Our names’ tattoos curl a thorny path down the skin of our futures, leading us inexorably towards a fate at once preordained and incidental. Names are either important or not. Our first form, their primacy makes them meaningless. It occurred to me, as a little girl, that other girls got named Hannah, or Hanna, or maybe even Hana, but it did not strike me that they might be real, in the way that I was. This is the first fallacy of childhood.
I saw Hanna twice this weekend. After the first, driving home fast and late, a huge slab of marbled bone and meat loomed up from the black stretch of highway—a deer carcass, flayed of all its skin. I was going 70, and I didn’t swerve. I just ran right over it. This is because I am an adult.
In the 1980s, my hometown was rife with Sarahs and Stephanies and Ambers. I didn’t meet another Hannah until I was at least 15 years old. No matter I got called, with my brother Noah, “the Bible kid.” Hannah could be spelled the same way forwards and backwards! I was perhaps destined for some obscure greatness. For who among us has not built their fort out back in the woods and waited for fireflies at dusk? This is the second fallacy of childhood.
The next time I saw Hanna it was with Mark at the mall. Earlier that day I had gone for a walk through the woods and thought about the ways in which we mistakenly hold onto beliefs about who we are as friends, and lovers, and daughters. I remembered a passage from Rilke about how life is full of strange experiences meant for one person alone, and that can never be spoken of. I felt some ancient longing roll up inside me, like a storm from far out across the prairie.
I sat down on a pile of leaves, still dusty from winter, and remembered a scene in the movie where archetypal changeling Saorsie Ronan kicks archetypal father-figure Eric Bana’s ass, telling him mournfully that he “didn’t prepare me for this,” and how the wreckage of her fairy-tale is actually the wreckage of all fairy-tales. How we come of age only when we learn to endure the ruin.
I almost burst into tears when Mark began a litany of Hanna’s aesthetic, cinematic, and narrative sins. This is because I am not really a critic, nor an adult.
The fight scenes in Hanna happen like pantomimes, or corps de ballet: the edges of objects sharpen; colors brighten; the soundtrack pumps. The movie is not a successful “action movie” in that it neither subverts the conventions of its genre nor deploys the tenets of realism. It is not real. It is a fairy-tale. And yet it is not entirely fantastical—the gestures it makes point towards some truth only found in the checkable reality that is our own muddled, pied existence. We anxiously shrug off the woolen coat of childhood, and are chilled; we hide our aging faces in the shoulder of another, like a child. We are chased forever by wolves. This is the third fallacy of childhood—that it exists.