Month: February 2018

Stalker

 

Sifting through a myriad number of films that have been produced till now can be a herculean task and if I were to leave it on chance to find films that I would enjoy then I would be getting to see the gems once in blue moon only. Today only I was discussing this with a friend of mine that there are millions of things that have to be done, millions of books to be read, places to be visited, songs to listen to, movies to watch, emotions to express and experience, will one lifetime be enough for that?

I knew about Filmstruck for a long time and decided to have the trial version of the same for the 14 days before I would start my work-related travel again. I watched Krzysztof Kieslowski’s  Trois Couleurs Bleu, A French classic – Une affaire de femmes, a couple of Swedish ones namely Together and the famous – I am curious Yellow. I had kept Stalker – the 1979 soviet sci-fi in my watch list and was I delighted to watch it?

When I started writing this post I thought I would write a review for this masterpiece by Andrei Tarkovsky but in between I have changed my mind and my propensity is towards the instruments and film theory Tarkovsky resorted to while he directed this one. There is not an iota of question that the film is a strange one, not easily digestible, set in a post-apocalyptic world, talks in ciphers and cryptic language. The medium is terse and esoteric, talks philosophy, and focuses on single frames for a long time, at times as long as 4 to 5 minutes. Such lengths make people uncomfortable. Why? May be it makes them bored. Boredom is quite magical, it makes you do things that you wouldn’t have done otherwise even if it means jumping from one task to the other aimlessly. But the question is – Is this movie meant for everyone? May be not. Soviet state committee pointed out that the film isn’t immersive but alienating the audience and is slow. Tarkovsky replied it is the way it should be.

The arrogance and obstinacy is what is attractive here. Tarkovsky was assiduous, arduous, and audacious in one of his final attempt. So was Bertolt Brecht, the man who coined the concept of Verfremdungseffekt, popularly known as alienating the audience. Most of the movies that we see these days rely on CGI for the grandeur or the emotional manipulation of the audience. In layman terms, you identify with the main character of the film and go on an emotional roller coaster with that character. You laugh and cry in unison, one such example is Roman Holiday in which people can start relating themselves to princess Audrey Hepburn and l’ordinaire journalist Gregory Peck. To Brecht, emotional manipulation meant vile and scrupulous like a lie that steals your right of knowing the truth. This concept cuts chords with Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.

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At this point, Brecht decided to alienate audience than immersing them in the film watching experience. They would be looking at the characters, film, the plot, the props as an outsider. The audience won’t become part of the emotional experience but will be a self appointed critique. The end goal was to distance the viewers so they can take a rational decision on the plot, events, and the actions of the characters. Tarkovsky used this method well to create a radical, surprising, and a critical product – Stalker. The art practice no longer remains a bourgeois and lofty one but can assimilate with the audience without manipulating them emotionally. Another film that follows the similar path is Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels. I was thoroughly bored when I watched it for the first time and anticipated ‘something’ will happen but after 3 hours 45 minutes, the film just ended and I felt deceived. I was naive. After watching Stalker that belongs to the similar genre, I felt challenged. The film challenged me to remain bored, to maintain the static nature and then observe my surroundings. It challenges us to try and take a step away from the buffet of dissipation and profligacy and visit the mysteries of the zone. It is inline with Brecht statement that sometimes it is important to be human than to have good taste.

PS: Today I had a mathematical model’s delivery at work and while wrapping up the presentation I asked my clients to be devil’s advocate while checking the model or if we talk in film theory, I would like to alienate my audience so they can take a rational decision on the final product. We all had a hearty laugh.

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Indian Cinderella Story

Winters olympics concluded today and all participating nations took part in the closing ceremony. It is sacrilegious moment for the athletes to represent and win at this pivotal congregation of sportsmen. Set cricket aside, India isn’t a sporting nation or a successful sporting nation as compared to the other nations in its cohort of developing countries such as China, Brazil, Mexico. There are inherent and deep rooted problems in the country at socioeconomic level but then too we have one of the most successful space programs in the world and are a nuclear power equipped nation. Coming back to the sports, there is major lack of infrastructure and opportunities and many times nepotism rules out the selection of better candidates. Scouting for talent requires patience and money and one thing we as a country should come to terms with is the fact that you cannot get a sports star who will win you olympics golds overnight. The talent is scouted, farmed, and then brought to the larger podium. Systematic inclusion of infra is not the end point but also the proclivity and predisposition of Indian population towards sports in general. The sport that is favored and has established itself as a business is cricket and parents, schools, clubs, sports centers, coaches, Govt. agencies channelize their efforts towards it as well. Wrestling, Badminton, Field hockey are a few others that have gotten some attention because the players brought laurels to the country by winning at international podium.

