Ambiguity

I love art that invites the viewer/reader to make up their own mind. For example, in Le Samuorai, when Valerie (the nightclub pianist) definitively declares Jef Costello is not the killer. He says, “Thank you, madame,” and she replies, “It’s the least I can do.”

This, especially in light of the ending, can be read several ways. One’s interpretation says a lot about one’s outlook and ethics. The interpretation I like the best is that Jef could have killed her during the initial hit, because she was the only one who got a clear look at him. He didn’t, and she recognizes that. Of course, you could say that Valerie, as a person of color, understands that even if she does testify, Jef could very well be set free, and she’s already seen him kill once.

But, watching and rewatching that exchange, I don’t think that’s in the actress’s mind, or the director’s. I think Valerie is saying, “You could have killed me, but you didn’t. Now I am paying that debt to you, we’re even, and you won’t come after me.” And Costello, being honorable, would not, and indirectly agrees with his thanks.

Often, in my own books, I try to leave that space around certain decisions by certain characters, so the reader can mull it over. Unfortunately, many publishers dislike any ambiguity unless it’s from the pen of a Literary White Male. “But readers won’t GET IT!” is the most common plaint I hear.

Oh, they will. But I as an artist have to give them the chance to do so. I’d rather do that than insult their intelligence.

  • Cheryl Byers

    Don’t know if you did something to your server or if my email client went out of whack. Just got 28 notifications of new postings to this blog. All were from 2010 & 2011 about squirrel high jinx. Lol

  • Wolf Lahti

    Same here. Twenty-eight e-mails regarding posts I already read years ago. o.O

  • I’m so sorry about that! I changed a tag on those old posts, and made them public again. The server responded by vomiting them up on FB, Twitter, and in the “new posts” feed.

    *headdesk*