Most of us are primarily familiar with Christopher Isherwood’s Vedantic Works. He produced some beautiful translations of The Yoga Sutras (How to Know God), The Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God), and Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination. We might have also read his spiritual autobiorgraphy, My Guru and His Disciple. This last book is perhaps the most accessible, as he has a most honest and humble account of his struggles as a spiritual practitioner. We can relate to his situation, and also we can learn from his experience.
I had no experience with any of his secular works, and was absolutely delighted when the movie I my friend took me to yesterday announced in the opening credits “Based on the Book By Christopher Isherwood”. When the movie began, I was increasingly pleased to see that the main character (George Falconer played by Colin Firth) was a gay man dealing with issues of relationship, sexuality, and releasing the past. These themes are explored in ‘Guru and Disciple’, and so I felt as though I was getting a deeper, although fictionalized, peek into the soul of the author.
The film itself is beautiful. It is slow, quiet, and sad. It used very conscious imagery and metaphor. Almost too much, but not quite. Much of it takes place in a gorgeous house in Topanga Canyon. The house itself is almost a character. It offers us a clean, crisp, view into the style of the early 1960’s. Very satisfying to watch.
The visual imagery of the film is made all the more satisfying by the subtle spiritual undertones that waft through it. George churns with pathos; he struggles through every moment of the movie. In true Isherwood fashion, our Single Man spends his time wrestling with deep questions, never simply serving up answers. Even as we see George spiral, fall, and eventually find redemption, Isherwood leaves us challenged by the fragile nature of his redemption, and the taste of samsara heavy in our mouths.
I recommend! Go! Enjoy!
A side note, I am very curious to read Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, a book that appears prominently in the film. George teaches it in his College English Class.