Closed for Crisis / Take Care of Each Other
Watching the lanky palm trees sway outside
The palm tree, a distinct symbol of the city of Los Angeles, is not native to the area. Early in the twentieth century, palm trees were planted in large quantities around Los Angeles to promote the image of the city as something akin to a vast resort. The myth of a place for the healthy to become even healthier, a place of leisure and wellness, has been fed into ever since people started moving to Southern California for its professed miracle climate.
The Nobel laureate writer Thomas Mann spent about ten years in the Los Angeles area. At the time, his house was known as the “Seven Palms” — the trees in the garden seen as a nod to the California landscape. Today, about thirty miles north of the house Mann built, there is a theme park that bears the same name as one of the most famous novels by the writer — The Magic Mountain (1924). The novel tells the tale of a young engineer who goes to visit his cousin at a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, and ends up staying up there for seven years. “Odd entertainment” is the way Mann described the book.
The Magic Mountain speaks of a place where realism, symbolism, and the esoteric are deeply intertwined; “a very serious jest” — it is amusing, but in a way that can be unpleasant at times (a roller coaster can also do that, but maybe not with the same existential bandwidth). This is the place where we also find the main protagonist of our film — Sam. Sam moves to Los Angeles mostly because she doesn’t really have any other place she needs to be at the moment. She takes up a room at her cousin’s house and gets a job at a juice bar. At a party, Sam meets a young art student named Jake and they start dating. Jake is a guy with big ideas about the ways in which art can save society from moral bankruptcy. Life happens, and there is a point in the movie when a crystal is stolen from the juice bar at which Sam works. This incident reveals the relationships at play in the story; the ills and the cure — the ways in which we take care of each other.
Photos: Ieva Raudsepa and Madara Gritāne