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THE

S I O N S O N O ISSUE

INDIAN AUTEUR

MARCH 2010

VOL 2 ISSUE 1

FILM

MONTHLY

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DENT

INDEPEN


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INDIANAUTEUR.COM ISSUE

10

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contents

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THE BITTER SOUL OF HERR FOX

Auteur Devdutt Trivedi writes on the postmodern humanism of Fassbinder cinema, and contextualises the German auteur’s place in the pantheon of similar world cinema directors.

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HE IS SONO SION

Cover Story Japanese director Sono Sion has the radar on him as IA authors

study his films, and his perverse motivations in making them. Features contributions by Jasper Sharp, Sachin Gandhi, Sagorika Singha, Ebrahim Kabir and Anuj Malhotra.

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OMNIYAM La Bande Designee

The second part of IA’s publishing of Kamal Swaroop’s screenplay Omniyam, accompanied by visual interpretation of the written text by Jay Krishnan.

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CINEMA AND ETHICS

From the Vault Saumyananda Sahi examines the whole variables involved in the romantic idea of a single creator, an individual master, or an auteur, and claims how the idea functions in conflict with basic humanity.

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editor NITESH ROHIT

art director ANUJ MALHOTRA

writers SATYAM BARERA

cover design GAUTAM VALLURI

image sources Adarsha Benjamin (cover image

SRIKANTH SRINIVASAN ANUJ MALHOTRA online supervisor DEBABRATA NATH GAUTAM VALLURI SUPRIYA SURI publishers   NSMedia Film EBRAHIM KABIR DEBOJIT GHATAK Indian Auteur is published monthly. All images SAGORIKA SINGHA have been used for non-commercial purposes KSHITIZ ANAND only. Content cannot be reproduced without contact  W-104, GK-I , prior permission of Indian Auteur. NEW DELHI, 110011 editor@indianauteur.com advertisement@indianauteur.com

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Roger Fritz (Image of Page 14) Cinecritic TCM Movies


e and Page 36)

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EDITORIAL NITESH ROHIT

I

n our tenth issue we attempt to look at the works of Sion Sono. That on the outset defies categorization yet there is a trajectory that one could bring forth from his works: the emphasis on duality (performance), the use of camera (handheld) and a meticulous recreation of spaces; that functions as the only platform or witness between binaries: world of truth and deceit, or interplay between illusion and reality. It’s interesting that his works are grounded on the foundation of different genre elements, yet it never fails to critique the mimesis at hand. The issue also covers one of the important ideas that we routinely discuss among our team here, that is to bring forth the massive absence of images, texts, interviews directly or indirectly related to the cinematic medium. So in the same respect we continue with the second installment of the abridged screenplay of the master filmmaker Kamal Swaroop. While the issue does not present a complete dossier on the works of Sion Sono, yet the current ideas that our authors discover and talk about would further help bridge the gap in the absence of critical writing on his films.

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YEAR

AUTEURFASSBINDER NEXT PAGE

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7 11

THE BITTER SOUL of HERR

by DEVDUTT TRIVEDI

FOX T

he director is easily one of the most significant directors of sound cinema along with the likes of such distinguished directors as Werner Herzog, Volker Schlöndroff and Alexander Kluge. Unlike the rest, Fassbinder has more definite interests, is much more theatrical and yet is able to transcend this theatricality with an insightful understanding of cinema as a medium. In this essay, I hope to address Fassbinder’s eccentric understanding of cinema as a medium in order to transcend all other references. The concern in demonstrating an ‘understanding of cinema’ is to understand that film is about film. If this be the case then, images, situations and characters must be made with respect to the inherent qualities of the medium. Thus a camera movement if defined as a connection between two spaces, underlines the temporality in the same image. Thus the past or memory serves as theme which serves as dialectic with this temporality. Thus it is not a coincidence that such directors as Orson Welles, Alain Resnais and Wong Kar-wai use eccentric camera movements and regu-

Rainer Werner Fassbinder is the oft-relegated director of cinema, the fashionably forgotten Ghatak of Germany, always living up to his reputation but never really outdoing it larly stress the importance of the past and memory. Thus it is through this mould of a cinematic act that a film is constructed. It is no mystery that the cinematic act is only derived from the cinematic object, an object

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literary arts and notes in the case of music. In the case of cinema this ‘alphabet’ is a shot. However since a shot need not have any relation to a cinematic object, we must correlate this to ‘movement image’ In the case of literature, this ‘object’ centers on a word, and leads to its semantic meaning. This is equated to the sensation produced by this semantic meaning. This process is one of smooth flow, of openings that terminate at infinity with meaning In the case of cinema, audio-visual sensation leads to meaning. This syntax creates sensations which are eventually equated to meaning. Meaning is produced after the complete (100%) or partial (80%) of sensation recording is done by the viewer. Thus it is through achievement of meaning, through blockages and not openings that a cinematic object is created. In the case of Fassbinder, this is a dynamic cinematic object. Before one can dissect what ‘dynamic’ means, one must understand the limitations of Fassbinder with respect to his apparent theatricality. This theatricality vanishes each time the film is read with respect to its editing (temporality manufactured by an author) and sound. The apparent theatricality of the actors equate them to forms within the visual (flat, plastic) image. The image in Fassbinder is of outstanding importance. Unfortunately this may not be of much interest for those more interested in temporalities as

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which defines all the properties of the cinematic medium. Just like a musical note which does not comment on anything outside the realm of music itself, a cinematic object comments only on the cinematographic positioning of a sequence in a film. A cinematic object is the property of film that separates it from other arts. It is an image or image/sound combination (son-image) which transcends representation, in order to facilitate stylisation within an image. It may also be defined as the image between a subject and an event. Therefore Hitchcock’s exemplary mastery over the medium is a result of his intricate sequences around the protagonist (subject) and the murder (event). Thus it is in the space between a subject and an event that the cinema can be manufactured. This simplistic explanation underlines the possibility of a purely temporal or time-based cinema, in which events, comments and subjects are overthrown by an understanding of cinema itself. This conception of cinema as one beyond space (representation) is closest to music than any other allied discipline. With respect to other arts, an object may be defined as that intermediate point between subject,event and personality where the unfolding of an act is merged with the singular character of that medium .This ‘singular character’ is precisely what defines the ‘alphabet’ of that medium. This ‘alphabet’ is equivalent to line and shape in the visual arts, words in the

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experienced in Robert Bresson’s work. The visual plane is not merely a support in the son-image construct; instead it is the driver upon which all other references are supported. The representation of a society thrives on the visual plane in Fassbinder. Genres, or the combining of them are more based on visual clues, than sound clues or textual clues. Thus a visual serves as a stylisation for referring to theatre, for carefully calculating the distanciation required and moulding the other elements likewise. It is the chaotic juxtaposition of these visual elements that breaks any classic cinematic tool such as montage or the verité style documentaries. Montage is broken through the careful detailing in each shot, accurately breaking any link between two images. This reduction in meaning brings about an increase in the camera distance which thereby allows a cinematic system to flow in each shot. Within this subjective understanding of Fassbinder, sound is almost unimportant. Sound does not add to the image. It increases its subjectivity to some extent. This subjectivity will culminate at the same point that the image will. It does not oppose the accelerated importance of the image track with every passing moment. Camera movements, which often serve as distancing techniques, remind us of change. The change within an image is of primary importance. Thus movement is propelled by a camera, in a Fassbinder system most similar to still-Cubist


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paintings. This movement, often very slow to start with, and suddenly increases in pace mark the dialectic between movement and stillness. The variable styles in which the camera is moved serve as fresh comments on image by Fassbinder. More than the references it is the sudden, short span of the movements, which serve as a cinematic change, more like a symphony or a raga at a crucial point in its complex construction. In the case of a medium like film, this may not at all be a crucial point in the event stage or the subject stage. This increase in tempo without causality draws the filmmaker once again to the cinematic object.

guments in relation to one of these sources, namely modernist literature, and Fassbinder’s subsequent use of modernist literature as a tool to carry these spatial problems. Fassbinder is influenced by Jean-Luc Godard. He enjoys creating a system where a character breaks open a space and thereby, like Godard, allows himself a plethora of possibilities. In the case of Godard, these possibilities are

Mentor and the mentored JeanLuc Godard(below) and Fassbinder(right)

These forms especially in his earlier films do not underline an understanding of theatre, but an understanding of cinema. Fassbinder is not interested in political comment as he is aware of its impotency in a marginalised situation. Instead, he chooses to show us this political situation as an object within this marginalised space (post-war Germany). This object is abstracted to a dynamic space allocating several castes, classes and sociological backgrounds to it. This premeditated choice made by him, allows cinematic object to be a vehicle for these problematics. In this respect, the difference between a Fassbinder film and a Bresson (or in India, Mani Kaul) film is the former’s clarity of the tools he chooses to create this cinematic object. I shall try to present certain ar-

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AUTEUR editor NITESH ROHIT

FASSBINDER’S MUCH TALKED ABOUT OBSESSION WITH SEXUALITY, COMES FROM UNDERSTANDING OF THE LIMITS OF THE CINEMAIC OBJECT. captured within the plasticity of the image. Therefore if he comments on a Hollywood noir work, he underlines his understanding of a film noir image, and argues that this image of a film noir is extraordinarily significant. The character is trapped within this image. He may try to break out of it (and this is a significant act, often more significant than the event; see A Bour De Souffle, 1959), ac-

celerating a dialectic or élan vitale (Bergson; also see Godard’s Masculin Feminin, 1965), or even transcending a cinematic object itself (see the opening sequence of Deux Ou Trois Choses que je sais d’elle ,1966). Fassbinder is aware that the abstractions impossible in theatre are possible in cinema. Thus he uses this Godardian possibility to allow for the more plastic aspects of theatre. One author whose literature

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is certainly more cinematic than his plays is Beckett. In the case of Samuel Beckett, an event is allowed. Watt works in an office, Malone is going to die, Molloy is in his mother’s room and has a son. This event allows a epistemological study of space. Using literature this objective is close to impossible. Beckett often resorts to a creation of images akin to Borges to further objectify this stubborn abstraction. Often this space is abstracted to the extent of being pure movement – more Stan Brakhage than Luis Buñuel in avant-garde cinema; more Yasujiro Ozu than Federico Fellini in classical cinema; and more Apichatpong Weerasethakul than Wong Kar-wai in postmod-


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ern cinema .In this scenario of unfolding, the viewer is waiting for the object to arrive. To demonstrate this, consider two extracts from Malone Dies by Beckett : 1) Nothing is more real than nothing. 2) What a misfortune, the pencil must have slipped from my fingers, for I have only just succeeded in recovering it after forty-eight hours (see above) of intermittent efforts. In the first example, a suitably abstract statement is objectified by using nothing as a material (Bergson) .This is further demonstrated by using the word ‘nothing’ twice. The ‘more real’, a comparative, serves in abstracting other parts of the sentence. Thus only ‘nothing’ or the void being created is an object, a material which is being studied. It is possible to study nothing only under the condition that one treats it like an object. On the other hand, the flow of narration before arriving at this point is quite abstract: I don’t like those gulls eyes. They remind me of an old shipwreck. I forget which. I know it is a small thing. But I am easily frightened now. I know those little phrases that seem so innocuous and, once you let them in, pollute the whole of speech. Nothing is more real than nothing. (Italics by author). Sentence 1 is an opinion, 2 is a response to 1. But by the

time we reach sentence 3 and 4, the subject is redundant. It is a repetition of an opinion and a response, summed up by sentence 5, a response to the pattern emergining in 1, 2 and 3 i.e. that of repeating the same opinion again and again. However, sentence 4 is also a confirmation of the fact that a trivial detail (not quite an event) is being repeated, and now there must be a significant progression to break out of this banal comment. Sentence 6 does this. It is not important to see what is being represented, but how a representation alters its path to transcend representation. What is most notable is the fact that it is through void that repetition is broken. This is done through, if one can say, a literary object, a word which serves as an abstraction or vivid description of itself. As compared to other modernists like Virginia Woolf or James Joyce, Beckett is clever to use voids in objects instead of descriptions in objects (which do not manipulate space in a complete way ) to create objects of literature. This allows for the possibility of a moving medium like cinema as opposed to a flattened plastic description, which is more akin to painting, especially Cubism, than cinema. In this respect, some of Godard’s earlier work (which peaked in 1967 with the post-Cubist La Chinoise) serves as mediation on Joyce’s work through Beckett. On the one hand, the cinematic object dominates the

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7 15 temporality of an image (see Ernie Gehr’s Shift); while on the other extreme, the representation is not at all cinematic, or it takes away the natural properties of movement in the cinematic image, without even addressing the object. Fassbinder’s much talked about obsession with sexuality, thus comes up from this understanding of the limits of the cinematic object. However, it has often been noted that this notion of cinema is not self-conscious. In fact, it is just an exaggeration of the cinematic object to include the possibilities of sexual commentary, beyond its obvious representation (meaning). Beckett once again serves ample proof of this: Mr. Hackett decided, after some moments, that if they were waiting for a tram they had been doing so for some time. For the young lady held the gentleman by the ears, and the gentleman’s hand was on the lady’s thigh, and the lady’s tongue was in the gentleman’s mouth… The lady now removing her tongue from the gentleman’s mouth, he put his into hers. Fair do, said Mr. Hackett. Taking a pace forward, to satisfy himself that the gentleman’s other hand was not going to waste, Mr Hackett was shocked to find it hanging limply dangling over the back of the seat, with between its fingers the spent three quarters of a cigarette.


