In the run-don’t-walk cultural category of my new short-form recommendation postings is the BBC One 6-part miniseries, River. (available in the U.S. on Netflix.)
It’s hard to describe succinctly how brilliant this series is. It’s an addictively compelling whodunit with layers of social, economic, racial, historical, and psychical significance. The sad thing is that I cannot imagine such a series being written, produced, or acted like this in the U.S.
I’m beginning to think this country is just too “young” to produce such work. Not that the U.S. is that young a country. But its deepest and longest history is of native population extermination-which this country is barely willing to acknowledge in its school curricula, or its public – or private – discourses. And with that repression goes nuance and subtlety in representation. Now, nuance and subtlety are just plain old entertaining (for many of us). But they’re also essential to digging ourselves out of the political mire that we in the U.S. are now drowning in. This moment of political demagoguery and economic exploitation cannot be comprehended in simple terms. Don’t be fooled by consolingly ironic tweets to the contrary.
The unearthing of repression, and the American amnesia around its founding violence, are reasons why Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, LaRose, is also so important. Both River and LaRose, worlds apart in many ways, are similar in many regards. They understand that events are never absent of psychical histories. And that the past will always return – for good or bad, depending on how we deal with it.
Postscript, 10/6/16- The wheels of my unconscious grind exceedingly slowly. I just realized that the temporal structures of River and LaRosa are very similar- always through a montage of past and present. River can make more clear- with visual devices to its advantage- that, as Alain Resnais pointed out in regard to what critics called possibly the first use of flashbacks in film, all memories and “flashbacks” actually exist in the present. But LaRose has its own literary way of bringing the past directly into the present, through distinctly Native American storytelling traditions.