{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}



Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Son



There are some questions we should ask ourselves before proceeding. How much can we strip down a film to make it look real, very common given it doesn't become life less. And do we really need some sort of ending for a movie or it can end with some hints, may be suggesting that there are no easy answers or raising more questions or suggesting that the cycle goes on and on. This weekend I saw a movie called The Son, by the Dardenne Brothers and I was forced to ask myself some of these questions. Usually I give any film a gestation period of about 20-25 mins and then I start to show the signs of losing my patience, but this movie did not have any action (physical or mental or metaphysical) till 35-40 mins of the film has passed given its 100 min of running length, and it ends rather unexpectedly, it looked like an abrupt cut even though the camera was rolling and actors were still acting their parts and all this happen in the simplest of the settings, but nothing here is simple and probably therefore this film has some unique brilliance of a suspense hidden in heads of common characters and a very human plot of crime, revelation and redemption (may be).

The Son is a story about a guy, Olivier, who teaches carpentry in a workshop, and one day a young boy, Francis, comes to enroll in his class whom he recognizes as his son's killer, but accepts him in his class. They come closer and Francis, who has undergone a prison sentence for five years and is unknown of the real identity of Olivier, asks him to be his guardian. Will Olivier accept his proposal, Will Francis come to know about Olivier, Will Olivier take a revenge or pardon him, etc. etc. Given these question hovering over our minds and hearts, the last part of the movie manages to have a high tension with a sort of suspense and mystery. But we are not aided by any acting tricks or background sound effect, or the use of other sounds originating from the film itself to some special use ( I actually thought that in a normal film they will use all the carpentry set to make strange sounds to heighten the emotions, like an unrelenting hammering when the father will encounter his son's killer, but fortunately nothing like that happens, there are hammering sounds but they are used for drawing nails into planks). The directors have shown a no-frills-attached use of camera, which actually follows the characters, almost literally and that's why we usually see them from their backs. In the end, the movie becomes a sort of a road movie, owing to the paths of discovery and revelations these characters are going through, and at this time this movie hooks you, partly because of the excellent acting by Olivier Gourmet, with most common looks and mannerisms, who takes the role of a teacher, a father, a guardian simultaneously, left alone to consider his past and deal with the present and partly because of the moral dilemma that we are forced to face. The film is loaded with Christian notion of forgiveness as this review points out but whatever may be, this film puts other films based on similar notions to severe shame, owing to its total refusal to gratify its audience and its undeniable power of devastation.

I think the phases like 'Bressonian Grace', 'Miraculous perspicuity', 'Interlaced simplicity' and 'Extreme understatement' are invented for such types of films, and all this pompous inscrutable jargon, if used with sincerity, suggest a bow to the images that viewer has seen which he is unable to articulate fully. To put it more clearly, the inability to translate simple images into simple sentences, without going on to a philosophical mode. A reviewer can talk about the motifs behind the images, or a subjective stand on one of the dimensions of the film or one of the specific sequence but such images are practically untranslatable in totality. And all this looks like a miracle, because these images are really simple. Even Bergman at a certain point lamented that cinema is an art second to literature, such films, whether good or bad, brings images to the fore front -- a gaze into the driveway, a flick of an eyeball, a drop of perspiration on forehead, a tilt of the nape, the wide spectrum of split second emotions on the canvass of face, the normal street with a thousand chores going on, a classroom with various degrees of inattentiveness, the colors of the sky, a child stepping from one stone to other, all are images with innumerous meanings and manifestations that a viewer has independence to interpret depending upon the degrees of freedom that a director grants him.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"
Even Bergman at a certain point lamented that cinema is an art second to literature, such films, whether good or bad, brings images to the fore front -- a gaze into the driveway, a flick of an eyeball, a drop of perspiration on forehead, a tilt of the nape, the wide spectrum of split second emotions on the canvass of face, the normal street with a thousand chores going on, a classroom with various degrees of inattentiveness, the colors of the sky, a child stepping from one stone to other, all are images with innumerous meanings and manifestations that a viewer has independence to interpret depending upon the degrees of freedom that a director grants him.
"

I am wondering if I can put this in more apt words. I guess not. Great work dude.

-- Rushikesh

Guptavati said...

Saw this film a couple of months ago.I found the film immensely likeable for the sheer ambiguity and the no-frills camera.The camera moves about very quietly leaving you to make your own connections and conclusions.I too read the reviews of 'christian notions of forgivenesss' etc and after watching the movie wondered about this interpretation bit.

Nicely put with the Bergman quote