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The outstanding movement within meaning can be seen by paying attention to the hand. It begins as a hand with a role, then becomes one which is still a part of otherwise moving objects, and ultimately becomes an isolated ‘dangling’ object transcending its meaning as well as the space within which it has been described. Thus the description of a scenario (representation), its impressionistic transcendence (as in Flaubert), temporality (as in Proust) are transcended by the nullification of meaning. It’s a hand here, but it could be any other object. One notices the denial of movement in an activity that is based on motion. Fassbinder similarly denies movement to give context to cinematic object: 1) His use of camera movements to entrap space (Beckett) and not characters (See: Jean Renoir’s Rules of The Game) 2) Eccentric zoomins and zoom-outs, to denote the limits of the frame. This effect is heightened in In A Year With 13 Moons (1974), where architecture is used to denote this forever changing space (Beckett). 3) Fassbinder’s deep concerns with the problems of sexuality are best expressed in his understanding of expressionist art. In the case of Edvard Munch’s Scream, inertia is being developed. Perhaps this inertia will result in an actual scream (sound) at an infinite distance from the painting

itself. This tension within an apparently disturbed vision of humanity is given resonance by an accomplished artist like Fassbinder. 4) Point 3 is further made effective by the medium of cinema which literally allows for the separation of image and sound. Thus sound can be dissonant to different degress. In the case of Fassbinder, this dissonance does not create dissonant rhythms but voids in the soundtrack. In this respect, Fassbinder has mastery over a postHollywood sound design, where fewer sounds than images (Godard) create a valid political cinema. This challenges Godard’s statement of sound being more important than image. One can only attribute this to Fassbinder’s thorough understanding of theatre. Fassbinder is able to address this concern through his constant re-addressing of distancing. At the same time, his is also very aware of the infinity beyond which his characters cease to exist. This distancing isn’t always Brechtian or theatrical, but largely through references to paintings and negations of perspective. Whether it be the flat spaces of The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Goya meets Cubism) or the white spaces of Love Is Colder than Death (feminist cinema meets Paul Klee), there is an underlying understanding of

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painting (in which the actor is just a part of the image) as opposed to theatre (in which stylisation revolves around the actor) However, Fassbinder does not give this painting a context by using music. In this respect, one sees Godard having a dialogue with Fassbinder in Prenom Carmen (Godard, 1984). Godard is making us aware what a Fassbinder film would become if music would be incorporated into the cinematographic system. A definite aspect of this musical cinema is the involvement of the more documentary aspects of film. In this respect, Fassbinder refuses to show us fixed, distanced shots of locations unless for a convenient purpose such as titles, break from an intense segment, etc. In this sense, he is working within the rigid confines of theatre. The curious aspect which one sees Fassbinder avoiding, especially with respect to Godard, is the use of the documentary. Curious exceptions to this rule are seen in such works as Niklauhsen Journey (1970), in which Fassbinder is willing to spend more time and thus get more involved with the ‘possibilities’ (Godard) of an image. From a more nonrepresentational (Levinas) stand point, one sees Godard being able to stand for separation (Levinas), while Fassbinder is more interested in exteriority (Levinas). This makes Fassbinder an extro-


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verted and more material version of Godard, perhaps not commenting politically, but just angry (see Samuel Beckett’s Watt). This is what eventually makes his work more ‘shortcut’ and formulaic than it could have been, especially if the possibilities of interiority (a non-eventbased ellipse) and separation (formal differentiation) were taken into account. In this respect, he is also the prototype for the future genre filmmakers like Takashi Miike, who continue to fail to take into account this interiority and separation. Often Fassbinder’s superior work turns out as a more modernist version (Hitchcockian possibilities in movement used as alphabet and not reference) of a genre film without the whimsical element in the combining of genres, especially with respect to narrative. While Fassbinder is aware of the effects of distancing, he is also aware of the limits of this distancing. The limits beyond which the characters cease to exist, serve as a constant calculation for determining the appearance (and disappearance) of his 0 and infinity. In this respect, Fassbinder is the director of number lines; 0 need not be the centre, but as always, it will be the centre that allows the limits at either end. Within this scenario of clear limits, a Fassbinderian object is possible, never moving but still approaching a dissonant object; and sound

as a dissonant signifier is dispensed with almost entirely. This clever manipulation of number lines allows for the assimilation of several facets of cinema, including the postmodern genre. If Fassbinder is a precursor to genre, it is because, unlike Jean-Pierre Melville (the other more classical, even Bressonian, father of genre cinema), he is a materialist who thinks of characters as material for expression. By ‘material’ my explicit reference is to materialist cinema (as seen by Soviets): the postmodern Left (Vera Chytilova’s Daisies, 1966), the feminist (Love is Colder than Death, an influence on the work of Chantal Akerman), the political (The Niklauhsen Journey as German One Plus One-meets-road film), the social (Fassbinder’s Mother Kusters goes to Heaven, in which one sees a non-inclusive, pre-modern understanding of ‘social cinema’). But all of these were unable to address/comment on transcendence (without necessarily subscribing to it) and thus making medium (Levinas, Delueze) as being representational and not interested in eccentric/ dynamic nature of truth. This makes Fassbinder’s cinema one capable of an immediate death, and if not an immediate death, an expiry of ideas, of binaries, only equaled, perhaps, by a representation of the death of cinema itself. Thus, ‘Fassbinder

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7 17 representing a death in cinema’ (Kaushik Bhaumik) occurs precisely due to his ignorance of the cinematic object. To be more precise, it is his ignorance of the possibilities of documentary in determining this cinematic object. Furthermore, this will terminate in a materialist cinema with ‘anachronistic images’ and redundancy of individuation (much like the neo German-Turkish directors, including Fatih Akin). Issues relating to space will be equated to cinematic space, thus erasing the element of rhythm in cinematic object. Thus the use of the political reel as a postmodern tool does not serve any other purpose than stereotyping itself as a representation of generic space. In this context, Akin is the dead-Fassbinder and Haneke, the dead Godard. Postmodernity has invested them with archaic tools unable to address anything other than semantic clichés. In this context, Fassbinder is able to avoid memory, and thus addresses a material transcendence where continuity replaces repetition (Delueze). Thus where a Wong Kar-wai cannot escape a repetition through memory, Fassbinder is able to use the cinema to show you objects existing only in the present. This does not make him superior to a Resnais (obsessed with memory), but is able to ad-


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dress a materialist form of cinema which addresses an absence of transcendence. In the case of Luis Buñuel, particularly his last films, a materialist problematic is deconstructed in a Balzacian way to arrive at a dynamic equilibrium. Fassbinder takes off from this Buñuel settlement within which the disturbance of an individual (see The Bitter tears of Petra Von Kant) or a micro society (see Katzelmacher) is eccentric and uneven, only sufficiently bringing about a nostalgic recollection of cinematic object. It is precisely this sophisticated understanding of materialism that makes Fassbinder outstanding among the multidisciplinary directors, that is those who adapt several media most commonly theatre, literature and music. It is this absence of memory that creates a cinema forever ascending towards an avant-garde cinema, where the possibility of a reverse shot is removed. Thus a Hans Richter film rhythm or a Brakhage entomology exercise, does not allow the possibility of a reverse shot to account for the strayed accounts of memory, of a dialectic Other always hindering the possibility of being. However this being does operate within a Bergsonian life force forever expanding to allocate the possibilities of a material time, which thereby allows its own infinite possibilities, never limited by a Rivette ‘crystal’, yet always expanding towards the Bressonian

ideal of ‘the image which exists without the idea of the image.’ In the case of Fassbinder it is precisely because of his blatant ignorance of several intellectual possibilities that his cinema remains without an Other. Thus if Love is Colder than Death is Godard without a consideration of a Bressonian pure space, Effi Briest is Visconti mixed with Hitchcockian formalism. While ‘the effects of montage are nullified’ (Kaushik Bhaumik), the possibilities of a Bressonian temporality of sound over image is dissonant with respect to Fassbinder’s manipulation of mise-en-scene. The mise-en-scene is manipulated beyond a temporality, a possibility of itself, a capturing of a visual flatness (documentary), while yet fragmented without a reference to Cubism. Perhaps this is possible due to Fassbinder’s clarity on the ways in which a scene can be shot and his sequential selection of the best possible scene. It is precisely this denial of a purely avantgarde film that makes an artist avoid the possibility of an Infinity.The reference of the Other even more than the awareness of the Self makes one aware of the finite set. The complete. In mathematical A U B or A (Self) union B (Other)which prevents the possibility of an A union B complement i.e. everything other than the union of the self and the

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other i.e. infinity. It is precisely this intentional denial of infinity that makes Fassbinder a stern political commentator. In the case of Godard, this infinity, which albeit makes him an idealist, serves as a profound acceptance of the problems of humanity. A denial of this infinity results in the gross politicisation of an Other, without necessary defining the Other. With respect to this artist’s apparent self-reflexivity, the Self and the Other are again addressed. I shall refer to a passage on “self consciousness” from Totality and Infinity by Levinas: Self consciousness is not a dialectical rejoinder of the metaphysical consciousness that I have of the other. Nor its relation of itself a representation of itself….It thus accomplishes separation positively, without being reducible to a negation of the being from which it separates. But thus precisely it can welcome that being.’ Earlier Levinas links violence to totality: Violence in nature thus refers to an existence precisely not limited by an other…Totality absorbs the multiplicity of human beings, which peace implies. Only beings capable of war can rise to peace. War like peace presupposes beings structured other-


19 wise than as parts of a totality. Fassbinder is interested in analysing an historical violence and the role class plays in re-creating this violence. This creation of violence is circular – it will come and go. It is this extroverted presence of violence in his characters that gives Fassbinder hope of a transcendence, since this violence is eventually crystallised as a keen awareness. Within this awareness rests a destruction of memory. Whether Fassbinder’s repertoire continues to be redefined by a new set of directors is yet to be seen. However, the sheer dissonance in his large body of work can only be understood through a deconstruction of cinema itself.

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T

he ‘industry’ produces a new soap each Friday. The soap is then tested by a review group which rates it on the basis of its scent, durability, lather, ability to cleanse germs, and lasting duration. They are then sold to an unsuspecting audience with new packaging and the review group’s appraisals attached. They buy.

Each soap produced by the industry looks the same, smells the same, and is the same.

Support us in our contempt of soap.

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7 41 INDIANAUTEUR presents

O

M

N

I

Y

A

by KAMAL SWAROOP

M

Illustrations by

JAY KRISHNAN

KAMAL SWAROOP’s

O M N I YA M

ACT I: T H E A B R IWORLD/SEPARATION DGED SCREENPLAY ORDINARY

VISUAL INTERPRETATION BY

JAY KRISHNAN

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22

II:

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COVER STORY

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23


SCENE 1 EXT/IN

SCHOOL CORRIDOR/LAB

DAY

Sixteen year old boy NACHIKETA, carrying a dissection tray on his forearms, walks towards the door of the lab. He stands before the half open door. He knocks. No answer .

NACHIKETA (V.O.) कुछ दिन जनम दिन से ज्यादा याद रहते है. वह दिन कुछ ऐसा ही था… He knocks. No answer. NACHIKETA मे आई कम इन सर?

No answer. He slightly kicks open the door, and enters the lab. Inside, glass jars filled with the body parts of mutant lives, walls covered with books. Maze leads to an open space taken over by a large wooden table. Teacher isn't there. He places the tray on the table. with a neatly dissected frog, its heart still beating. Nachiketa waits for the teacher. He looks around. NACHIKETA (V.O.) जो कहानी मै सुनाने जा रहा हूं उसे समझने के लिये अवधूत अटपटेश्वर नाथ के विचारों को समझना जरूरी है. A hard cover book lay on the table. He pulls it closer. On its cover is embedded a golden disk, a clock, with two tiny bicycle bells. Written over is Sunahri Ghadi. On the back cover an embossed picture of the writer philosopher AVDHOOT ATPATESHVER NATH. He opens the book and is frightened to hear a sudden si-

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ren of an emergency ambuance. The book falls from his hand. Alarm bells die out. The book is still open. He picks it up, brings it close and Reads NACHIKETA इन्सान का वजूद एक खािलस वहम है जिसके अन्दर दिन अौर रात का एक दूसरा वहम जीता है ..

