy training and into a firehouse.

On the morning of 9/11, Jules was taping as firefighters examined a reported gas leak when American Airlines Flight 11 flew right over him and slammed head-on into the North Tower. Although in the footage, the plane is not seen until the impact is about to happen, the sound of the jet's engines can be heard clearly beforehand as well as the firefighter's reaction to it. The Naudet video footage thus became some of the most comprehensive on-site coverage of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

There are two points of view from two cameras shot by both brothers of events occurring at the same time.

Jules went with the FDNY into the North Tower upon them seeing the impact of Flight 11 and responding. He was inside the lobby of the North Tower with the FDNY during most of the event while Gédéon was either in the firehouse with Benetatos (the sole firefighter there for some time) or just below the WTC area among the crowds.

Gédéon's footage captures the impact of United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower while Jules's footage shows the effects of the collapse of the South Tower from inside the lobby of the North Tower.

Along with the video tape of Pavel Hlava, the Naudets' film is the only known footage of Flight 11 striking the World Trade Center. (A series of web camera images from Wolfgang Staehle show the approach of Flight 11 and the after-impact.)

In March 2002 I watched the CBS TV broadcast of the Naudet brothers' documentary 9/11.  The entire film is stunning in its real time capture of the historical events of that day.

I was moved by a brief scene in which the Naudet brothers are reunited after Gideon has convinced himself that his brother, Jules, was killed.  The brothers are reunited in the firehouse (at 5:50 on the YouTube video).  They hug each other.  I was particularly struck by the brothers -- who spoke fluent English -- reverting to their mother tongue, French, in this significant moment of overpowering emotion.  Mama loschen means "mother tongue" in Yiddish, by the way.

I immediately thought, "yes, that is the way it is.  In moments of intense emotion or interpersonal intimacy, we lose ourselves in the moment.  We become our true selves.  We abandon all our pretenses, emotional and cultural.  Our true identity is revealed."  I wanted to capture that notion in my book, Significant Moments.  I had started writing Significant Moments in the spring of 1993.  By 2002 I had completed much of the text.  But I went back into the text and added passages that present the characters reverting to their native language when speaking of or alluding to their fathers or other family members.

1.  Anna Freud and Jeffrey Masson.  In a passage in which Anna Freud refers to her father, she reverts to German.

And then, as he was silent, she . . .
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. 
. . . said something in German . . . 
Don DeLillo, White Noise. 

. . . in tones so clear and evenly-pitched that each separate syllable tapped like a little hammer on his brain: 
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. 

“Herr Doktor, . . . 
Don DeLillo, White Noise. 

Um Gott, was klagest du mich an? War ich es, die dir Leid gebracht?
[Oh, God, what are you complaining to me for?  Am I the cause of your problems?]
Richard Wagner, Lohengrin. 
Dr. Masson take note! 
Leonard Shengold, Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation. 

. . . Mein Vater . . .
Richard Wagner, Lohengrin.
(Whenever she used that phrase "my father" I would shudder a bit at its historic magic—knowing, too, that in just a few years, nobody else would ever be able to say that again . . . ) 
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst. 

. . . my father . . . 
Anna Freud, On Losing and Being Lost. 

. . . based his rejection of these women's memories on clinical material. He recanted because he was wrong the first time." 
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst.

" . . . I am proud to know I understood him better than anyone on earth—he told me so himself. . . ." 
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness. 

"Is that not plain enough for you, Dr. Masson?" 
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst. 

2.  Cosima Wagner and Franz Liszt.  In a passage describing a dinner party Cosima Wagner asks her father, Franz Liszt, with increasing urgency, to come along to the table.   Strauss's opera Arabella features a close father-daughter relationship.

Liszt arrived at last . . . 
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century. 

There’s papa! 
Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arabella. 

. . . embraced his daughter . . . 
Gustave Flaubert, Emma Bovary. 

. . . and walked on, allowing . . . 
Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister. 

. . . Frau Wagner . . . 
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams. 

. . . to walk by his side. 
Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister. 

One of the women murmured: 
Guy de Maupassant, The Hand. 

There he is. Don’t you think he’s elegant? 
Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arabella. 

“Papa! Come along!” 
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary. 

An admiring group, huddled by the doorway . . . 
Henry Adams, Democracy: An American Novel. 

—Papa, viens donc! 
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary. 

. . . is hushed into admiring awe. 
Edna Ferber, The Homely Heroine. 

They sat down, they unfolded their stiff table napkins. The immense room was carpeted, the walls were covered with eighteenth-century paneling . . . 
Thomas Mann, The Blood of the Walsungs. 

Frau Wagner . . . 
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams. 

. . . gestures to . . . 
Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arabella. 

. . . her father . . . 
J. Moussaieff Masson, Final Analysis: The Making and Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst. 