Field hockey has always been dear to me, its precision, speed, accuracy, constant movement, athletic prowess, skills are parallel and akin to Football. It’s counterpart for the nations with colder climate is Ice hockey which is ruled by powerhouses such as Sweden, Canada, USA, Finland etc. A few days ago I was watching a few goals by Ellen Hoog and Jamie Dwyer before the olympic quarter final between Sweden and Germany. The way they dribble is magic! Germany was able to pull a win against mighty Swedes; It was then I started scouring for Ice Hockey rinks in India. We have diverse geography, and at places such as Himalayas and Leh should have some small teams and I was ecstatic to find that THERE ARE! I found the story of Ice skaters and Ice Hockey players of India, mostly concentrated in the Leh region. They don’t have equipments, next to nothing resources, no ice rink except when the lakes freeze in the winters but these girls aren’t lacking motivation and spirit. Most of the time their parents support the passion and a few of them sold their properties to make the dreams come true for their daughters. With the help of crowdfunding, players were able to raise money and were able to compete successfully in 2017 Challenge cup of Asia and defeated Phillipines and Malaysia. The support from Indian population was inspirational and impeccable.

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I wish and hope that these players rise further and get proper support and facilities from the Govt. so India can have a facelift in the upcoming international competitions. We must be cognizant that to win medals in a sporting event that will be held 20 years from now, we’ll have to give will, sweat, resources, and blood right now. Fortune favors the brave.

PS: You can watch the small documentary on the female ice hockey players of India, here. 

Home Sapiens and The Walls

Recently I was flipping through the pages of The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond and then later discussed the same with a colleague of mine about the fact that we share the 98.6% DNA with Chimps and the possibility that at least someone somewhere might be working in the world on trying to align the DNA of humans and chimps and then inserting the part of chimp’s DNA that carries the raw strength and inserting it human’s and thereby making a powerful human or may be the other way round to get a super intelligent Chimp if fallen in wrong hands can be weapon against mankind. Well, this process isn’t as simple as they show in the fantasy series but entirely possible. Apart from decoding the massive dataset of DNA, mutating any organism’s to make it behave in a certain fashion is not a cakewalk. Body should be able to receive that new DNA just as the new software should work with the old hardware.

It lead me to think about the human capacity, how far we have come from Homo habilis to erectus to neanderthal to homo sapiens. From the wheel to paper to combustion engines to medicines to light bulb to internet and now the mobile phones that can do almost everything. Between these inventions many great wars were fought, millions died, civilizations were razed and ravaged, vacillating tempers were disturbed and egos were hurt, egotists and dictators came and went away, ideas were brought in, suppressed, sometimes adopted, and eventually faded away with time only to leave a mark in the pages of history.

Walls and borders have been built and have been torn down. The standing and destroyed pieces reminisce us of what human beings are capable of. I don’t think this one need any explanation, one of the inhumane experiments conducted to annihilate nation’s integrity and pride into parts.

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But there can be others that integrate and bring people together. One example is Le mur des je t’aime in the Jehan Rictus square, Place des Abbesses in Montmartre area of Paris. Popularly known as the love wall, it has I Love You written in 311 languages over a 1000 times.

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The wall was created by two artists – Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito, who knocked on doors of the neighbors and people and collected this sentiment of love from them and later transferred them to the tiles. The red color burst represents the broken pieces of a heart but the wall keeps them at one place and united. Walls generally divide and segregate but this one is uniting and brining people together and spreading the message for the same.

Hotel Salvation

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An appointment in Samarra is the old Mesopotamian tale in which a man encounters death in Baghdad and to avoid it he runs away to the old city of Samarra thinking death won’t catch him there. It is later revealed that death was surprised to see him in Baghdad as that man had an appointment in Samarra that late night. There is no escape as it turns out to be the case. In the city of Varanasi, death comes at its own will like anywhere else but the quest for salvation and ultimate liberation draws devout Hindus to the city. In the film, Mukti Bhawan, one fine day Devendra realizes that his end is near and he
has to be in Varanasi to meet his end. Thus he embarks on a journey with his son who is reluctant to join the journey. A journey not only from life to death but also the one
towards self realization, towards the moments that are unprofitable though should be cherished.
The film is about coming to terms with certain concepts and truths of life. There are many characters in the film and it won’t be hyperbolic to say that even the city of Varanasi was portrayed as a character that has transformed the relation between the father and son, the smaller joys and woes of life into a chronicled intro and retrospection. The city serves as a medium for the poignant realizations and truths of life not only of this world but also the other world. The word death doesn’t seem so dreadful anymore between father and the son and when asked what he would like to be in his next life, the father says – a kangaroo so that he will have a personal pouch. There are certain moments of joy that are portrayed through the humane compassion between the granddaughter and grandfather.

I wonder what is the central theme of the film, is it the eventual journey one has to undertake, is it coming to terms with certain aspects of human life, is it gaining perspective through a journey to a city that is allegory for taking time off and observing the world as an outsider and what is your role in the wide gamut of things. Ich warum nicht!