Drifting into the arena of the unwell

In Kutaisi, The Expert introduced me to the British comedy Withnail and I, as he thought it was a great depiction of what life in Kutaisi was like. The two of us living alone in the dormitory, supposedly teaching but really only working a few hours per week, with little to do, little pay, little hope for a change of pace, and a great sense of weariness of it all. I hadn’t heard of it before, and none of my friends from the states had seen it either, but most people I’ve met from the UK or Ireland know it and rave about it.

The plot follows two out of luck actors in London, who decide that they need to take a holiday to the country to unwind and have great misadventures along the way. It’s set in 1969, and it captures the mood at the end of the “greatest decade in the history of mankind.” It has spectacular quotes, and to spark any interest in watching the film, I’ve noted some of the better lines below.

“I think we’ve been in here too long. I feel unusual. I think we should go outside.”

“This is ridiculous, look at me. I’m thirty in a month and I’ve got a sole flapping off my shoe.”

“Four hours to opening time. God help us. Have we got any embrocation?”
“What for?”
“To rub on ourselves, you fool. We’ll cover ourselves in deep heat and get up against a radiator. Keep ourselves alive until twelve.”

“Even a stopped clock keeps the time twice a day. And for once I’m inclined to believe Withnail is right; we are indeed drifting into the arena of the unwell. Making an enemy of our own future. What we need is harmony. Fresh air. Stuff like that.”

“Why has my head gone numb? I must have some booze. I demand to have some booze!”

“I don’t advise a hair cut, man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly to the brain. This is the reason bald headed men are uptight.”

“Look at that, look at that. Accident blackspot. Those aren’t accidents, they’re throwing themselves into the road gladly! Throwing themselves into the road to escape all this hideousness! [to a pedestrian] Throw yourself into the road, darling, you haven’t got a chance!”

“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!”

[Hungrily contemplating a live chicken] “How do we make it die?”

“We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!”

And then there’s Withnail’s closing soliloquy. The two friends must say goodbye, and despite the heavy rain, Withnail wants to accompany Marwood (I) to the train station, but they bid farewell in the zoo. As Marwood departs, Withnail, drinking wine in the rain, delivers this speech from Hamlet to a pair of unimpressed wolves:

“I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me, no, nor women neither, nor women neither.

The Expert and I thought about staging my Kutaisi departure in a similar way to the end of Withnail and I, but he didn’t learn the speech, nor could he be bothered to accompany me to the marshutka station. Besides, it wasn’t raining, and instead of giving the speech to wolves, he’d either have to deliver it to the bear in the cage or to some pigeons.

But it’s a hilarious movie, and I recommend it highly.

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