Monday, February 04, 2013

My 200th post: Nerve-wrecking

Blogger tells me this is my 200th post. Well, congrats to myself, and now we move on.

Today will be more serious than previous posts, and nothing satirical or about video games.

I don't know why, but I like dramatic stories about real life incidents. Stories, articles or documentaries about murder, UFOs, accidents and incidents, political affairs, mysterious events, survival stories. It thrills me when a movie is not just totally fiction but actually based on something that really happened. And sometimes I enjoy a documentary about a real life event more than a hollywood movie worth millions that is about stuff that doesn't exist.

And here is something I had not come across for a long time, and don't ask me why. I don't remember exactly if I hadn't heard about the movie in the first place or if I had just not been able to take note of it because of work. But when I was reading through wikipedia (a good source for my above-mentioned interests), I came across "Into the wild", which led my attention to another movie, "127 hours".

Now, the special thing is: I do remember very well reading about the real story that happened 10 years ago (read about it online if you haven't). It was all over the news and I checked the internet more than once, trying to read more about it. But when it comes down to it, it was all just some images in my head I made up and the name "Aron Ralston".
Back then when it was only written words on the screen, I thought he got caught out in the open, between a wall and a rock, but still in the open, far desert. I did not know he was caught in a very limited space. And there were many more things I did not know. That he filmed himself in his desperate situation. That a short part of that video is on youtube. And more...

When you read on the news in 2003 that someone cut off his own arm because his arm was trapped in a canyon wall and he was about to die, you read these things and think to yourself:"man... that must be so painful, cutting through the arm... oh well". And then that's it. You know it hurts more than a toothache, and you know it takes a lot of spirit to even make that decision. But you don't understand the real pain.

Now that I have finally watched the movie, I know what it was really like. Sort of. And maybe my view of things is subjective because I only watched the movie some days ago, I still believe it is one of the movies that got to me more than most other movies. I sat there grinding my teeth and shit. It's hard to really describe what makes the movie special. But the most important thing that keeps coming back into my head is: It really happened! Damn! I can't believe it happened.

I don't categorize this movie as "a good movie" like I would say that "Terminator 2" is a good movie. That's not my main concern with the movie, although I like it. It's the utter shock I get from knowing this really happened. So this is more like 9/11 than a movie... it's shocking, you watch it in a video format, but it's more a real event than it is a movie.

Other people on the internet described it well: If Tom Hanks had not escaped from the island in "Castaway", he would still be Tom Hanks. But Aron Ralston was really trapped and there was no other way of living for him. Damn!

Here is what he was faced with:

-Chilling cold at night
-Drinking your own urine
-Extreme boredom for 5 long days (IMAGINE that!)
-Having to watch your own hand die off and decompose
-Despair from knowing that you did not tell anyone where you were going
-Being unable to comfortably sit or sleep for 5 days
-Being forced to figure out a way to survive when the most promising way of surviving is amputation
-Choosing between heavy pain and death
-Uncertainty about survival after a possible painful amputation

And then, when he decided to actually amputate his arm:

-Learning that the tools for severing your arm are not good enough
-Having to break your bones
-Having to cut the nerves
-Having to cut through the rest of your arm, hoping everything will get loose at the right spot

Even after cutting his arm off, several things were bad:

-He could still die of blood loss
-He could still die of starvation
-He could still die of thirst
-He could still fall from a cliff
-He could remain trapped within the canyon

Even if I was skilled and courageous enough to cut off my own arm, would I be able to do so if I was not even sure I'd make it out alive?
You have to imagine what his chances of survival were. He went through the most intense pain imaginable only to have such slim chances of survival. In moments like these, you are wondering whether it's not better to just give up.

This guy was eventually so badass that he even photographed the rock that crushed his arm AFTER amputating his arm!

Why am I still so shocked? This is why:

-You ask yourself the question "What would I do?" again and again
-You are shocked about the physical and emotional pain he had to go through
-He cut through his nerve!
-It REALLY happened!

When you watch a war movie, you know many people died and it's sad. But as Stalin said (not a nice person to quote), a single death is a tragedy and a million deaths is just a statistic.
You also know that in war, there is a good chance you die quickly. And apart from that, so many years after a war, you are a little bit used to all these war stories and they don't get to you.

But here: It could happen to you. Really. I can imagine it very, very well. It's just an unlucky situation. Stupid, of course, but it can still happen. And it did happen.

I can still see in my mind how actor James Franco cut through the nerve in the movie. They showed this scene well, with a distortion sound that goes deep into your bones. Without coming close to the real pain, I could feel the pain somehow... and I was there in the narrow canyon, in my mind. 

Of course I respect the guy who went through this. But my main fascination with the story is not about what a great person he is, so I'm not a worshipper here. My main point is: What is a human being really capable of, and how unbelievable is that and how "against all odds" was this story?