I’m currently enchanted by the new HBO series Irma Vep.
The storyline is wonderfully quirky; the series itself is about the shooting of a tv-series based on the feature film “Irma Vep” from 1996, which in turn is based on an old silent movie, and the character playing the director is based on the actual director of the series, who also directed the original Irma Vep feature film.
All these superimposed layers create the feeling that the show is as random as life itself. It really shouldn’t work. And yet something keeps it all together. Irma Vep is getting rave reviews.
And I’m starting to think I understand why. Because what remains when you strip away all the narrative bells and whistles of a traditional plot, is a clear look at the people. And just as in real life, people are fascinating.
For some reason, half ways through Irma Vep, Austin Kleon comes to mind. If you never heard of him, he’s this poet from Texas who started writing books about creativity and ended up on the New York Times bestseller list. The Atlantic calls him “positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet”.
His three books Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work and Keep Going combine into one long exhortation to embrace the fact that being interesting is largely a function of being interested.
I’m inclined to agree. We find people interesting who do what they do because they seem to have no choice, the people who are haunted by a necessity.
Which is exactly the case with the fictional Irma Vep director René Vidal, played by Vincent Macaigne. He’s absolutely obsessed, and by force of being so pulls the rest of the cast into his gravitational field. They too act as if there’s nothing more important on this planet than the screwy series they’re trying to make. And that’s interesting to watch.
What Austin Kleon makes of his be-interested dictum, is that we should dare to opt out of the opinion-sharing that fill social media, and instead trust that people out there want to know what we work on.
I think that’s very true. Interested individuals is what makes the world go round, wether they’re fictional characters, some folks in a garage tinkering with a new piece of technology, or the kid next door who wants to learn everything about ski lifts.