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

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tarkovsky's Rublev

I completed Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev last night, my first of Tarkovsky which was long in the to-see list but I was deterred by its length and my shallow understanding, so saved it for a better day. It will take some time to think about the film and the passion of Andrei Rublev to sink in. What I really liked is the narrative that refrains from following the protagonist consistently. I was expecting that like any epic film about a legendary character, the film will be from Rublev's perspective and all the events and episodes would encircle him, but to my pleasant surprise this was not so. As the commentator Vlada Petric rightly points out - Tarkovsky doesn't want Andrei Rublev to be an epic film in the classic sense, lacking a central hero protagonist, it is the film's spatial and thematic breadth that function on an epic level evoking history by a synthesis of myths, legends and folklore.

According to Tarkovsky the task of a director is to pick out and join together the bits of sequential facts, focusing on what lies beneath them, while revealing what type of chain hold them together. Working on this principle the seemingly dis-jointed episodes of Andrei Rublev can be viewed as narrative bits, joined together by poetic associations of various images.

And here is what Tarkovsky has to say about his movie Andrie Rublev in the documentary Andrei Rublev: A Poet of the Cinema

The pressure Rublev is subject to is not an exception. An artist never works under ideal conditions, if they existed, his work wouldn't exist, for the artist doesn't live in a vacuum. Some sort of pressure must exist, the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art will be useless if the world is perfect, as man wouldn't look for harmony but simply live in it. Art is born out of ill designed world. This is the issue in "Rublev": the search of harmonic relationship among men, between art and life, between time and history. Thats what my film is all about. Another important theme is man's experience, in this film my message is that it is impossible to pass on experience to others or learn from others. We must live our own experience, we cannot inherit it. People often say: Use your fathers experience! Too easy: each of us must get our own, But once we've got it, we no longer have time to use it. And the new generation rightly refused to listen to it. They want to live it but then they also die. This is the law of life, its real meaning. We cannot impose our experience on other people or force them to feel suggested emotions. Only through personal experiences we understand life. Rublev, the monk, lived a complex life. He studied with master Radonevsky, at the Holy Trinity but he lived in variance with his teaching. He got to see the world through his masters eye. Only at the end of his life, that he lived his own way.

I completed the film in two days and it was an experience to go through. Much should emerge after contemplation and analysis on the movie, but I was really taken over by The Bell episode and how beautifully it captures the spirit and travails of creation and getting your own experiences. For me it worked like a short film complete in itself but as a part of this epic cinema, it gather much profound meanings.

See Andrie Rublev's paintings here. It also contains his celebrated masterpiece The Old Testament Trinity, which is also shown in the film's final moments where it miraculously turns to color.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fahrenheit 451

Apparently based on a futuristic novel by the same name, Fahrenheit 451, is about something else, and that is beyond love of books. The film sets its mood and tone right in this simple dialogue:

Boss: What does Montag do with his day off
Montag: Not very much sir, Mow the lawn.
Boss: And what if the law forbids that ?
Montag: Just watch it grow, Sir.

This is what a law-loving Boss, asks , our hero Montag, on the eve of his promotion, probably to gaze the morality and servility of the youngman. Montag, a fireman of the time to come , is very good at his duty of finding and burning books. He belongs to the times, ruled by a government that thinks books are root of all evil and sorrow and the act of reading them, sheer perversity and it gives our book-loving director an alibi to put the best of the books to flames and a certain point a book-loving woman also to the fire who refuses to be parted away from her books, a classic 'book as life' metaphor.

In a seemingly happy and definitely dormant society, people caress themselves in the subway trains, not because they are narcissistic but all the normal social contacts are dead, and to add to the seclusion, they are addicted to television to an alarming level. There are shows where you are made to think that you are part of them, there are shows to make the whole alien population a family and when I am saying all this it actually doesn't seem to be too distant, too futuristic, and with a little bit of extrapolation one can suggest that the whole set-up is already existing. In todays world we may not killing books in flesh, not we are certainly burning real books in spirit. The futuristic world that Truffaut paints is stark and cold in its boundaries, people inside their houses stick to their wall-tvs and become that virtual reality. When someone asks a lady how do the firemen find out which household has books, the lady looks up and shows the few houses that don't have the antennas, a metaphor of a social and mental divide.

The film has lot of Hitchcock effect, there is a dream sequence which reminds of Vertigo and the background music is also by Bernard Herrmann, who was a usual collaborator with Hitchcock. Also, in the spirit of the film, the titles are spoken and to make people really long to see the written text like the people of the genX where the film is set in, first printed words are shown only after 40 min of the movie where Montag reads the first paragraph of Dickens' David Copperfield -- David is born as the clock strikes 12 and so do our hero.

Fahrenheit 451 works as a cautionary tale in two ways, the first is about our quest for happiness and comfort and where it can lead us to and second its about the constant effort to check our liberties and how our passions will always find ways to break those checks and shackles, and more importantly the amalgam of the two, how we are forced to sacrifice our liberties for day dreams of comfort and happiness.