The feeling of being alone is a pretty human one. At some point in our lives, we've all felt alone in some form or capacity. I moved to a new high school my junior year and the feeling of being alone was everywhere. I didn't quite fit in, constantly tried to make friends but for some reason, just couldn't break into these social groups that had been clearly defined. The social barrier led me to spending a lot of time by myself over the next few years. My introvert tendencies came out like never before and I was content to just sit at home by myself most nights or go occupy my own table in the local coffee shop.
Alone In Paris
There's a different type of aloneness that is highlighted in Mathieu Stern's short film Alone In Paris. Here we a see a young woman about to head out for a day in Paris that was supposed to be spent with her sister. The problem is that her sister is sick and waiting on test results that could be potentially devastating. The young woman wanders around a seemingly empty Paris looking at beautiful images, statues and sights but just underneath there's a tension and anguish caused by the news. She is in the midst of a beautiful city and yet empty and alone.
Stern accomplished this feeling by literally scrubbing out all the other people in these shots, leaving only the young woman to sink into the landscape. It's a beautiful metaphor for how mental anguish and uncertainty can separate us from our surroundings. She walks around, vulnerable and exposed, yet completely alone in a city usually teeming with life. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, author and researcher Brené Brown says , "One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone." The young woman in this film has "going it alone" thrust upon her and ends up walking alone in the city worried, expectant and heartbroken.
"We all heard the phrase 'Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated' … so I wanted to show exactly what it feels like in this video," Stern said. He even managed to scrub out the daily commotion and noise to create an environment that feels almost otherworldly or dystopian. As I watched, I kept going back to that Brené Brown quote because I've always tended to "go it alone" in my life. I used to walk around beautiful cities and parks and sit on benches contemplating writings from Foucault and Camus, not paying any attention to anything around me, and that led to a lot of lonely nights. There was no connection, no spark with the universe. I was feeding myself philosophy and poetry but all that did was lead to alarming weight loss and a dithering social life. The young woman reminds me of myself because I've had points in my life when bad things happened and I had no connections around me to lean on. I was the one staring at the Eiffel Tower with no one around.
We all feel alone at some point in our lives, it's just going to happen. It happens less when you have true, vulnerable connections that can help share that burden with you. And if you didn't watch the entire video, I'm not going to spoil the ending. Seriously, it's less than 3 minutes long so watch it to the end. It's worth it.
You can check out more of Mathieu Stern's work at mathieustern.com.