SCENE 2 INT/EXT

TRAIN

MORNING

Outside the window, behind huge smoke producing fatries, sun rises, dispelling darkness. NACHIKETA(V.O) जो हवा में कालिक के बढ़ जाने से पैदा हुई वातावरन की एक अशुद्ध स्थिति है। किसी भी समझदार इंसान को चाहिये कि वो वहम के उस विराट मायाजाल के प्रति जाग जाए जिसे मृत्यु कहते हैं । Inside next to the window a tribal boy with two leftarms plays a flute. Nachiketa, sits on his berth, reading the book Sunahri Ghadi. He is about twenty two year old. He closes the book, keeps his finger inside like a book mark. Looks out side window, the big town is left behind NACHIKETA (V.O.)(overlapping sound) मैं ग्यारह साल बाद अपने घर लौट रहा था. मेरी कल्पना का संसार रुपयो पैसे की दुनिया से नही.... स्वामी अटपटेश्वर जी के विचित्र विचारों से संमोहित था. मॆ उनके क्रान्तिकारी विचारो पर एक किताब लिखना चाहता था...दुनिया गोल नही बेलनाकार है...दिशायें दस नही केवल एक होती है...मनुष्य की स्थिती हवा मे किसी रस्सी पर चलते बाज़ीगर की तरह है Two girls sitting in the opposite compartment start taling to him, we do not see them .

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NACHIKETA किताब घड़ी । TWINS आप जब भी इसे खोलते है....खतरे की घंटी बजने लगती है ! सब पैसेन्जर परेशान हैं । NACHIKETA दर असल ऐसा होना नही चाहिए... सिर्फ़ पाँच संध्याओ पर अलार्म बजना चाहिये. जैसे नमाज़ के पहले अज़ान या किसी मुर्गे की बांग. इस किताब घड़ी के लेख़क अटपटेश्वर जी ने स्वयं पढाई का समय बांध रख़ा था अब जब भी खोलो अलार्म बजने लगता है....मुझे खुद पता नहीं था... किसी ने दिमक का इंग्जेक्शन लगा दिया और किताब बिगड़ गयी । TWINS तो ठीक क्यों नही करवाते ? NACHIKETA ये गुप्त विध्या है.... इसे जानने वाले भी गुप्त हैं । अभी तक कोई भी नहीं मिला । TWINS क्या कीमत होगी ? NACHIKETA मेरे जीवन से ज्यादा ! TWINS कहाँ मिली ? NACHIKETA स्कूल की लैब मे । Train passes through a dark tunnel. Nachiketa’s glass window mirrors the Siamese twin sisters joined by a single heart, speaking to him. TWINS आप नहीं मानते चोरी करना पाप है ! NACHIKETA है, पर इस किताब में अधिक पुण्य है... शुरु मे मैने सोचा आप दो हैं. आप अलग नहीं हो सकती? मेरा मतलब एक दूसरे से free ?

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TWINS हम दोनों दिल से जुड़े हैं...आधा मेरी बायी ओर आधा इसकी दायी ओर.कोइ अपना दिल दे दे तो शायद...आप को देख कर हम यही सोच रहे थे. देंगे दिल? आप तो लाल हो गये! A sales man enters with a basket full of mirrors- small and big. MIRROR SALESMAN (offscreen) आइने ! आइने ! दिल के झरोखे ! आइने ! छोटे मोटे आइने ! दिल के झरोखे ! आइने ! Nachiketa inspects. NACHIKETA पूरी टोकरी कितने मे दोगे? Train enters another dark tunnel. SCENE 3 EXT

ROAD/FACTORY

EVENING

A chimney of a factory pumps black soot into the atmosphere and slowly descends over the township, thickening the darkness of the night.

NACHIKETA (V.O) स्वामी जी ने एक जगह कहा है कि रात ज्वालामुखी के विस्फोटों की कालिक का

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नतीजा है। The factory gates open and hundreds of cyclists come out to return back to homes. Nachiketa pulling his two bags is left behind. A cycle rickshaw stops next to him. Nachiketa gets into it . SCENE 4 EXT

A NARROW DUSTY ROAD OF A TOWN

EVENING

A top-angle shot, a boy driving a cycle wheel frame with his stick leads Rickshaw cycle on a dusty road of a small town. Two three cyclist over take them. SCENE 5 EXT

MARKET EVENING

Sitting in his rickshaw, Nachiketa looks around. He sees a gadhia lohar and others beating a sickle on an anvil which gets its flame from a cycle wheel dynamo. In the market he sees Cycles, Rickshaws, Tonga, bullock carts, Man on a wheel chair. Buying and selling at its peak hours.

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He sees a magician who shows him a magic trick with a notebook. In the next shop, plastic dolls hang, wearing sheer robes. Ahead, there is a dentist, and then a balloon maker. Musicians do jugalbandi from different first floor windows. There is a watchmaker's shop, and then a shop of rangoli - followed by a shop of manure and a cycle shop. Nachiketa is happy to return home. A little ahead a horse’s hoof is nailed with horse shoes. In front of the Nagar Nigam building a brass band with noise sucking devices passes him by; a child sits in a bicycle basket and smiles at him. SCENE 6

EXT

HOUSES/ROAD TO NACHIKETA’S HOME EVENING

DARK

After the Nagar nigam building it’s quieter.... houses more spaced out. Nachiketa sits on the cycle rickshaw looking at the houses. NACHIKETA (V.O.) मकानों की एक गली को स्वामी जी ने बीमारियों का बसेरा कहा है। मनुष्य जाति के पतन के लिए भी वे घर में घुस कर रहने की मानसिकता अौर एैसी अादतों को ज़िम्मेदार मानते हैं जो खुले में करना मुश्किल है जैसे वैवाहिक सम्बन्ध, पढ़ना-लिखना, शतरंज खेलना जैसे अनेकों व्यापार। A man loaded with rat traps passes by pushing a single little wheel advertisement for the rat poison. SCENE 7

EX /INT

NACHIKETA’S HOME/ BAR

EVENING

Nachiketa arrives at the gate of his farm house, gets down from the rickshaw, pays the puller, opens the gate, and walks toward his house, dragging his bags along. Front portion of the house is a country bar. He can hear the sounds of music. He opens the iron gate and walks toward the house , hurriedly, dragging his bags along.

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Inside, a man plays a bag pipe made of a goat skin. Two veiled women dance. Drunks try hard not to fall. Nachiketa enters the bar and sees DEVI SINGH, a strongly built cunning man, behind the counter.

NACHIKETA पहचाना ?

As Devi begins to fill the next glass, the first customer empties his glass in one go. Wiping his face with his gamcha, the customer gives a look to Nachiketa standing few feet away from him, with a mixture of surprise, reverence and a feeling of happiness, folds his hands.. utters loudly.. CUSTOMER कुँअर साब..!!??

..and collapses . Devi Singh comes out of the counter and kicks the fallen customer in the ribs.. DEVI पहले गिरेगा.. फिर उलटी करेगा.. साफ़ कौन करेगा तेरी जोरू..? Nachiketa is startled by this casual violence. The customer groans and Devi moves towards counter almost aggressively. Nachiketa does not know what his intentions are and looks back meekly. NACHIKETA(V.O.) यह देवी सिंह था.. मेरे घर का पुराना नौकर.. मेरे माँ-बाप की मौत के बाद मैं पढ़ाई के लिए हॉस्टल चला गया और पंचायत ने मेरी जायदाद की देखभाल के लिए इसे रख छोड़ा… Devi then takes Nachiketa’s bags . DEVI आप खबर कर देते तो मैं खुद लेने आ जाता…आइये । Nachiketa follows meekly.

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SCENE 8

EXT/INT NACHIKETA's HOUSE

NIGHT

Devi leads Nachiketa inside the haveli through a corridor/passage towards his room . On the way he picks up a lalten on the stairs. DEVI SINGH अब आप आ गए है... मेरी जिम्मेदारी खत्म… अब आप अपना काम समझो मैं चला अपने गाँव... सॅभालिए अपने खेत... अपना ठेका... Devi stops in front of the main door of the haveli, turns around and thrusts the keys in Nachiketa’s hand. DEVI SINGH ये लिजिए आपकी चाबी.. Nachiketa is taken aback by this sudden unexpected befallment of responsibility.. he looks completely bewildered.. NACHIKETA चाबी.. पर मैं.. मैं क्या करूँ इसका.. DEVI SINGH खोलिये ताला NACHIKETA कौन सी चाबी है.. चाबी.. पर मैं.. मैं क्या करूँ इसका.. Nachiketa fiddles with the heavy bunch of keys and tries different keys to open the lock. He is very nervous. DEVI SINGH आपकी ज़मीन, आपकी जायदाद.. आपका ताला.. आपकी ताली । खोलिये... चाहे न खोलिये .. जो मन चाहे करिये... हमें क्या । NACHIKETA हमें तो कुछ पता भी नहीं... कैसे करेंगे... आप... आप.... पर जा क्यों रहे हैं ? DEVI SINGH देखिये अभी तक मैंने जो किया ठाकुर साहब के लिये, आप के पिताजी की शांती

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के लिये किया .... उनका नमक खाया था, मैंने वचन दिया था... अब तो आप अपने पैरों पर खड़े हो गये हैं ... अब हमें भी कुछ दूध मलाई खानी है । ज़िदगी भर की गुलामी ना लिखाई है न हमने .... Nachiketa looks miserable. DEVI SINGH आप का तो मुँह ही लटक गया बिलकुल.. अच्छा लाइये चाबी.. Devi Singh almost snatches the keys out of his hand and begins to open the door as he continues to talk… DEVI SINGH गैया बियाहने वाली है.. और ठेके पर छप्पर भी छाना है.. ये सब निबट जाए फिर आप को सब समझा के .. अगले हफ़्ते निकल जाऊँगा.. Devi kicks the door open. DEVI SINGH ये लालटेन रख लीजीये। ये कमरा आप के जाने के बाद कभी नहीं खुला ।

SCENE 9

INT /EX NACHIKETA’S ROOM

NIGHT

Devi leaves. The room is dusty; an old piano covered with a white sheet, on the wall and the table photographs of his family.... reminiscent of his feudal back ground. He starts unpacking his bags... books by Atpateshver, a compass, a Globe, a tight rope walker. Then he opens the SUNAHRI GHADI. Devi is halfway to the bar; the siren of the book rings in his ear. He stops, turns back to Nachiketa’s room. Before he could say some thing, siren stops. Nachiketa is sitting on his bed, feeling humiliated, looks up at Devi standing at the door. DEVI SINGH आपने बेल मरी... या अलार्म लगाया था? NACHIKETA नहीं तो...

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DEVI SINGH भ्रम तो नहीं था....शायद फ़ायर ब्रिगेड गुज़री होगी NACHIKETA नहीं तो... DEVI SINGH तो क्या कान बज रहे हैं मेरे ..... डाक्टर को दिखाना पड़ेगा .... आप रेस्ट करिये... मैं चलता हॅू .... ज्यादा देर कर दी तो साले ठेका लूट लेंगे हरामी .... वैसे ही बहुत घाटा है .... किसी तरह चला रहा हॅू ... अपनी जेब से लगा लगा के ... Devi walks back mumbling. Nachiketa smiles to himself, and keeps the book on the table, the photo of Atpateshwar staring at him reassuringly from the back cover. SCENE 10

EXT /INT BAR NIGHT

Customers lie drunk all over the bar, slumped over the tables. Devi Singh takes advantage of this, stealing their valuables, before throwing them all out unceremoniously. SCENE 10 ( A ) EXT BAR NIGHT Devi Singh shuts the door. Outside the bar, some customers lie about drunk and some stand outside, knocking persistently. There is a notice-board hung loosely on it -

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पाकेटमारों से सावधान ! SCENE 11 (A) INT/EXT NACHIKETA'S LAB / AANGAN DAY Nachiketa is tuning and playing the piano … SCENE 11 (B) EXT AANGAN

DAY

Out side we see Devi‘s hand helping in a delivery , he pulls out the calf from inside……the cow is relieved…. NACHIKETA (V.O.) हफ़्ता निकल गया.. गैया बिया गई.. छप्पर छा गया.. पर देवी सिंह कहीं नहीं गया.. SCENE 11 (A) INT/EXT NACHIKETA'S LAB / AANGAN DAY Inside the room Nachiketa is thinking and writing his notes . NACHIKETA सन्सार कहानी सुनाने के बाद बचे उसके प्रभाव जैसा है .... He looks out of the window. SCENE 11 (C) EXT AANGAN

DAY

Devi, looking slightly older, is milking the cow. Its calf has grown up. Devi puts the milk in a container and cycles away. NACHIKETA (v.o) दो महीने और बीत गए पर देवी का काम सुरसा के मुख की तरह बढ़ता ही जाता.. SCENE 11 (D) EXT NACHIKETA'S LAB

DAY

An older Nachiketa sits on his desk, arranging his notes… and books by Atpateshver…ghanta ghar…aana jaana…anguthe ka rahasye ,karn picshachni.His beard has grown. He begins to write something in his notebook, then looks IA/MARCH 2010


languidly outside - contemplating something. He gets up to change the date on his calendar. We see that the room is filled with more books, and the walls are covered by his paintings of Atpateshwarji's ideas. NACHIKETA (V.O.) चार साल बीत गए.. उसके रहने से अपने पढ़ने-लिखने की फ़ुरसत थी.. मैंने इधर उधर से कुछ जोड़-जाड़ कर स्वामी अटपटेश्वर का सारा साहित्य खरीद लिया था.. अौर साथ साथ संस्कृत भी सीख रहा था । Suddenly, he has a wicked smile on his face. He picks up the book Sunahri Ghari...

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INDIANAUTEUR

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5

53 7 37 COVER STORY

He is

Sion Sono

The IA writers recover from the state of shock that watching a few intensely personal Sion films left them in, and attempt to rationalise the impact.

Image by Adarsha Benjamin

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3

IA INTRODUCTION by JASPER SHARP

T

he word ‘maverick’ gets bandied around too often in film circles nowadays, but if there’s ever a director who deserves the label, it’s Shion Sono. It’s difficult to think of a less commercial proposition than Love Exposure, which premiered last December at TOKYO FILMeX. For starters, it’s around 4 hours long, an almost suicidal proposition in a commercial environment where venues need to cram as many films into their schedules as possible, and where certain country’s censorship boards charge by the minute. And then there’s the content, taking onboard such heady subjects as child abuse, Catholic repression and murderous religious cults within its epic span. If all this sounds a less-thantempting proposition, one should add that the results are not only rather moving, but incredibly good fun. The films of Todd Solondz provide a convenient point of reference in their irreverent treatments of the various societal taboos that might be best left to grittier socio-realist works by more serious directors, but rendered as a colourful pop-cultural fantasy, the theatre of the absurd that is Sono’s film is an altogether more exuberant affair. One hesitates to call Love Exposure a comedy, though there are certainly some funny moments. Switching dramatic registers and defying expectations at every turn, there’s enough material for several films in the first half alone, and you’ve got to admire the balls of a director

bold enough to put the film’s title credit an hour into proceedings. Shion Sono’s name may be unfamiliar, but he’s actually been around some time, with his previous film, Exte, a J-horror pastiche about killer hair extensions featuring Battle Royale / Kill Bill icon Chiaki Kuriyama was released on DVD in both the US and the UK. Laying the two works sideto-side, it’s immediately apparent that this is not an easy filmmaker to pigeonhole. Sono’s debut, Bicycle Sighs (1989), a 16mm indie feature about two no-hoper university chums who have deferred their final exams for the past three years, instead surviving by delivering newspapers while one strives to complete the super-8 masterpiece they began as adolescents, was one of the standout titles of the 1990 Pia Film Festival, also playing widely at numerous overseas festivals. This was followed by a number of more experimental titles, including Room (Heya, 1992), in which a murderer looks for a new apartment, his estate agent leading him across a Tokyo cityscape blighted by the collapse of Japan’s economy, and Keiko desu kedo (1997), about a lonely waitress who obsessively records every event in time following the death of her father to cancer, and several forays into the world of the erotic pink film, including one gay title, Dankon: The Man (1997). But it was the opening of his 2001 cult hit Suicide Circle, in which a group of 54 uniformed schoolgirls leap in unison be-

IA/MARCH 2010

neath an oncoming rush-hour train at Shinjuku station, that really got people talking. From then on, Sono has continued to dazzle Japanese film fans with works including Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005), a more sober companion piece to this breakthrough film, and Strange Circus (2005), an erotic-grotesque work that takes place in, as the title suggests, a strange circus. This eccentric embrace of radically different subject matters and genres is reflected throughout the entirety of Love Exposure, but even as the film continues its trail picking up film festival prizes and plaudits across the world unabated, Sono is forging ahead into new and even odder territory. After already popping out another two films, the surprisingly modest family drama Be Sure to Share and the psycho-thriller Cold Fish, he’s currently shooting his first English-language feature Lords of Chaos, based on the early-90s Norwegian Black Metal scene detailed in Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell’s documentary Until the Light Takes Us, with Jackson Rathbone (a.k.a. Jasper of the Twilight films) touted as playing the murderous Varg Vikernes. Originally published in the Catalogue of Raindance Film Festival catalogue last year . For more on the author and Japanese cinema visit: http://jaspersharp.com/


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940

PRACTICAL JOKER & AIR MAN A PHOTO ESSAY BY EBRAHIM

KABIR

I am Sion Sono Shot on -8MM Plot: Sion Sono offers a peek-aboo into the myriad world of his future creations. In his first film, he reflects on his adolescence as he approaches his birthday. His hallmark- handled camera, ero-guro ethics, a convoluted mise en sceneto hide the simplicity and banality of being lonely, sad, and nostalgic are omnipresent. But what makes this film stand in his oeuvre is that it bridges the gap between the artist and the artifact; the film at hand becomes a document of performance art, wherein his mannerism of appearing as a prankstar almost Breachtian like( to dispose any externals contacts with his inner world) comes alive on the screen. The film is just like him: mad, psychotic, surreal, and outrageous, yet beneath it all, it appears to be a diary into a lonely heart.

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53 7 41

RAMPO NOIR

The mimicry of a porn film, a snuff film, or pure eru-guro, merciless murder and relentless romance.

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COVER STORY

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COVER STORY

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449 7

COVER STORY

I AM SION SONO

The abandoned child of Ms.Tragedy, left in a thin wrap of cynicism under the stars that were witness to the crime. The gossip monger, Luis Bunuel’s grandson, the class clown, practical joker and air-man.

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THE MAN OF THE MOMENT

by ANUJ MALHOTRA

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COVER STORY

Driven by momentary impulse instead of a meticulous pre-determined strategy, Sono Sion’s films may come off individually as the work of a fickle mind that functions in absolute disregard for coherence and consistency. However, a look at three of his films, Suicide Club, Hazard, and Strange Circus, reveal a pattern.

T

radical? No. Because Sono Sion is a rebel not he films of each great filmmaker are a in the manner of a John Cassavettes, who could yield of one, and only one overwhelming identify a clear enemy, a clear set of problems emotion that looms over the course of that needed to be addressed, and could even his or her life. This particular emotion is much work out a clear plan to implement that adlike the shadow of the cloud that flies over the dressal – but in the way of German author Franz ground beneath and leaves it entirely in darkKafka, who could not comprehend the working ness; its influence over the appearance of the of his immediate environment, and whose entire ground being both indelible and relentless. Most was not a disposition, or a manifesto, but Outsiders often ofthink thatwork Japan filmmakers make empty films not because a struggle their inefficiency withisthea technique cinema, with no peacefulofsociety war, to articulate his confusion. Similar to Kafka, Sion’s rebellion is not a pre-determined but because of the lack of this singular emotion but the country has a very highbut the only option available to him. strategy, that guides the work of their life. It is from this His films suicide around 30,000 per are not deliberate attempts at making a unprotected and unpolluted area rate, of a cinema point, director’s conscience,year,” or his life, that the great Sono observes, “which orisa calculated effort at raising a concern (see Godard’s work of the 70s), but admissions film rises. Devoid of a filmmaker’s personality, a a kind of war in itself... Society of his inability to comprehend the reasons for film may be stimulating on the surface, engaging those in the first place. In that, he is may appear peaceful, but lotsconcerns of and even a competent piece of cinema – but can not acrerevolutionary who wages guerrilla warfare it be art? No. Why is itdaily that thefriction Cahiers believed and pressure from within the woods, but is a normal person that the worst film by Renoir will always be ate problems that lead to suicide. lost within them. Each of his films is a sepabetter than the best film by Jean Delannoy? Difrate attempt to find a way out; which is why ferent filmmakers, in the past, have employed Sono Sion is not visibly an auteur. For his films varying compartments of their personality in are not consistent in their formal tendencies, the past to make their films; their films have not because each new film is a distinct attempt at been as much about baring their entire soul, but finding a way out of the woods, a new attempt baring only a small part of it – a selection made to express his incomprehension. This explains not subconsciously, but through deliberation and why his filmography smacks more of diversity, dare I say, strategizes. It is for the same reason than of a consistent policy – his work is typical that all Fellini films are about a similar celebraof a cinema director who remains certain of his tion of the rustic Italy and its comparison to thematic or narrative concerns, but can never be modern Rome, or Tati’s films are their French loyal to a single aesthetic to articulate them. The versions. Or all Ghatak masterpieces are a yield key to understanding, and dare I say, appreciatof his stinging nostalgia for a lost land and a ing Sion’s work lies in acknowledgment of his bygone era. It is the experience of witnessing work being akin to firing machine gun bullets his sister become a geisha at a young age that in random directions, in the hope of hitting a Mizoguchi translates into the representation of target; instead of a sniper’s accurate placement women in his films. For Sono Sion, this feeling of the target in the centre of his crosshair. It is dissent, disagreement and disparity. remains, thus, virtually impossible to categorise him as a particular type of filmmaker. But would that suffice to categorise Sono Sion as a rebel; as is the normal tendency of the His first work in cinema, I am Sion Sono, cinephile – to romanticise a filmmaker as a remains the work of an artist unable, but by all opponent of a system, to declare him an advermeans unwilling, to choose between two distinct sary of the mainstream setup, and deem him the

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media of communication. The confusion which pervades through his filmography is evident even within his debut film, which has him reading poetry to a camera that records the act patiently. In that film, similar to news journalism’s use of the camera, the camera is not an aesthetic tool, but a technological tool. It is capable not of creation, but of documentation. Sion essentially uses the camera as a device of transmission, of creating an evidence of the existence of his poetry. By using himself as a model to read the poetry, he also establishes a visual authorship of the work; (also stripping the poem of any other context than the context of the poetry itself). The film’s other scenes have Sono feigning a movie love scene with a mannequin, letting a friend shave his hair off as he mimics a woman having an orgasm, and then, an animal getting slaughtered. Such things, in any film, cannot be planned.

has been to locate a method to best convey these impulses. He has devoted himself to locating a medium that helps him attain eloquence or lucidity. After 2001’s cult hit Suicide Circle (or in some circles, Suicide Club), he seems to have finally set his mind upon cinema. The film about a team of detectives investigating the reason behind widespread mass suicides that involve various young students taking their own lives is on the surface, a damning indictment of a decadent popular culture that strips people of their individualities and deprives them of a connection with their own consience. And yet, Sion’s film is as non-commital to making a statement one way or the other, much like he is in his interviews; because like all other films, it is a film that has arisen from an immediate impulse to address decay that pop leaves in its wake.

It would not be wrong to proclaim that much like his first film; Sono’s later films have been made out of the need to document an impulse, an urgent feeling - much like a thought that may dissipate if not recorded. Which is why most of his films are not winding contemplations on issues, but impulsive thoughts on them; they are non-committal towards the cause of addressing a problem, satisfying themselves with the mere act of mentioning it; and are prone to seeming as if they were created impromptu or that the entire film is ad-libbed. Sion’s films, thus, are as if they were created on the set. The camera was placed in one corner merely to be at the disposal of Sion, for him to record his next impulse. Therefore, not only at the broader scope of his filmography, but also at the much narrower scope of a single film, Sion is prone to contradicting himself. He may straddle various genres in the space of one film (Strange Circus is one part musical, one part comedy, one part revenge drama, one part tragedy, one part semi-porn and one-part suspense thriller), and allow his film to have an organic nature of its own – much like a creeper – that may grow on its own accord; instead of tying it down to a coherent pattern. Throughout his career as an artist, Sion’s struggle

But a film is created over a period of time, and unlike poetry, cannot be immediately recorded (or written down on a page of paper). For a filmmaker as precarious as Sion Sono, this long duration of time that a film takes to come into existence – from the germination of an idea in a human mind somewhere to the final projection on the screen – is the period of withdrawal of commitment. He disengages from the first impulse, and allows it to be replaced by the various succeeding ones during the time it takes to produce the film. Therefore, what begins as a film against a culture of depravation – ends up becoming a film that features sufficient depravity of its own. It is an ironic film, for Sono employs decadence to combat decadence. It is a film that cannot resist shots of blood being splattered everywhere in the vicinity each time a character jumps off a ledge and hits the ground. Or focussing in an extreme-close-up on a hand as its owner slices it into pieces. As a film that functions at the behest of its director’s impulsive decisions, Suicide Club begins as a mystery, and then, for a few sequences, becomes a horror film, before

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completely transforming into a Grand Guignol performance with grotesque performers and a scene of animal murder and rape being adorned by a rock ballad in an empty warehouse somewhere. Close to the end, the film turns into a philosophical inquiry into the misgivings of a popular culture, and an examination of the nature of an act of suicide. In the final analysis, the film is about nothing, and the film is about everything. Would it be ridiculous to label the plot convoluted? Yes. Because for the convolution of a plot to be possible, the plot has to exist in the first place. Consistency or coherence is not a Sion’s forte, and mostly, he is too wobbly a cinema director to maintain a single expression on his face – as if he is playing the prank on you, but is unsuccessful, because he cannot preserve the pokerface. Suicide Club begins much like a Kubrick satire (Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, Spartacus, A Clockwork Orange), films which are as much genre films as they are comments on the workings of the genre itself; with a overlying surface of general foolhardiness and revelry, which when scratched or probed into deeper, reveals a surface underneath that is plagued with relentless anger, incessant critique and a furious displeasure at the state of affairs – or at the pointlessness of authority (or an authoritative figure). It would not be unfair to call Sion Sono a distant cousin of Kubrick himself, who inherited the contempt for authoritative figures and a similar wit from the great American, but failed to

HE IS TOO WOBBLY A CINEMA DIRECTOR TO MAINTAIN A SINGLE EXPRESSION ON HIS FACE - AS IF HE IS PLAYING THE PRANK ON YOU, BUT CANNOT, BECAUSE HE CANNOT PRESERVE THE POKER FACE

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inherit the tenets of his meticulous method. For while Kubrick realised the potential of a satire to quickly become a self-parody, slip off the thin line it walked and become a farce; Sion Sono does not. Therefore, even as Kubrick painstakingly constructed each of his films, so as to preserve the curious balance between a satire and a farce, Sono’s impulsive filmmaking makes him fail that test quite often. It is for the same reason that even as Kubrick made a light-hearted black comedy with Dr. Strangelove, the undercurrent of livid sarcasm and anger remained undeniable; but with Suicide Club, Sono suffers from a tendency to be so fickle-minded about his own film, that the anger is prone to being diluted, purely because it is spread over so variable a schema. Suicide Club’s opening scene is much similar to the engaging climax of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, with scenes of horrifying and endless destruction (54 school girls jump under an oncoming metro in the former, and the world goes up in nuclear flames in the latter), played to the tune of a comforting soundtrack – as if mocking our own inability to laugh at ourselves, while consistently challenging us to laugh at the grotesque splatter – seen through not the conventional prism of sympathy, grief or tragedy, but through ridicule, and even, derision. It would not be wrong to say that Suicide Club is a Tarantino spoof of the brain-splatter genre; the only difference being that the there is a greater point than the spoof itself. It is this curious ability to preserve a cognizant and coherent stance, the potency of the original impulse; throughout the running time of a film that deems Sono’s 2005 uber-indie film, Hazard, different, if not superior to most of the rest of his work. It basis itself on the oft-repeated model of Fellini’s I Vitelloni, Bunuel’s Los Olvidados, and Scorsese’s Mean Streets; that of a collective youth of a group of friends, infected with confusion, and celebration of the confusion. Sion Sono re-contextualises the situation in his Super-16mm film, and transforms the film into a personal document about young Japanese attempting to locate his own identity and the identity of his race in the diverse social hierarchy that an international melting pot like New York presents. It parallels, interestingly, Sono’s own identity crisis as a filmmaker – who attempts to identify his own classification

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in the pantheon of world cinema directors. In that, in a minor manner, Hazard remains similar to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, where the lead protagonist’s search for a conclusive identity mirrors the film director’s inquiry into the nature of his own cinema, of the place of his own belonging in cinema itself. It remains a film where Sono manages to employ his filmmaking aesthetic, that of a handheld, and wildly mobile, grainy camera, to convey a sense of displacement, of the inability to remain static or engaged in one place forever. Therefore, the film works mostly in lead character Shin’s fantasies – for while he is Tokyo, he dreams of being in New York, and when he is in New York, he dreams of Tokyo. It is a film that works as a paradox thus, for even as it is Sono’s impulse that runs the film (much like his other films), he manages to protect the sanctity of a pre-determined scheme, of a calculated plan in action that allows his film to hurtle at breakneck speed towards a resolution, even as its characters aimlessly and purposelessly loiter around the streets of Harlem. It works as an oxymoron, thus, and even as the film ends, Sono makes no effort to assure us that Shin has reached his mythical place of redemption, that he calls, eponymously, Hazard. Sono uses a child to represent both Shin’s future – and his past. For in the past, the child is Shin himself, standing on a runway, rehearsing for a run that will help him take off to a flight to a far off land – a symbol of escape. And in other sequences, the child is Shin’s son, and thus his future, who is peculiarly enough, bruised, and bandaged, and talks about his father in the past tense. By using a similar symbol (the child) for both Shin’s past and his future, Sono assures us of the eternality of Shin’s feeling of displacement – not promising us a bright future, but at the same time, letting us still anticipate it’s oncoming. Interestingly enough, Hazard features a characteristic typical of the Sion filmography – a montage right in the middle of the film, that trascends the basic constraints set by the narrative and enables the film to reach a level of relevance higher (whether that is important for Sion Sono, I am not sure) than a normal film – the point at

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which it moves beyond the genre clichÊs and having invited the viewer into a comfortable position, thus allowing them to settle in their chairs, assured in their knowledge of the predictability of the film; reveals that the comfort is false and the challenge is greater than following a series of plot points. In Suicide Circle , the montage in the middle suddenly transforms the film from being a J-horror film with blood and gore to a damning indictment of pop culture. In Hazard, in an act that mirrors the sequence in I am Sono Sion, Sion has his lead character read Walt Whitman’s poetry as his friend, who has recommended it, recontextualises it in a shot that places him in front of the New York skyline(right), thus establishing their detachment from the rest, as also the suffering that they have in common with the rest.

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long time ago storytellers gathered their audience around a fire and spun tales. They described details so that eager listeners could start to form mental images of heroes and foreign lands. Books took the place of the storyteller and resulted in readers having to rely on their own imagination to fire up mental images based on the written word. While some authors described things in enough detail so as to assist memory formation in readers, others left some aspects for readers to fill in by firing up their neurons. Then came film. Images before one’s eyes. Silent films at first, then films accompanied with music and finally words. Audience could then soak in the images and store what they saw while letting words filter in through their ear drums.

SACHIN GANDHI REMINISCES ABOUT A REAL LIFE PARALLEL TO THE PERVERT LEAD PROTAGONIST IN SION SONO’S LOVE EXPOSURE.

A film’s images, words and music have become a collective part of audience’s lives and often some images stay longer in people’s psyche than others. Some images are tied to a film to such an extent that if one sees a similar image in another movie, the image may evoke memories of the original film. For example, a woman taking a shower and then an image

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of an approaching knife. Surely, Hitchcock! It is safe to say not many people have come across such an image in their own lives or known someone who had to undergo the trauma of a knifing while in the vulnerable naked state of bathing. But that particular Hitchcock image is engrained in people’s minds, just like many others from various films. Sometimes the reverse can happen as well where one happens to draw upon an image or memory from real life on seeing a film. And when that happens, there is the danger of observing the film from a subjective angle because a person might view everything on film via their own life’s lens. Such a personal reading of the film can potentially enhance a viewing experience or ruin the work.

Yu, the main character, then learns the tricks and becomes an ace panty picture taker before leading a band of followers himself.

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hion Sono’s Love Exposure is a fascinating film that contains many memorable images but I never expected that it would trigger personal memories. About 30 minutes into the film, we come across the teacher, Master Lloyd, who trains his pupils to use kung-fu like techniques to snap pictures up girl’s skirts.

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39 71 55 7 46 METHODS OF A PERVERT Yu reminded me of a guy, A.K, I knew in my South Delhi high school. A.K’s reputation of a skirt peeper developed from his self proclaimed claims of having seen up the skirt of every girl in our class prior to day’s end in order to determine the colour of their panties. A.K’s methods were unclear because he never gave away any details. On the contrary, Love Exposure showed us several possible techniques which Yu uses to carry out his activities. Some of these tactics are:

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fully.

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unchucks with attached cameras -images are captured by the camera as the nunchuck is operated skill-

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camera attached on a retractable string -- the camera is swung out with force

remote controlled car with a camera attached on the car’s roof -- pictures are snapped as the car speeds between the girl’s legs.

...and retracted instantly before the victim becomes aware of the camera.

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946 56 Yu’s success could easily be proved after the pictures were examined. On the other hand, there was no real method to verify A.K’s claims. When queried about his methods, his answers were partially mysterious or dismissive. He refused to give away his secrets but simply said he was an expert. Once when pushed harder to give some details, he took out a tiny eraser which had a mirror glued to one side. His claims and lack of evidence often led to a debate about whether he was a clear liar or if he was telling the truth. Both A.K and Yu gathered followers, albeit by different means. Yu developed a following because his friends saw him in action. Yu then trained his friends to use his methods and his fans were able to match his level of picture taking and one of them even managed to outdo Yu and win a bet to produce the best photo. On the other hand, A.K’s words alone were enough to accumulate subjects and he never divulged his methods even to his fans. It is hard to pinpoint the reasons that led A.K to make his claims because not much was known about him as he mostly kept to himself but the few pieces of available information were his love for soccer (he was a brilliant dribbler), appreciation for Bruce Lee films (he was the only person in class to own a pair of nunchucks) and a general disdain of authority. School uniform rules required

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a shirt to be tucked in, but one hardly ever found him following that simple rule. Perhaps A.K was looking for fame in making his claims, but Yu’s reasons for his actions were driven by the need to get close to his father, Tetsu, after his mother’s death. In the movie, Tetsu turns towards religion by becoming a priest and then when an affair with another woman fails, he gives himself completely to the Church and leaves home, thereby alienating Yu. During Yu’s visits to the church, Tetsu demands that Yu confess his sins and is angered when Yu has nothing to confess. Yu gradually starts lying about his sins but decides it would be easier to commit real sins as opposed to making up lies. So Yu willingly falls into bad company and starts shoplifting and fighting. After Yu has committed real sins, he freely confesses to his father who forgives him. So Yu continues sinning and runs to confession every day. When one of his new found gang friends suggests that priests find obscenity highly offensive, Yu agrees to meet Master Lloyd in order to escalate his sin level. Yu confesses his panty picture actions to his father but Tetsu is sickened by his son’s behavior and slaps him in disgust. The slap makes Yu believe that he has finally gotten his father back and he throws himself with full gusto on the path of obscenity in the hopes of getting even closer to his father. Yu only changes his ways after he comes across

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THERE WERE NO DIGITAL CAMERAS IN MY SCHOOL DAYS, BUT IF THEY DID, A.K. MIGHT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PUT HIS NANCHUKS AND BRUCE LEE FILMS TO USE.


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39 71 57 7 46 out until I managed to get my foot to the ball and guided it into the top corner to score a goal. I got all the congratulations but A.K was the architect. Yet he walked away from all the players with his head down, all by himself. That was the last time I ever saw him because I left school a few days later.

Yoko, his “Maria”, the woman of his dreams. Yu falls head over heels in love with Yoko and is willing to do anything to gain her love, even giving up his wrong acts. Interestingly, A.K also changed his ways when he fell in love with a girl (R.S). He stopped his claims of looking up skirts and tucked his shirt in. However, A.K’s story was far more simpler than the story tackled by Love Exposure, as the film’s story touched on religion, temptation, sin, discipline, bloody murder, body part dismemberments, fights, deaths and madness before a final resolution. Whereas, the

real life story of A.K was left unresolved. When I left high school and India, A.K did not get R.S. Since R.S was one of the most popular girls in school, one of her numerous suitors managed to win her heart instead. Despite his heartbreak, A.K did not return to his old ways but instead withdrew into a shell. His followers disappeared slowly and he became more silent and kept to himself even more than before. My last memory of him was on a soccer pitch. With time running out in a game tied 2-2, he dribbled past a few players and fired a shot towards the top corner of the goal. However, the ball curved away from the goal and was heading

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There were no digital or cell phone cameras back in my high school days when A.K made his claims but if digital cameras and Love Exposure existed almost two decades ago, then maybe A.K might have been able to put his nunchucks and his love of Bruce Lee films to use in taking snapshots of panties that he so lovingly talked about. A.K’s words, true or not, became a part of my memory that lay hidden until Sion’s film unearthed them. The almost 4 hour film contains plenty of unforgettable scenes (be they funny, gory or uncomfortable) but it is safe to say that the sequences that will stay with me the longest over time will be the hilarious techniques used to obtain the pictures because they managed to mesh with a real life story.


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DREAMING IN THE DARKNESS

by SAGORIKA SINGHA

What can you pen down after an unsettling piece of work transports you to the murky underside of the very basest, sinistral emotions, instances, feelings? It floats in utter oblivion; it does not mean it was not there, it does not mean it had a pronounced presence either. It exists in the ‘somewhere-betweens’.

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riting anything on Sion Sono is difficult because he exists in layers, not fragile and nimble, rather adhered to the opposite of every maxim. Watching his three films- ‘Love Exposure’, ‘Noriko’s Dinner Table’ and finally ‘Strange Circus’ one after the other, left an aftertaste that had been, to be very honest, too difficult to give a name to. Absurd, beautiful, stupefying, banal, erotic, pervert, honest, over-the-top a crazy concoction and an equally unexpected journey all his three films had successfully maintained. Whether you would like to join in again, is entirely your wish. If all the three films mentioned are stripped

off layer by layer, they are essentially dealing with the way the world is, the personal world, all the more. The story inside the closed doors, when one is not entertaining anyone. Yu Honda, the seventeen year old protagonist of ‘Love Exposure’, Yoko, Koike, Noriko, Kumiko, Tetsu, (Noriko’s Dinner Table), Mitsuku, Sayuri- they are the drivers of the stories Sono narrates, they are its life. Twisted, hard to define, different they are. Misfits, but they are also ordinary because they desire the basic. That does not mean Sono is just making character driven stories- his narrative, imagery, mise-en-scene, everything enmeshes into a serenely disturbing stance.

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watched him chronologically in the opposite order, beginning with his quite recent box office hit and a staggering four and half hours long self- proclaimed romcom, Love Exposure. A melange of its kind, it is an exhaustive exercise watching this marathon that includes so much of everything of the absurd and the absurdly sublime. Love, religion, patriarchy, incest, pornography, cult, transvestism are just a few of the many . Unsettling, undecipherable, a parable of the quirkiest kind, Sono baffles with the narration, it’s the byproduct of the collision of opposites - the perverts and the religious, the cult and the regular, the extremes and the ordinary. But it is not condemning one by redeeming the other, it is definitely not supporting a particular ideology, nor is it a commentary, it is simply showing the personal interpretation after given a form, in this case Sono’s. He shows real people who are misfits in this otherwise overtly normal world. He puts it to us, least concerned about its affect, our reaction; he does not make the conscious effort either to love him or to hate. However, Love Exposure, which actually built so much of interest, let me down at the end. I took me two evenings to follow the trail left by Sono in this film. 237 minutes is a long time. The film evolved, so did my evenings.

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he next film to follow was his family-dramaunlike-any-other-family-drama, ‘Noriko’s Dinner Table’. Every time I think about the film, the picture perfect family picture comes to mind, ironically shot among a cactus park. This family story seemed to address the regular issue of failure to communicate of the adolescents with the family, particularly the patriarch. Sono devises gruesome method of fighting it. In both the two stories, the demarcation between the evil and the good protagonists was well defined and he kinds of provide with a background establishing the foundation of the angst that materialises into the inhumane human. Like Kumiko in this film who is so much turns into the actor she plays that nothing of the person remains. People like her give hope for a dystopia. Human beings shield themselves under the blanket of lie so well that they fail realise the extent of the damage until it’s too late. Sono chooses issues which are universal at its core but he makes a blatant presentation. The themes that Sono deals with are not something not mightily explored, Sono just makes them gothically appealing, it disturbs so achingly, beautifully that its sheer rawness draws you. It makes you feel sad and dreary to realise that the inner world and demons are may be not so properly wrapped and covered

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after all, there is always the possibility that the fester will finally spread its odour. Subdued in treatment, compared to ‘Love Exposure’ but stronger in its appeal was ‘Noriko’s Dinner Table’. The common thread that tied Sono’s presentation was the role of fathers in both the films. The father in both the films has been shown as strict, very much playing the role of a ‘provider and protector’ but to what cost? You are left alone to think and discover.

HUMAN BEINGS SHIELD THEMSELVES UNDER THE BLANKET OF LIE SO WELL THAT THEY FAIL REALISE THE EXTENT OF THE DAMANGE UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE.

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ono is a poet. His films carry indelible traces of his poetic side. The third watch was the oldest of the three films, ‘Strange Circus’. He employs a clever mean to tell a story, juxtaposes a lot of beautiful, haunting imageries to tell his darkest tale and probably, also the saddest with most colour, predominantly red. Opulent is the right word. The circus goes on, the players play their part. The film lives in dreams, the characters dream, coalesing it with the real, leaving the viewer guessing, or may be making them a part of it. A twisted tale with twisted people and with an even more twisted end, ‘Strange Circus’, though equally disturbing or may be even more, binds with its opulent surrounding, a story within a story. Its compact unlike ‘Love Exposure’ and yes definitely deals with lesser arenas but with equal pizzaz. Red, blood is red. Incest is the core in this one. Another taboo topic, closet activity gets its veil lifted. Even here another pivotal role was again the father figure. His stories are a shill, turning the audience into the land manifested by these dark ideas. The inchoate afterthoughts take time to succumb to the airlessness. The dark existence devised by the kook is sure to shock the audience. I failed to watch his Suicide Club, one of his most famous (infamous) work categorised

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in the J horror genre. Noriko’s is a supposed sequel. It repeats few scenes from the former. The first shot of the 54 girls with the air of playfulness, committing suicide at the Shinjuku station one august evening, with the blood splashed across the rest of the commuters, is devastatingly disturbing, creepy. Sad, not in the profound manner, but momentarily it kills an infinitesimal portion of the dreamer’s world. It is not about the images and incidents alone but something more intrinsic, that is terrifying. Celebrating perversion with over the top gimmicks, the utilisation of imageries is also his strong forte. The Honda family in Love Exposure crushed under the burden of ‘cross’ Noriko’s father dreaming about his daughters whom he believes to be a part of the suicide club, in the displayed like some animals in the zoo, Noriko imagining the unknown virtual friends who were simply shadows, but the greatest of his feat was to be discovered in Strange Circus, the squeaky carousel, the cello cover, the Circus itself.

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final

NOTE

To write about him requires no sophistry, though I just badly attempted at one. Sino would be best understood when he is watched, observed. Selfreflecting on his work, just watching him, sitting with the head clustered with the fresh images and the classical music in the background. Looking at Yu, Noriko,Koike, Yoko, Tetsu, Mitsuku, all the characters hailing from the same place, meet and tell you more stories, never giving away anything more, by the way. You are sucked into a parochial vacant space. Then I stopped reflecting, smiled, like Noriko in the final scene, to become myself again. These were simply characters, and I had only been dreaming.


Polish film posters, handdrawn and interpretations of the film, rather than its summarisation - borrow their aestheic from Polish war pamphlets and banners which were calls to arms in the 40s.

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CINEMA& ETHICS FROM THE VAULT

SAUMYANANDA SAHI

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film is like an ecosystem: it works best when all its parts are in a balanced relationship. It is not as mechanical as a clock, which also has parts in relationship that when oiled and moved work together to show the time. The difference is that an eco-system has parts that are both autonomous to some degree (i.e. free) as well as dependent on one another (for food, reproduction and in the case of humans, meaning). It is possible for guppies to over-breed as well as for human beings to kill off a whole species of birds and making them extinct, though the eco-system as a whole continually struggles to maintain the balance. The creation of a film, I am going to argue, is like a sub-system of this larger eco-system in which we all exist, and has parts and relationships contained within its context. One of these parts, and a very important one, is the audience. Unless a film is seen, it is nothing more than celluloid, a MiniDV tape, or a DVD. It is only when both the creators as well as the viewers make the film their own that it begins to live in their imaginations. It is because of this that I feel a film can never and should never be made by one person alone. The medium is more than personal: it is public and personal. As with the landscape painters before CÊzanne, I feel there should always be a space somewhere within a film that is open, that is an invitation – a point of entry. The best films are left incomplete – they need to be filled, and depend on the other to do this. These are the films that acknowledge the different histories, associations and psychologies that each person inevitably brings with

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52 66 them towards the act of seeing, and encourage the audience not to be passive but active. These films make the viewers use the colour palettes of their own lives to fill in the empty spaces, to connect the missing links, and guess towards its ending. Thus, each viewer participates as a filmmaker and as a dreamer too, and finds the truth of the film through their own involvement. (Although the above argument is obvious when it comes to the use of a medium and is by no means particular to film, I am extending it to talk about the content as well.) Orson Welles said about his own work, “I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won’t contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theatre meaning: when it becomes a social act.” A few years ago I attended a workshop given by Mohsen Makhbalbaf, and he said that if there was any form of fascism that was still thriving in the world today, it was filmmaking. This comment has troubled me greatly, because I have found more instances to support Makhbalbaf’s claim than I had hoped. Even the great humanist filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky were ruthless when it came to getting what they wanted from their actors and crew. Cinema seems to be realized by the (capitalist) idea that everything is a means to an end, and the end – whether it be the screen or your bank-account – is what is most

FROM THE VAULT

important. If it is necessary to lie to a little boy and tell him that his grandmother died so that he cries on camera for a particular scene, Makhbalbaf advised us all that we should. These instances are masked under the term ‘techniques’ instead of being acknowledged for what they really are: outright manipulation. Hollywood and Bollywood filmmakers take this manipulation to the level of a profession: it is a rule of thumb within the industry. Directors want to get the most out of every person who works for them, while paying them the absolute minimum. Plagiarism is rampant, and bigger directors like to hire a group of young aspiring filmmakers as if it were a favor, and then see how much they can get out of them while paying them a mere stipend. However, at least there is an honesty (however perverse!) to this form of professional manipulation. I think it is far worse when an independent director who doesn’t have the money but has ample amounts of ‘passion’ and ‘ideas’ tries to both manipulate and underpay his crew while convincing them that it is for some greater good, for some magnificent dream. While I would define the manipulation of the film industry as merely capitalist, I would call the manipulation of the director with a dream truly fascist. In film theory, in the 1950s, there emerged a more masked and timid word for this: the director with a dream was to be called an ‘auteur’. The so called ‘auteur theory’ (first propagated by the

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Cahiers du Cinema) upholds the view that a director’s films reflect the director’s personal creative vision, and that the director is truly the ‘author’ of a film in the same way that a writer is the author of a book. In law, the auteur is the creator of a film as a work of art, and is the original copyright holder. Some exceptions are made, and film producers might also be allowed to call themselves authors, or at least co- authors, of a particular film they have worked on. Recently the ASC (the American Society of Cinematographers) was trying to ensure that the Director of Photography also gets credited as a co-author, because the


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Walter Murch in his editing suite cinematographer plays such a crucial role in the realization of a film. But why stop there? Isn’t a script-writer also deserving of the credit of being a co-author? And what did the sound designer do to deserve being omitted from the list? And what about the production designer? And the lighting technicians? The editor? Are not all of these people also responsible for the way a film gets made, and what reaches the audience in the end? To return to where I began – a film is like an eco-system, and works best when all its parts are in a balanced relationship.

Filmmakers look to the world as well as towards their collaborators to fuel and channel their creativity, and there is a certain amount of symbiosis (i.e., as Heinrich Anton de Bary defined it, “the living together of unlike organisms”). To demonstrate the nature of the process, Walter Murch uses the analogy of ‘the game of twenty negative questions’, which was first invented by John Wheeler. It is very similar to the usual game of ‘twenty questions’, in which one person leaves the room while the remaining people decide on an object that is to be guessed in fewer than twenty yes/no questions by the same person when he/she re-enters. However,

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in Wheeler’s version of the game, when the person leaves the room the remaining people do not agree together on an object, but silently choose one individually for themselves. The person who re-enters the room assumes that everyone else are in agreement about the object to be guessed by him, and so continues to ask his/her questions as if it was just a normal game of twenty questions. With each question and answer the people in the room have to re-think the object they had chosen to fit the new considerations, and so a complex vortex of ifs and thens is set up, spiraling in, hopefully, on one object


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which fits all the qualities affirmed or denied of it during the game. However, it can all break down catastrophically if one of the people in the room fails to find an object that ‘fits’ and answer the next question – thus letting in the ‘objective’ person who is guessing – the one who left the room and is now asking the questions – on the fact that no one actually knows what the ‘object’ is until they have found it. Walter Murch argues that in the making of a film, the script forms the basis and the framework for the game, but no one knows how it is to be interpreted and put into images and sounds. Each of the people working on the film assume that the others know, and are constantly modifying their preconceptions of the film in relation to how someone else is acting or to what colours the set designer uses, indeed in relation to each and every decision that is taken. Unfortunately the ‘director’ has a particularly difficult job here because he/she must re-assure the cast and crew that their efforts are headed somewhere, and pretend to know each and every step that must be taken in reaching there. I am not saying that the director is just as clueless as the spot boy about any given scene, but rather that the director is only guessing towards something and is not someone who ‘knows’, and the spot boy may have a different point of view about a certain scene which could enrich (and in the hands of a good director

will enrich) the completed film. This end product always tends to be a surprise, a new thing, even though it was made through a strange mixture of logic and instinct. A film does not belong to any one person; it is the result of working together and so belongs to everyone involved, and to the audience too. A tree belongs no more to the person who planted the seed than it does to those who water it, to the earth in which it stands and draws nourishment from, or to the air which rustles through its leaves. However, while the analogy of the eco-system provides us with a way of approaching and relating to film, it nevertheless has its limitations. With an eco-system it is difficult to pinpoint an end or a goal that motivates the parts to work together. Of course, as I have already mentioned, we can certainly see the concerns of health, survival, reproduction or meaning manifesting themselves in the need for relationship, but the fact remains that when a group of people get together to make a film they are endeavoring on something far more clearcut and unambiguous – indeed, the creation of a film! The process is geared towards that end, and everyone involved is grasping for different means to aid them in achieving it. This is why I mentioned that filmmaking is a microcosm, and has the possibility of ends and completeness within it. My argument, however, is that these ends can never become a justification for the means, for

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that would lead us to a very destructive form of superstition that believes in the transcendental necessity of its goal. The shortest and most effective route would thus become the best, whatever suffering or manipulation it may entail on others. I completely disagree with such an attitude, especially in the case of art, because indeed what real, indispensable necessity do we have to paint or make films? Is art that important that we may kill others (to take the most extreme example) in order to produce it? Indeed what in the world can be so important to ever, ever justify such means in order to attain it? In all our aspirations and efforts, I hold that the means we choose and the path we take must, must be consistent with the fact that we are human beings living with other human beings within an environment and a culture, and that there is a connection between others and ourselves. As in the case of an eco-system, there must be harmony for it to be healthy as a whole. However, by saying this I do not mean to dismiss the importance of ends and goals! Indeed, without them a film will never be made nor will a tree grow and sprinkle its roots with blossom. These ends are contingent and impermanent, but it is in these that we find real involvement


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and meaning. Constantine P. Cavafy has written a remarkable poem in which he tells his readers that if they seek the perfection of a land like Ithaka, home of Odysseus, they should all look forward to a long journey. He hopes that the reader will wake up to “many summer mornings when, / with what pleasure, what joy, / you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time.” In the end, when and if you ever reach Ithaka, you will thus be already so rich with experiences that you will not expect Ithaka to make you wealthy. Cavafy goes on to conclude, “And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you. / Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, / you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.” I find Cavafy’s words so profound that I am extremely hesitant to interpret them here to mean anything about film, as that would be a parasitic cleverness of my own that would reduce the poem to something it is not. However, I do find that filmmaking is, as most things in our lives, a journey, and that there is great significance within the journey itself, even in those rare instances when there is none at the end of it. Our reward is most often not in the treasures we seek to find, but in the experiences we live in trying to find them. Nevertheless, we must not forget the reason, the goal – for that was indeed the beginning.

Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris) once said that we human beings are different from donkeys in attitude, and also superior, because we are rational enough to walk in a straight line when we want to get somewhere. For donkeys, if left to themselves, have a tendency to stray off the path, to linger at a rubbish dump, to doze in the shade of a tree. However, Olivier Toutain, who is a cityplanner, said that this is exactly where Le Corbusier went wrong. Olivier Toutain was ready to support the attitude of the donkey as equally, if not more, valuable than Reason, and which unfortunately has been very neglected by our species.

For as I said at the beginning of this essay, unless it is seen a film is nothing more than celluloid, a MiniDV tape, or a DVD. It is only with the participation of the viewer that a film lives, and continues to live long after they walk out of the theatre in their memories. It is for this reason that Peter Brook called the audience a kind of concave lens that was responsible for the finite source of meaning (the art object, or art experience) to be refracted and amplified infinitely in all kinds of different ways. The completed film is like a tree in full bloom, and the viewers are like the bees, squirrels and birds that are attracted by its nectar and fragrance.

I think it is a great misconception to see the completion of a film as something we must hurry towards and do quickly in the most economical and rational way. Of course there are limitations of time and space and means (both in terms of input as well as financial support) – but just because our lives are surrounded by a latticework of limits it does not mean that we should not meander and loiter and take interest in some ants on the path or a kite dipping in the sky. Indeed, we can do all those things and more while still filling our bellies and procreating and other such-likes! Further and moreover, I think it is also a misconception to think that the finished, physical product of a film is its end.

When talking about the process of filmmaking itself I think it is best to compare it to a game of chess – for you play it within a set of given frameworks or rules. One of these is that there are two sides – the makers and the viewers. Added to this are the producers and distributors who provide the board and pieces for the game and the space in which it is to be played. Most people today seem to be playing the game of filmmaking according to the rules of capital – which are the rules of means and ends, self-interests and manipulation. However, I would want (and sincerely hope that it is possible) to play the game with the rules of non-violence, objective fairness and

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ethics. By ethics I mean our basic human-ness – our need to depend on and exist with each other, while inheriting and passing on a culture that we change and add to through the course of our lives. Moving further into the chess analogy, I would like to add that the side playing white – the filmmakers, who make the first move – are not inherently unified, but a conglomerate of individuals who have somehow got together with a common interest. These people have to organize themselves so that they make the right moves and thus involve the audience in something more than just a dolling out of chance. Further, the filmmakers have to play a game against an infinite number of people all at once – and while one side is a team, the other side is not! Their game, therefore, has to be open to differences and cater to the possibility of interpretations. The moves are not haphazard or random – they are planned, premeditated to an extent, and have hopes and patterns embedded within them. If both sides play well, there is interaction and each of the viewer’s moves, though unpredictable, are still in response to the moves of the filmmakers. The strangest thing about the game is that it is not about winning or losing, but about enjoyment and meaning. It has no ending, but lasts as long as the interest sustains.

I am very curious as to how it is that the filmmakers stay together in this endeavor, and save themselves from falling apart. I see a necessary sense of teamwork here, and as with most team sports, there is a need for a captain. This captain is a person who knows the game and plays it, and he unifies his teammates so that each does his best, each can have his solo, but within a certain scaffolding. The captain has a certain ideology, method or strategy that is to then guide, contain and motivate all the players in the team. It is important to note that this ideology or method is no more than a plan, and is flexible – it depends on how far it seems to be working, on the moves of the other team, and the conditions/limitations in which each particular game is played. I do feel that it is best when the team is small and there is more communication between each of its members, enabling the director to have a very personal relationship with as many of his team members as possible. Only, I would want to stress over and over again that the director is also a part, not someone above the whole process. The director depends on the involvements of others – of the producers, of the cast and crew, and of the audience. The least a director can do is to respect this collaboration of others, and acknowledge it. Here, finally, we come back to a question raised very early on in this essay: who takes credit

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for the completed work? And who owns it? And why? Indeed, I think the very question is a fallacy – for it assumes that some form of copyright should actually exist. How can we chain anchors to clouds in the sky, or build fists to clench the currents of the sea? Ideas are not made of matter to belong and be held by some particular person alone. There is a famous analogy to demonstrate this: If you and I have one apple each and we exchange, we will both continue to have one apple each. But if you and I have one idea each and we exchange, we will both be left with two! When we are born, we do not come into the world equipped with a complete set of innate ideas. Throughout our lives we inherit, perceive, distort, mix and pass on ideas of various kinds. We are all active participants within culture, and add to it. Immanuel Kant argues that Reason often deceives herself about the novelty of her knowledge in taking it for her own child, whereas actually it is nothing but the bastard of the imagination fathered by experience. Even if we feel that certain ideas are our children, we have to let them go. For a child is a part of and belongs to the world, and deserves better than to be locked up in the cellar by over-protective and possessive parents. (My mother once told me that being a parent was all about having the strength to let go, while also equipping the


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eason often deceives herself about the novelty of her knowledge in taking it for her own child, whereas actually it is nothing but the bastard of the imagination fathered by experience.

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child with a good lunch-box of memories, skills and attitudes to draw sustenance from on their journey into life.) Furthermore, a film is not the child of one or two parents, but of a whole team – the growing up and going out of the film is something everyone should have a hand and a say in. The Marxist critics have been very interested in the link between art and society, and add to the above argument by saying that ‘creativity’ is never merely an individual affair. The idea that a work of art was related to ‘genius’ or ‘talent’ is indeed a surprisingly recent invention, dating back perhaps to no earlier than the Renaissance in the west. It most probably emerged alongside the capitalist theory that saw the ‘human potential’ as something to be capitalized on. Social institutions began to slowly pick out important individual ‘artists’ to be the standard against which others are judged or compared – be they poets (such as Dante), or sculptors and painters (such as Michaelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci). These individuals came to be regarded as superhuman, and were to be honored as creators on whom the whole culture depended. The founders of the banking system, like the Medici of Florence, probably added to this trend by pricing the artworks according to the ‘name’ of the artist. Paintings had to be made ‘valuable’ and therefore rare for the bankers and others

to invest in them. Thus what becomes highly ‘priced’ (or the art that is put in galleries and exhibitions and is hoarded up in private collections) is hyped by a whole latticework of art-critics, art-education, the media, etc. – all of which and all of whom, whether aware or not aware of this, are co-conspirators in this larger capitalist effort. My brother, Kiran Sahi, has always said that each and every one of the artists who made it big in a way wanted to and struggled to – there may be many other artists equally ‘talented’ and ‘skilled’ who chose to be quiet and modest about their work, and so never became known. I would add that even if the artists themselves didn’t want to make it big – I am sure there are examples of artists who became great symbols and ‘stars’ without any ambition to be such – it is because society (and all of us within it) do want big names, movements, martyrs and meaning. We find it very hard to do this without putting up examples on a pedestal as our heroes, as unstable stabilizations of what we value most. However, it is not that I want to ignore the real worth of our heroes. Even in this essay I have quoted people – like Immanuel Kant, Constantine P. Cavafy, Walter Murch, my father, and some of my friends – and this in itself is a kind of hyping of importance, of drawing on a value system that favors some over others. We do need to acknowledge the

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giants on whose shoulders we stand, and to give them names, in order to justify how high we are standing and how far we may see. I would like to add that the naming of some people as ‘greats’, while definitely a form favoritism, is nevertheless based on very real set of criteria – some people are more skilled in ways which others are not. After all Immanuel Kant did write the Critique of Pure Reason, just as Constantine P. Cavafy did write a remarkable poem called Ithaka. However, I am not saying that these people are the only ones who had that idea of theirs either. This is not to belittle my friends or my family, or any of the people I mention – I am greatly indebted to them all, because they understood a certain idea themselves and then were able to put it across to me (and to others) in such a way that I was inspired and affected. This is a real skill to have, and a skill that is priceless. The people I quote, and the people I feel are great, are the people who have changed me. Not for a moment do I doubt that there are many others who I have not had the pleasure of hearing or knowing, and that there are many other great people who may not even be acknowledged – for there may be many who never got a chance to even voice their ideas to the public, or they may be those who live their understanding rather than diluting it with words. There may be still others who have ideas and are creative, but don’t feel the urge to share it with others. When it comes to


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all these people and the rest and those who I meet and interact with, I always remember Graham Greene’s words – “Never judge a man according to what he is, but according to what he could have been.” In other words, try not to judge a man at all! My problem is not with heroes, but with the clever bankers and institutions behind them. I have a problem with the people who catch hold of heroes and put a price tag on them. I have a problem with the institutions that claim ‘copyright’ of something that actually belongs to the public, and use their trump cards to dismiss and belittle the achievements of other people. I have a problem with the people who chain up our heroes as well as our art, and then try to ticket the public if they want to go and see them. I have been thinking about the great teachers like Buddha and Jesus, and how despite the fact that their whole philosophy seems to be about the caring and loving of the other, they have become ends in themselves – they have become institutionalized, become crystal and pure, and so petrified into stone. The Church seems to think that it is more important than Christ because it is not just a person but an organization. I am sure that if there is ever to be a Second Coming, the Church would be in shambles because it would not be able to handle the intensity of that creative (and seemingly

irrational, disorderly) impulse towards the other, and would either want to get rid of him or undermine him or hide him, or otherwise face their own utter dissolving. However, religion has nevertheless provided a context for art over the ages, and a context that allows the artist to be personally involved and yet not be egoistic. Strangely, in this respect, the fact that it has become institutionalized has helped, because it takes care of that otherwise extremely problematic issue of money and funding. The Church, though censoring all things it doesn’t agree with and only supporting Christian artworks, has nevertheless been an extremely important patron of creativity. (As an aside, I was surprised to find how accurately the word patron describes this form of sponsorship. Patron is derived from the Latin ‘patronus’ or protector, and ‘pater’ or father. In ancient Rome, a patron was somebody who had given a slave his/her freedom but still retained some rights over them.) What I want to stress here, however, is that the artist was working not for himself but for God or society as a whole. In his book ‘My Name is Red’, Orhan Pamuk tells us that in Islamic miniature painting a signature (not only of the name, but even of the style) was considered to be an imperfection. All painters had to aspire towards God’s eye, and therefore had a completely metaphorical use of space. The plot of the novel,

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39 71 73 7 46 in a way, revolves around the ‘threat’ posed to the traditional miniature-painters by the Renaissance invention of perspective, which depicted the world of the painting as seen from the eye of the individual artist. This was considered to be against God, as it put the human being in the centre of the universe whereas art was supposed to be a form of prayer and a reaching towards the divine. I find the ideas of ‘objectivity’ and ‘seeing from the eyes of God’ highly questionable, as they make us impose (illusory) structures and definitions on a world that is actually fluid. Jean Baudrillard talks about what he calls ‘hyper-reality’ which is perhaps what one might call the ‘pure gaze’ – objectivity liberated from the object. Here we have the perspective of the miniature-painters combined with the perspective of the Renaissance painters. It is an art that is no longer dream or fantasy, but the real’s hallucinatory resemblance to itself. What I gather from this is that subjectivity is not to be taken as completely unreal. The colouring of metaphor, framing and paint, while definitely being a contribution of the writer/artist to the world he/she sees, is nevertheless a part of that world – a response and an effect at the same time. It is a hand in the blur.


