Ilan Mochari
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BlogNovember, 2008
The brilliance of Bergman, the busts of the NFL draft

At the eight-minute mark of Ingmar Bergman’s film Winter Light (1962), five parishioners are kneeling for Communion. After the rite, one of them, Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow), rises. The camera pans down to Persson’s pregnant wife, Karin (Gunnel Lindblom). She is struggling with her balance, trying in vain to stand up. Who helps her? Not Persson, but another parishioner named Märta Lundberg (Ingrid Thulin).

Persson’s inattention to Karin’s condition is, in fact, our first glance at his condition. Bergman is preparing us for something larger with Persson. Later in the movie – spoiler alert – when Persson kills himself, we are not caught off-guard. We’ve seen the development of Persson’s self-absorption, starting with the Communion scene, and continuing to Persson’s final conversation with pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Björnstrand).

Plausible suicides are not easy to script. Sloppy setups ring false, even in elite novels. Svidrigaylov in Crime and Punishment is one prominent example. George Wilson in The Great Gatsby is another. By contrast, a believable suicide is one of the best weapons in a writer’s dramatic arsenal. How much better is A Tale of Two Cities because of Sydney Carton’s sacrifice? What is Anna Karenina without the end of Part Seven? Who is Paul in Willa Cather’s terrific short story, “Paul’s Case,” if not the self-destructive literary ancestor of Holden Caulfield?

Bergman handles Persson’s case with the skill of a superb novelist. Winter Light has countless moments of aesthetic eminence, but the details of Jonas Persson’s downfall rank highest, in my view.

***

Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton is a rookie of the year candidate. And any team could have nabbed him. He was the 89th pick. I was leading the Slaton bandwagon back in March, while NFL experts overlooked his speed and productivity. Now that the season is halfway over, it’s fair to criticize the teams who ignored not only Slaton, but also other prodigious talents in Rounds 1-3. Here, for my money, are the three worst picks of the 2008 NFL draft:

  • Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins (48th pick). Davis has one catch in seven games. DeSean Jackson (49th) has 34 catches for the rival Philadelphia Eagles. Redskins fans will rue choosing Davis over Jackson for the next 10 years.
  • Jerome Simpson, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (46th). Like Davis, Simpson only has one catch. The Bengals could have had Jackson or Slaton, or running backs Ray Rice (55th overall), Kevin Smith (64th), or Jamaal Charles (73th). All of the above have more talent than Cedric Benson, the current starting running back in Cincinnati.
  • Gosder Cherilus, OT, Detroit Lions (17th). It’s hard to knock Cherilus, since he’s going to have a 10-year career barring injury. (He’s also a grad of Somerville High School, down the block from me.) But the Lions have not had a genuine weapon at quarterback since 1995, when Scott Mitchell (4,338 passing yards, 32 touchdown passes, four rushing touchdowns, and 12 interceptions) led them to the postseason. Detroit should not have bypassed Joe Flacco (18th), who is guiding the Baltimore Ravens (5-3) to playoff contention. Flacco can throw, run, and lead. His upside was obvious to at least one pre-draft observer.

And let the record show at this early date – five months before the 2009 NFL draft – that Oklahoma State junior quarterback Zac Robinson is a favorite of mine. He’s projected as a third-round pick, but I’ve seen what I need to see. If Robinson does not rise to the first round, the pro scouts are making a mistake.

***

Thank you to everyone who purchased Issue 4 of Keyhole, in which my short story, “A Loss to the Stuffed Animal Kingdom,” appears. It’s no small thing to part with $10, and I appreciate it.

Speaking of spare cash, I must mention the new EconoWhiner blog of my friend and mentor, Jill Fraser. Its raison d’être is venting about the American economy. Stay tuned for my upcoming contribution, a first-person piece from a waiter’s worldview.

Some family hollering before I go: Check out "The Vest," the latest short film from my cousin, Ben BenAry. There are no suicides, but there is some grave digging. And my twin sister Heidi is marrying David Greenberger on November 15 in New York City. I'm working on my dance moves just in case the band busts out this classic from our childhood. 

 



Ilan Mochari is a novelist and journalist living in the Boston area. His fiction has appeared in Keyhole and been honored by
Glimmer Train. He is a former staff writer for Inc magazine, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO magazine. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.

 
    © 2008 Ilan Mochari  
Ilan Mochari