Screaming Lambs, Skins and a Grandfather’s Eyes

Of late I have taken a liking to Anthony Hopkins. The Sir. The man with the iridium first stare in every movie that lets you know he has full knowledge of you and your family’s skeletons from several decades back. He strips you bare with his first stare.

Having played Hitler,Nixon and a range of serial killers and social screw-ups, and Picasso, for that matter, the aura surrounding his presence in a frame shot is devilishly complete. This is the face of a cannibalistic serial killer. Fiendish. This is not about playing the counter-hero or bad guy. This is about the disturbance that he leaves behind. The unholy concatenation of a series of evil desires and the instinct for righteous revenge. I would say that I have stayed away from him for a long time. Instinctively. In real life, I would not meet him in an elevator. Not even be across from him in escalators moving in opposite directions. An un-adulting childish instinct. His presence on the screen had a moon and crypt quality.  An X-raying blueness that singes the back of your skull.

And I realize now how silly I’ve been in attempting to delete and backspace every fear that lurks in me when watching his films. Because in general, it is that sense of self-preservation and safety that gnaws away at any adventurous desire to experiment, to savour life beyond that zone of comfort… undiluted, life, is it not? It is finally that sense of la-la-ness that overtakes and ossifies you down to the bone!

But now, in my own darkness, I find his eyes and composure comforting and even grandparental. There is a penetrating kindness that attracts. In another recent film (Fracture) where, opposite Ryan Gosling, his skills at conveying a commitment to righteous revenge – a driven justification for fairness, no matter what, and not just a pedestrian notion of retribution – are extraordinarily desirable. He loses out, but exits with superlative composure. And then there was the Zorro film with Banderas, where aged composure and cool triumphs over impetuous brattiness.

Hopkins has turned my hesitation about uncertainty and the unknown into a sense of calm about the rest of our lives. The concept of sunset has dawned. I am now a grandfather myself, and I understand that it would be most pleasurable to recite the words of a powerful unending poem as the sun sets on a beach where I have been left alone, and celluloid terrors and a sense of the unknown are no longer of consequence. I do affirm that Anthony Hopkins has mingled easily in the rare air that Oliver, Bergman or Pacino occupied.  In evil, there is superlative composure and yet the frightening radiance of life experiences that go beyond a world of smileys and emoticons.