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.

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