I’ve never met Roger Ebert. However, I felt like I knew him.
I’ve been reading his blog, his tweets and his reviews for many years. The man personified prolific. Robbed of his speaking voice, he turned to the written word to express his true sense of self. His humor, his wit, his pragmatic view of death — it’s all there.
As a quasi critic/reviewer, I looked to Ebert as a model of tact and form. It was clear in his reviews that he was addicted to film, much like my relationship with theatre. And he didn’t mince words if he didn’t like something — being a fan doesn’t mean a pushover. The man had standards, and it was up to the film to meet them.
Yes, for Ebert, film wasn’t just a profession, it was a passion.
And here’s the funny thing: I’m not even a film buff. I can literally count on one hand how many times I go to the movies in a year. But I would read Ebert’s reviews just to read his work. That’s how much I loved his writing.
One of the films that hit me hardest in recent past was Lars Van Trier’s Melancholia. Most of the mainstream reviewers wrote the film off as a pretentious curiosity. However, Ebert captured the exact sentiment that caused me to sit in my chair, shaking, following the movie’s staggering conclusion:
“Violent death is often a shabby business in the movies. It happens in depressing bedrooms, bloody bathtubs, shattered cars, bleak alleys. Its victims are cast down empty of life. Here is a character who says, I see it coming, I will face it, I will not turn away, I will observe it as long as my eyes and my mind still function. Is it fair of me to speculate that von Trier himself regards death in that way? He tends to be grandiose, but if one cannot be grandiose in imagining one’s own death, then when is grandiosity justified?”
“I will face it, I will not turn away, I will observe it as long as my eyes and my mind still function.”
I truly feel this how Ebert faced his own fate. He didn’t play the victim. He didn’t apologize. He simply kept on doing what he loved right up to the end.
May we all be so lucky.