Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ekspeditionen til verdens ende

It is seldom that films made on a grand scale have such a human touch, such beautiful sense of humour, such core of humility: as the Danish film Ekspeditionen til verdens ende (English title: The Expedition to the End of the World) has. A film in equal measures of science, philosophy and adventure, the film makes do without the common devices of many of National Geographic and Discovery style: no maps and routes litter the video, and wild nature is not the focus. The focus is humanity, its searching questions, its methods of investigation, its pressing concerns, and its ability to take in everything with equanimity.

The scientists, the explorers, the artists: all aboard a ship to an unexplored area, a journey made possible by melting glaciers. The funding foundation does not expect them to document, to produce, to achieve: and here is where the remarkable spirit of the film comes from. Rugged landscapes of desolateness, as if it is the end of the world and it is forbidden to carry on, greet man: and yet, there are possible signs of an earlier man, the Stone Age man, who once abided here, called it home, bred children, and mysteriously left. Life even in this desert is everywhere: and life in its pristine forms, life that holds clues about the nature of life itself. Where did life itself come from, if it did? And how robust is it? The tens of thousands of years man has been living: how long a future is feasible? Can man last long as, say, dinosaurs did? And what will be that man? Which civilisation, how recognizable? Or will they be picking our fossils?

The Expedition to the End of the World is a film that sets you liberated: and that gives a shining meaning of science, often lost in, ironically, the world of modern science.Like religions, like art, science is a beautiful way to inquire, to understand, to know the truth: equations and chants are not much different from each other.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Derakht-e Golabi

It is seldom that we see poetry distilled in biographies: even though aren't memories the best example of poetry? Derakht-e Golabi (English title: The Pear Tree) deals with memories. It also deals with why Boo Radley did not choose to come out; why the young man waits for 99 nights outside the princess' window but not the promised, 100th night; why love for grand ideals can make you feel tired. The film strongly reminded me of the book To Kill a Mockingbird and the films Nuovo Cinema Paradiso and La guerre est finie. Like Diego, Mahmoud is tired: but here we also see that self of Diego before the tiredness came. How often a love for justice is born of love for beauty and a strong commitment to be faithful. Mahmoud loved M, in the form of my eternal love even more than M the person Mimcheh. His love for Mimcheh is slavish; he thinks he is not her equal; he loves to please her, he adores her, and he can die for her. He can always brood over her, and yet be far from her. For his love of his love for Mimcheh is strong: he cannot bear the thought of it dying, it quenched, it spurned, it cold-shouldered. Absence from Mimcheh only makes her more beautiful; absence from her only makes of him the culprit, never her. Now she can be perfect, and he can give all his love to fight for grand ideals of equality for all. And now he realises their futility: now he realises everything worth having in his life is his love for Mimcheh, the time he spent with her, the moments that can never be shared. The most beautiful novel he has written is unwritten: it sleeps, reposes inside him, and gives him the pear tree's peaceful shade. Neither to justify his ways, his ideas, his thoughts, nor to declare unto the world that "yes, I also loved": nothing will make him draw forth now from this seclusion, which is at once his paradise and his teacher. Now, the middle-aged Mahmoud becomes a child again: now he learns again, and now he learns to appreciate Mimcheh. Maybe more than M, my own eternal love. Now Mahmoud learns to love Mimcheh.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


It is said that Eugène Ionesco felt himself lifted off the ground one fine summer day as a child: when he came back from that ethereal feeling, he realized the depravity of the world around him. This is what the extraordinary commentary on the human condition Plemya (also called as The Tribe) is all about: a sharp look at human bestiality. The film is about the absence of Hope: and of what it makes men of. When Hope is limited to pillage calls as for scavengers; when Hope can find for itself no expression but having a good fuck with one particular girl; and when that minuscule expression is also crushed, the new horizon opens black like a day, yawning like the cruelties now living in your soul, unforgiving like the gods you reject.

This new horizon is the camera. Not of the biologist who is examining human species under the microsope. Not of the film director who is interested in aesthetics. Not of the storyteller who wants to say, "And then, one fine day ...". For there is no fine day in this tale of the eternally dumb: the modern humans. The camera is of the atman: untouched directly by good and bad alike, not even defining what is good and bad, not laughing with the comic and not tearing up with the tragic. It is the gaze which we lose, which we are not one with, which is neither interested nor uninterested. It is the vision that gazes, not observes; that sees, not looks. It tells stories of mirages, just like Ionesco did in The Killer: mirages that are universal, the maya, that can come in the shape of a pimp knocking at your truck door, or a wad of cash in a railway coupé, or a cheap T-shirt mentioning L'Italia. But this camera is not far away, as in Lean's Lawrence of Arabia: no, there is no near, no far here. This camera is mid-distance: it is just playing. There is no judgement of the near, and no contempt of the far; there is no shock of the near, and no intellectualization of the far; there is no sympathy of the near, and no charity of the far; there is no spoken word of the near, and no silence of the far. But with this beautiful camera to which a feature-length film plays out like a documentary without ever being one, accompanied by not a single dialogue or commentary or caption, the film invites you into the heart of human darkness, especially as common in the West and fast-modernizing parts of the East. The film is a story of civilisation: of grand projects like European Union and complicated manmade systems in place (whether they be schools or they be codes of bullying), but wherein man finds the ennui to return to his primitive state: the beast.