. . . to sit down beside her.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arabella. 

3. Marie d'Agoult and her grandchildren.  In a passage at a dinner party, Countess Marie d'Agoult (mother of Cosima Wagner) is playing with her grandchildren and reverts to French.

. . . the clock has struck ten . . . 
Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg. 
Marie d’Agoult, . . . 
Cosima Wagner’s Diaries (translator’s introduction). 

. . . la grande mere . . . 
Guy de Maupassant, The Vagabond. 

. . . was talking . . . 
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary. 

. . . and playing with the children—Daniel and Blandine von Bulow, Isolde, Eva, and Siegfried Wagner. 
Phyllis Stock-Morton, The Life of Marie d’Agoult, alias Daniel Stern. 

‘You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frere!’ 
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land. 

. . . she remarked abruptly, whereupon . . . 
Willa Cather, The Bohemian Girl. 

. . . the Countess . . .
[Countess Ellen Olenska]
Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence.

 . . . grinned and the children giggled.
Willa Cather, The Bohemian Girl. 

"The children ought to go to bed," . . . 
Thomas Mann, Disorder and Early Sorrow.

. . . Wagner remarked 
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century. 

He said, Marie, Marie . . . 
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land. 

It’s getting late, my dear, . . .
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield. 

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land. 

"Run along up to bed now; no excuses!" 
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past. 

But she pleads for another quarter of an hour; she has promised already, and they do love it so!
Thomas Mann, Disorder and Early Sorrow. 

4.  Wagner and the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  While sitting for his portrait Wagner speaks in a mixture of French and German, while Renoir interjects with French phrases.  Wagner's father was a portrait painter, a fact I point out at another point in the book.  The use of French is intended to suggest that Wagner identifies Renoir with his father, which helps explain the jocular and familiar exchange between the two men who were strangers.

I suggest full face.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Letter to an Unknown Friend in Renoir: A Retrospective, Nicholas Wadley, ed.
Il n’ecoutait pas. 
William Faulkner, Le Domaine (The Mansion in French Translation). 

“You want, of course, full resemblance.”
Arthur Rubinstein, My Many Years. 
He says that will be fine. 
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Letter to an Unknown Friend in Renoir: A Retrospective, Nicholas Wadley, ed. 

He smiled with me, but only in that the closed corners of his mouth contracted more firmly and he shut his eyes a little. 
Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus. 

Of the very curious blue-and-pink result R. says it makes him look like the embryo of an angel, an oyster swallowed by an epicure. 
Cosima Wagner’s Diaries (Sunday, January 15, 1882). 

C’etait bien ca; 
William Faulkner, Le Domaine (The Mansion in French Translation). 

The conversation, which lasted for about three-quarters of an hour, seems to have consisted mostly of remarks by Wagner in bad French and embarrassed interjections by the painter . . . 
Ernest Newman, The Life of Richard Wagner. 

. . . thereby consummating the Babel of confusion . . . 
Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus. 

. . . between the two men. 
Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister. 

5. The Marranos and God (The heavenly Father).  The Marranos (secret Jews who date their lineage back to the Spanish Inquisition) utter a Hebrew prayer in addressing God.  Significantly, this passage (in an earlier revision) was present in my first draft of Significant Moments which dates from May 1993.

One summer evening, with much of the community present, Schwarz was moved to chant the ancient Hebrew prayer, Shema, Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ehad. (Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.) 
Paul Cohen, An Orphan in History. 

. . . the old prayer they had neglected for so many tears—the forgotten creed! 
Arnold Schoenberg, A Survivor From Warsaw. 

Though the people of Belmonte had never heard of a language called Hebrew, that prayer opened the door of trust. Adonai—God—was the only Hebrew word that had survived the Inquisition: the only trace of the holy
tongue . . . 
Paul Cohen, An Orphan in History.

—a kind of . . . 
O. Henry, The Moment of Victory. 

. . . mother tongue, . . . 
Henry David Thoreau, Walden. 

. . . that remained in their Portuguese language liturgy. As soon as Schwarz uttered the word, the conversos covered their eyes. One of the oldest women among them recited a prayer. Then, weeping, she reached out her hands and touched Schwarz’s face. “He is indeed a Jew,” she said. “For he knows the name Adonai.” 
Paul Cohen, An Orphan in History.

The following video is excerpted from the Naudet brothers' documentary "9/11."  The sequence of interest begins at 5:50 on the video.


Gary Freedman said...

The Naudet brothers were filming a documentary about an unknown firefighter, and they just happened to be on the scene to record an event of world-historical significance.

This always reminded me of the Zapruder film, where Abe Zapruder was filming a routine motorcade by the President in Dallas in November 1963 and just happened to capture an event of world-historical significance.

Anonymous said...

9/11 and Israel, here: