- Tom- Tom
Forty years ago Edward Albee told me that one of the most difficult problems for a writer who makes art about real life tragedies, is that because the event itself ought change consciousness, the writer must take care not to create metaphors that allow the viewer to distance himself from the horror of the real events. A single embellishment of the tragedy for dramatic effect can put the viewer into denial about what they are seeing. Ryan Murphy’s film based on Larry’s play and created with Larry, does not make that misstep. Every frame of this superbly written and acted film is true to its subject.
The film is a pitch perfect rendering of the real life events portrayed. Larry Kramer was a front row center witness to the horrific AIDS epidemic as it unfolded in New York. He was infamously the fiercest warrior who fought the social prejudices against gay people that left the first victims to die unnoticed and unattended by the government, press and society at large. Can you imagine today, desperately sick men turned away from hospitals and put out on the street? Can you imagine bodies of AIDS victims refused by mortuaries? Can you imagine scores of your friends and lovers disintegrating with no medical tools or understanding of how the disease was spreading. So that it how it was at the beginning. I was there.
The Normal Heart tells the story of Larry and his friends’ creation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The film is also a poignant love story between the Kramer character – Ned Weekes played by Mark Ruffalo and Felix Turner, a gorgeous bright young man played by Matt Bomer who develops AIDS. In a scene of unparalled power, as Felix’s condition becomes terminal, Ned takes his horribly frail lover to wash him in the shower after he messes himself in bed. The scene closes with them in one another’s arms on the floor of the shower. I have never seen a more gorgeous love scene on the screen.
Murphy honors the heroism of the men who joined Larry in the fight and Dr. Emma Brookner played by Julia Roberts who came forward to treat the first cases. I knew her – she was my best friend, Tom Johnston’s doctor. Watching the film, I relived memories of too many deathwatch visits to the hospital where we consoled one another. The film got all that right as it also captured the wit and charm of these men.
Ben, my husband, sat at my side at the Los Angeles premier of this HBO film and held my hand tightly. Ben shares my passion for the use of art to heal our world’s sexual dysfunction. He was a child of seven years in Yorkshire, England when the events in the film began. We know one another better now. Empathy propels us to love one another more completely. Such is the highest calling and power of art.
My book of Fire Island Pines Polaroids and upcoming show at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in LA, celebrate the years prior to the events rendered in the film. As I took the Polaroids my intention was to challenge the world’s fear of us. The Normal Heart exposes the reality of how toxic that fear was. It opens with a lovingly recreated revolutionary celebration we lived on that beach and in the same breath shows us the moment we hit the wall. I was there at the beginning, recording our story and am grateful to know that my book helped set the scene as it was.
I despair over the number of new cases of HIV in the world, over 6000 per day. Imperfect medicines have not solved the problem; they are not a cure for AIDS. We all need to learn that the horrors that shattered our innocence also taught us to love one another better. Consciousness evolves through empathy. A brain would have to be made of mud not to feel what this film shows us. This film can heal. This film can save lives. That’s a lot to say for a work of art. But The Normal Heart has that power because HBO, Ryan Murphy and his company of talented people got it right.
The Normal Heart Premieres Sun May 25th at 9pm ET on HBO
Gallery Opening | Tom Bianchi | 12th June – 19th July | Fahey / Klein Gallery | LA – Press Release