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Tortured Artist

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinhoodh Matadin for The New York Times

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinhoodh Matadin for The New York Times

I had the intention of posting something very different this week, but upon hearing of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman I changed my mind.

Like other people who have posted comments on social media or entertainment or news websites, I too am saddened to hear of the circumstances of his death. I can’t, and don’t want to imagine what it would be like to die so utterly alone, wasted by an addiction that was stronger than my own will.

Hoffman was devastatingly skilled at playing complex and sometimes very dark individuals. His livelihood often necessitated venturing to the dark core of humanity to authentically bring a character to life. Having only ever done minor and small scale acting stints, and always for fun, I don’t know what it would be like to constantly mine the depths of human frailty, or the world’s shadows, while trying to prevent such a craft from working to the detriment of my own personal happiness and well-being.

The tortured artist is a common archetype in society. We’ve become accustomed to attaching melancholia, a life tinged with darkness and the murky depths to artistic greatness – the kind achieved by the likes of Hoffman. Perhaps Hoffman would have still suffered from his addictions even if he wasn’t an actor, play acting the lives of others for our own joy and amusement. But I can’t help but wonder if it all, for him, went hand in hand – the self-destruction mixed with creative genius – to make him shine so bright.

Rest in peace Philip. I hope the demons no longer haunt you.

Signing off,

Y.

Tortured Artist
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Comments

  1. Kat@asecondglance

    The plot line of the Black Swan was a riveting example of this phenomenon. Great, but dark, movie, if you haven’t seen it yet.

    PSH’s path is unfortunately well-travelled. Culture and creativity can often come at a high price to the world.