The Castle in the Pyrenees
One of my favorite intellectual movies is the 1990 gem “Mindwalk” directed by Bernt Capra, who also wrote the original story; in a nutshell it’s about a failed presidential candidate (Sam Waterston), a Norwegian scientist (Liv Ullmann) and an American poet living in France (John Heard). It is a beautiful and engaging dialogue between these three people going deeply into the topics of physics (quantum mechanics, particle physics), political and societal issues (how to resolve them) and poetry. My god if they had just thrown a half marathon into the mix it would have been the ultimate movie! (yeah, everything ends up about running with me).
This book is very much in the vein of Mindwalk; this is a novel of ideas, it is an intense dialogue between two characters who were lovers three decades earlier and are brought together entirely by chance one afternoon. They take up an email conversation that goes on for a few days; in fact the entire narrative is in the form of emails back and forth between them. Steinn is a pragmatic, atheist scientist (working in climatology) while Solrun, the woman, is a spiritualist and believer in the occult and things supernatural. A long discussion takes place about the state of the world (in environmental terms as well as spiritual).
One of my other favorite intellectual movies is Persona (1966) an Ingmar Bergman classic starring (yeah, my big crush) Liv Ullmann and Bibi Anderson. I throw this into the mix because I kept conjuring up scenes from this movie while reading the book. Two people alone isolated from society (or at least at a safe distance) trying to understand what happened to Ullmann’s character. What went wrong, what set off her psychological breakdown…a sort of good vs. evil inside all of us is what I take away from the story.
Good vs. evil or good decision vs. bad decision is a common theme in literature of course and in Mindwalk that is more than apparent. I don’t want to give away any of the plot should anyone be curious enough to want to read the book. This is not a Michael Connelly thriller where you want to stay up all night turning the pages until you catch the bad guy, but if you are in the right frame of mind it is a riveting read (in an intellectual sense).
Near the end of the novel I made one more film connection to another thought provoking film; Jacob’s Ladder directed by Adrian Lyne starring Tim Robbins, but sadly no appearance by Liv Ullmann! This movie also deals with decisions and evil and all sorts of philosophical and societal issues and has a great twist at the end of the story…as does the Castle in the Pyrenees, but I won’t say more about it!
I will more than likely reread this book in the future.
As a recap IF you like one or all of the movies I mentioned: Mindwalk, Persona, and Jacob’s Ladder you will more than likes enjoy this diamond of a novel. IF you do not like any of the films chances are you won’t make it past the first chapter. I loved the book but realize it won’t work for a lot of people.
That’s my two cents! Enjoy your reading!