CINÉMONDAYS WITH HARDIK
Dir. Volker Schlöndorff
Screenplay: Arthur Miller
Meet the Lomans from Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. An ageing father with a past and a dream. A concerned mother. Two adults under the pressure of their expectations––expectation to achieve the American Dream.
And here’s how the Pulitzer-winning drama happens to be more than just about a family; it’s about their energy. The men in the story –– the father (Willy) and the sons (Biff and Happy) ––have a similar energy: they want something and what comes in their way is their similarity. However, what is dismissed is the presence of the mother here. I love her (Linda) and empathize with her for being put in a position that is unfair, considering all that she has been through and her simple want: a simple happy family. Her kids love her, probably more than they ever will, their father. But this odd positive energy, I am afraid, might be at the center of what is causing the imbalance.
When I first read, or tried to get at where Willy is coming from, I assumed that he is simply jealous that the kids are favoring their mother over him, despite all the love he has to shower. But it is not jealousy. Linda is loved. Even when Willy tries to stop her from trying solve things or interrupt, it can be seen that she is loved, but needs to step back. If it were jealousy, Willy would not have driven himself so mad; he might have expressed what he felt and would not have been as vulnerable. Here he has a wife, whom she has cheated on, and two kids who don’t think more of him than a headache. If Linda were not at the center of this, the friction between Willy and Biff might have caused them to never talk again, but at the same time, what Linda at the center does is cause an imbalance such that both the father and the son know they have a woman whom they can rely on. Linda is understanding of Willy but fails to understand that while giving into how Willy is thinking, she is causing their son to have an option which is not Willy. Biff knows he has his mother; he wants to visit only her. It is this oddly placed positivity that is shaking up the Loman family equation. One should not blame Linda, but also should not dismiss that she is pretty much at the center of this, even if not apparently.
~ Hardik Yadav