Monday, August 18, 2003

I'll start with the movie Northfork for my first catch-up post. We started vacation with it, in fact we saw it the same date as this movie review. I agree that the movie is good, worth seeing, even thought-provoking. I think some of the review is on target, but it contains enough inaccuracies and misperceptions that I wonder if he actually watched the film, or just wrote this up from some secondary sources or something.

An obvious inaccuracy, Happy was definitely not mute. And the part about Irwin imagining four angels, then asking "or are they imaginary? They are real for little Irwin, and that should be real enough for us." After watching the movie, I don't see how there can be any doubt the angels were intended to be real, not just existing in the boy's imagination. At the very least this is a misperception, but it still makes me suspect the reviewer did not see the movie.

I think the most irritating "misperception" was this: "one of the subplots involves the need to dig up the bodies in the local cemetery, lest the coffins bob to the surface of the new lake." Yes, it is true there was a subplot having to do with relocating the cemetery, and it was an important part of the story. But I disagree that the significance of this subplot has to do with the macabre idea of coffins emerging on the surface.

Right at the beginning of the movie, there is a frame of a coffin popping up on the water, and later, in one scene of the movie, James Woods' character does make a remark about his late wife being catch of the day if her grave isn't moved. These two moments are overshadowed by the many scenes at the cemetery that have nothing to do with coffins appearing on the water. The reviewer focusing on that as the reason for relocating the cemetery misses the point entirely.

Losing a town is sad. Eminent domain does not create "a burial ground of foolish human dreams" (Ebert, 2003) but instead a watery grave for a special place that existed the past.

The movie made me think of the Ashokan Reservoir. The construction of that water supply happened nearly 100 years ago but you don't have to do much digging to find resentment over the loss of the Esopus Valley among local residents.

At the Mt. Pleasant Rural Cemetery, which was founded at that time, our records indicate that $15 was paid by New York City for disinterment, and an additional $3 for moving a headstone. According to The Last of the Handmade Dams (Steuding, 1985), 2,720 bodies were moved from nearly 40 cemeteries. About 368 remains were unknown or unclaimed, and they were moved to new West Shokan, in what is now called Bushkill Cemetery.

My brother and his family live right next door to the rows of 12-inch by 12-inch bluestone markers, which bear only the initials of the original cemetery and a serial number for identification.

In addition, over 100 bodies could not be located, and so were not removed. They now are under the water of the reservoir, and as far as I know, there have been no reports of coffins bobbing to the surface in the past 86 years.

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