God Put You In Our Way
Heath Ledger was an extremely brilliant, but deeply troubled man. It seems so unfair that he was taken from us so soon, but at least we got him for a few years. He came to my attention in the 1999 film 10 Things I Hate About You. He was perfect as the persistent Patrick Verona. I’ve always liked Shakespeare and this modern retelling was most delightful. Ledger was the breakout start, but Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were also in it and I love them as well!
The next movie I saw with Ledger was A Knight’s Tale. It was very loosely inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The jousting was dead on if even most of the movie was one big anachronism. Who wouldn’t love a rousing number of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” in the middle of a medieval stadium? Ledger was a full-fledged leading man after only a few films under his belt, which was awesome as well.
Later, I rented Monster’s Ball. Ledger shook off his teen idol status for a very dramatic role. The climatic scene where Ledger’s character Sonny confronts his father is brutal. His suicide afterward is appalling and shocking. In looking back, I often wonder if Ledger didn’t have Daddy Issues of his own. I’ve never read anything about it, but it would make sense if it were true.
As Harry Faversham in The Four Feathers he was spot on. Harry is given four feathers from his four friends as indication that they think that he is a coward. How ironic is it then that he becomes the bravest of them all. I’d never seen any of the other movies that were made of E A W Mason’s novel, but I did pick up the novel after I saw the moving movie.
One of my favorite lines in the movie wasn’t even in the book! Ledger’s character Harry asks Abou Fatma why he rescued him. Abou Fatma says casually, “Because God put you in my way.” That line summed up how I felt about someone in my life at that time.. I’d been wondering why I had feelings him. To think I had the feelings because God put him in my way was as good as reason as any I’d come up with.
The Brother’s Grimm was a line in a poem about said person I had feelings for. So when Heath Ledger popped up in a film entitled The Brother’s Grimm, I had to see it. Not to mention that by 2003 I was huge fan of both Heath Ledger and Matt Damon, so it was a no-brainer. Later, I found out it was directed by Terry Gilliam, who’d made 12 Monkeys nearly 10 years previous. Though not for everyone, I enjoyed the Gothic Comedy. It was dark just like my poem that referenced it.
I rented Casanova some time later. It was a romantic comedy romp that echoed his earlier roles. It was refreshing to see him in something so light and fun. But then he dove back into the darker roles, including the drug addiction tragic love story of Candy and the gay cowboy love story of Brokeback Mountain. Finally, Ledger put the last of his energy and emotion into being the manic psychopath known a the Joker in Batman.
Everyone felt like Ledger was on his way to becoming a legendary actor. No one denied his God Given ability. But things began to fall apart for him personally. His marriage to Michelle crumbled and there were rumors that he was escaping into drugs and alcohol. He didn’t publicly go on any benders and he didn’t end up arrested or in trouble with the law repeatedly like so many other young and troubled celebs. Instead, his sudden death came a surprise to the world.
Riddled with anxiety, insomnia and probably manic-depression, Ledger overdosed on a lethal combination of prescription drugs. If someone had only gotten him the help he needed and gotten him on the proper medications, then perhaps he would have never overdosed. Everyone saw a driven actor and no one saw the young man burdened with what sounds like bi-polar disorder. I am no doctor, but having suffered from being bi-polar myself so I can sympathize.
When illness is covered up by an extremely gifted and talented artist, actor or writer it can be difficult to recognize. As I’ve said before, the more intelligent the person, the easier it is for them to use their illness to their advantage. Ledger used his extreme emotional range to his advantage and poured it into his acting work much as I poured my emotions into my writing. It is a way to cope and channel. But sometimes it just isn’t enough.
Shortly after his death, he appeared to me in a dream. In the dream I was scared and couldn’t sleep. Heath couldn’t sleep either. He invited me out for coffee. I tried to kiss him, but he dodged me. Suddenly, I remembered that he was dead and that I was having coffee with a ghost. Ghost or not, I found his presence incredibly comforting. I awoke with a warm feeling.
Here is the poem I mentioned before. I think in encapsulates how I feel not only about the person in my life that I mentioned, but also Heath Ledger:
The Gothic flame burns inside
Something we can’t escape
though we tried
And so we met in the forest black
wandering together trying
trying to find our way back
Grimm Brothers and fairy tales
dance under the pale moonlight
The darkness we fight
In dreams together we walk
but in the light we do not talk
of this nacht we share
someday though we might dare