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Coming back to the selflessness of art when within the context of religion, however, I would like to briefly talk about the building of the great temples in India and cathedrals in the West. To me, these represent the true immensity and power of people coming together and constructing a home for both God and the arts. It is said that at one point the Cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. However, according to the legends, the news spread and it was not long before people from all corners of Europe and from all walks of life began to travel towards and congregate at those ruins. The legends go on to say that these people began to collectively re-build the Cathedral on the same ancient foundations. They stayed and lived there until the immense building was completed: architects, workmen, artists, jugglers, nobles, prelates, and also ordinary middle-class people. Their names were unknown, and even today there is no record of who actually built the Chartres Cathedral. Ingmar Bergman, who, through his writings first informed me of this wonder, was moved immensely by its example. Indeed, he went on to write, “Without saying that this should cause you to prejudice my beliefs or my doubts – which in this case are not important – I think

that art lost its significance to life at the moment it separated itself from worship (religion). It broke the umbilical cord, and it lives its own separate life, surprisingly sterile, dulled and degenerated. Collective creativity, the humble anonymous man, are relics, forgotten and buried, destitute of value. My little griefs and moral stomach-aches are examined with a microscope sub specie aeternitatis. The fear of the dark that characterizes subjectivism and the scrupulous conscience has become the great thing, and we run finally into the dead-end where we argue with each other on the subject of our solitude, without any of us listening to the others or even noticing that we have pressed so close to one another as almost to die of suffocation. It is thus that the individualists see themselves in their own eyes, denying the existence of what they see and invoking the omnipotent obscurity, never testing, even once, the saving joys of community (working together).” Bergman, however, does not despair without hope, and neither does he shy away from those joys of community himself. (His work bears testimony to that!) The Cathedrals in Europe or the Temples in India were the ultimate focus point of a whole culture, and ‘belonged’ in a way to the community. It is this belonging

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that Bergman craves for and seeks in the world. We must ask ourselves whether the slow dying away of religion, especially in the West, has stripped us of the umbilical cord that Bergman speaks of, the umbilical cord that joined us to our belonging. Immanuel Kant felt that religion is not the source of morality or ethics in society, but the condition that is only possible if we are moral or ethical to begin with. Indeed, Kant argues, we must be moral in order to be even deserving of religion! Without morality, religion is nothing but superstition. Although many aspects of our world are highly immoral, violent and manipulative, I am still convinced that as long as we are to live within society and culture, we can never, never do away with ethics. If we all start killing each other, manipulating and cheating, and also distrust each other and see everyone except ourselves as enemies, it will not take long for us all to get wiped out. Ethics is a precondition for us to live together (as a family, as a community, as a species, as an eco-system) while both depending on as well as supporting one another. After all, as Bill Watterson had Calvin’s father say in his ever profound and entertaining comic book, “We are all someone else to someone else!” If two people are fighting


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and one of them surrenders, there is no saying whether the stronger one will stop hitting or even killing the weaker one. Animals have an instinctive restraint which human beings seem to have lost, and we rely instead on culture, on value systems and the fear of punishment to restrain ourselves. I think art and education are (or can be) the lead players in passing on this second skin, this socialized gene – and stress the basic, practical, rational need for ethics. Equally, however, art and education can be the most manipulative, powerful and violent mechanisms of control – not physical control, but control over what people eventually internalize and begin to believe. Art has the capabilities of both infiltration as well as pollution. Suggestive violence in films (especially, I think, of rape) is the worst crime against society, because it puts up an example that could excite a viewer who is prone to being violent, and encourage him to go out and do something similar. Art is a framing of life that is put up on show, for the public to see. With this there has to be a necessary sense of responsibility, both towards the process as well as towards the content of the final product. While artists and filmmakers certainly have the leeway to be playful and cannot be asked to account for each and every thing they say or do, I think it is still necessary for the artist/filmmaker him/herself to begin with some kind of ethical framework. By this I mean a basic concern,

It is thus that the individualists see themselves in their own eyes, denying the existence of what they see and invoking the omnipotent obscurity, never testing, even once, the saving joys of community (working together)

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sensitivity and compassion for the other, whoever that other may be. We have to realize that it is rational and practical to be non-violent and tolerant of each other, and take this as the foundation for asking further questions, for experimentation, for invention, for relationship and dialogue. Richard Kearney argues that telling stories is as basic to us as eating. “More so, in fact, for while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living. They are what make our condition human.” It is only when haphazard happenings are transformed into story, Kearney argues, and thus made memorable over time, that we become full agents of our history. This becoming historical involves a transition from the flux of events into a meaningful social or political community – what Aristotle and the Greeks called a polis. Without this transition from nature to narrative, from time suffered to time enacted and enunciated, it is debatable whether a merely biological life (zoe) could ever be considered a truly human one (bios). Ultimately speaking, however, Carl Jung argues that the individual has no control over his/ her unconscious. In one sense the artist has no control over the creative process and what it eventually leads to either. Jung argues that the artwork, including the story, or what might be

called the poetic intuition, ‘arises’ and ‘takes possession’ of the creative person. The artwork is always greater, and as Bergman wished, does indeed belong to the whole community – perhaps even to the ‘collective unconscious’ of humanity. It is therefore not only difficult to say that this work belongs to this person (a point I think I have already argued about enough), but also to say that a work belongs to this or that time in history. The work of art, according to Jung, belongs not only to the whole community, but also to the whole of time. This is the really great work of art, which I suppose we could call the eruption of the unconscious into the conscious field. In the past, as Ananda Coomaraswamy points out, artists (like the prophets) were thought of as ‘inspired’. A breath was to be given, breathed into them, giving them life. This breath comes from outside, from the cosmos, or who knows where. But it does not ‘belong’ to them. We are ‘possessed’ by something, we do not ‘possess’ anything ourselves. It is like the tribals who were asked whether the land belonged to them, and they were surprised even by the question. “We belong to the land,” they replied, “how can the land belong to us?” In the same way, art, being the projected landscape of our unconscious, is something we belong to and not the other way around! Helder de Camara once said that the artist speaks

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with the Voice of the Voiceless. For some reason we may never know or be able to articulate, individuals are ‘called’ to speak for humanity as a whole. They are even seen as ‘mad’ as a result, they have what in India was termed an ‘anya manas’, ‘another mind’, which means that they are, when they create, not even themselves but only instruments of a higher Will. We could call this the Will of God, or we could also call it the Voice of the Voiceless. To the question of why he made films, Bergman replied: I want to be one of the artists of the cathedral that rises on the plain. I want to occupy myself by carving out of stone the head of a dragon, an angel, or a demon, or perhaps a saint: it doesn’t matter; I will find the same joy in any case. Whether I am a believer or an unbeliever, Christian or pagan, I work with all the world to build a cathedral because I am an artist and artisan, and because I have learned to draw faces, limbs, and bodies out of stone. I will never worry about the judgment of posterity or of my contemporaries; my name is carved nowhere and will disappear with me. But a little part of myself will survive in the anonymous and triumphant totality. A dragon or a demon, or perhaps a saint, it doesn’t matter! The Cathedral of our culture will never be completed, and


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should never be – perfection, purity, clarity and completion are all things which nag and pull our minds into being involved and putting in our entire effort towards the world, but I feel that our work and lives should never stress too much on these hopes. Here I return to the example of the donkey who wanders and observes and takes interesting paths through landscapes with many stops and pauses. Do not mistake this donkey for being lazy or lethargic, nor for being uninvolved. We should be careful not to patronize this dear beast, but rather step into its feet. The donkey has needs and urges, and if I were in its body, definitely emotions and passions too. (The fact that I will never know what goes on in the donkey’s mind need not mean that there is nothing there at all!) Indeed, the donkey also contributes, raises its own foals, and is inventive and creative in the finding of new paths. I do not want a complete change or a revolution in the world (or for that matter in the making of films), but want to work with what is there in the best way I can. This Cathedral I want to contribute to is a continuation of the Tower of Babel which fell. However, the falling and degeneration need not mean that we should become subordinates of God (which is the conclusion of the myth). Even if we do not succeed in reaching Heaven (if indeed it exists), the building is still meaningful

and is somehow something we share. In continuing our building we really become true children of the world. Enlightenment, as Kant understood it, was a growing out of the immaturity of accepting the divine right of kings or of directors or of any such power, and reach the maturity of being involved as autonomous beings. At the heart of this is the stepping out to meet the other, to become participants in society – and ethics and morality is the base we need to do this. Mother Teresa saw the suffering Christ in the poor and wretched around her and began to selflessly reach out to them and care for them, and indeed this is the greatest involvement possible to humankind. Mother Teresa is an exemplar of the best of Christian virtues, and unfortunately there are very few like her. However, this example proves that the problem, as Kant pointed out, is not religion, but the moral ground which nurtures it. Buddha said that when we break down our self-centeredness, we see that each and every person in this world is a fellow sufferer – we must be charitable even to the likes of George Bush and Adolf Hitler, for they are and were fellow sufferers too, except with too much of a free hand over far too many people. In such cases we need to resist and motivate others to do the same and thus overthrow the power structures that up-

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57 39 71 77 7 46 hold dictators, fascists and corrupt leaders. But in the process we should not forget where we started, and in fighting we also need to become more hospitable and honest, and change ourselves so that our contributions are rooted in that very concern, in that openness and warmth for the other. Unconditional morality is something not all of us can achieve, but within our conditions and contexts we can at least aspire towards it. No one, I think, is completely immoral – even killers and murderers have at least someone or something for which they care. It is said that Hitler was so attached to his dog that before he committed suicide, in case the dog might suffer and not be cared for later, he chose to shoot it and take it with him. There is also a poem by Robert Browning where a lover has gone to the extreme of killing the person he loves, because he is afraid that their attachment may fade or disintegrate over time and he wants to save them both from that horror and suffering. I think what we call evil, or wickedness, is often not more than a misplaced and exaggerated virtue. We cannot exorcise ourselves of greed, selfishness or violence, just as much as we cannot exorcise ourselves of fever – because both are potentials, and are based on what is within as well as without. As human beings we are all prone to sickness, and even if the reasons for us falling


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sick are external, there is still something that is susceptible to that sickness already embedded within us to begin with. In any case, we must never dismiss anyone as someone who should be put to death for being evil, because they like the rest of us are suffering and need care. Our efforts both in regarding ourselves as well as others should be finding the conditions that make us fall sick and attempting to avoid them, and helping to ease the suffering of others. We can do this in any number of ways, and begin with our own family and friends. How far we can stretch, and how unconditional our caring can become, is not a question for us to ask – it is something that guides us and possess us and intuits the stories of our lives. K. K. Muralidharan, who works in the Mumbai film industry as a set designer, once told me that a film was like a big chariot pulled by hundreds of people. Those on top yell orders and make decisions and feel like they are in control, but finally no one knows where the chariot will go. Those pulling are not all working together either – indeed, often one of them steps aside to smoke a cigarette or perhaps have a cup of tea. The moving of the chariot does not depend on each and every in-put in isolation; it depends on the totality. Sometimes it is good to remember this so that we do not place too much importance on our efforts, and don’t have to go through that painful process of tearing down our illusions later. But equally, it is important not to take this

analogy as a justification to drop out more often, or even completely, and not be involved at all! When working on a film, and especially in the industry, if you start taking things too lax, you won’t be getting your pay-check and may go hungry at the end of the month. And in life too, if you extend this same analogy and start taking things too easy, the result is no less and no worse! When I asked Murali more about his chariot analogy, he told me that it was inspired by something he read about ants. Indeed, it is always amazing to watch ants and wonder how they manage such great teamwork and all be so hard working, and carry those massive crumbs of bread so methodically into the cracks in the walls. Murali told me that apparently there has been some scientific research into this, and it has been found that ants always instinctively move to where there are other ants – and they congregate where there are most ants already! It is a kind of an intuition of the others, combined with a team spirit, which makes ants all work together so beautifully. Indeed, the chariot of filmmaking and society, too, always moves to where the others are – it seeks for support within its members, it seeks for numbers, it seeks an intimacy with the whole and scrambles from one to another, and in the case of a film, it seeks for the audience too. I would like to add here, as a small aside, that while our contributions as artists and human beings should (and usually do) become anon-

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ymous in the long run, it might be a mistake to run after it ourselves. Within the context of capitalism, a few people wanting to be anonymous in their efforts will most probably only become a resource to be exploited. Those with power will take anything that seems to be in their interest and then claim that it is theirs and always has been. Moreover, wanting anonymity might also reduce the individual’s sense of responsibility in all that he/she does – and as I have already argued, responsibility is a necessary corollary to make art truly ethical. With this in mind, I would argue that all artists and individuals should be equal before the law, and that their work bears their name. This is not a signature of ownership, but a small temporary credit to be embraced or forgotten by the unknown.


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“He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.”

Oscar Wilde

IA/MARCH 2010 INDIANAUTEUR.COM


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