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

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Boss Of It All

Most of the problems in the world arise due to the fact that everyone likes to be loved even if they are more or less horrible people, and everyone has his unique definition what it means to be loved. If we translate this to a corporate guy, his definition of being loved may well be the straightest one. He wants to be loved and held in high esteem and integrity even if he has to pose what he is not, which comes very close to the definition of being loved by a normal person too, just that a corporate person is bound to a corporation, and in a way detached to what he does. The basic problem that all of these smiling, smart and sophisticated corporate people face is to manage and rule and at the same get the love of their subject, make them feel cared when they are being used. We have faced and we have used the big management D, the deference, which in this case means the deference of the responsibility of anything bad to someone else. The only glitch in that is, eventually it goes to a physical person, and that person may not get the love, may not be in the pool of the loved ones, and in that case will be unhappy corporate boss, which is not at all an admirable situation. There is heaps of self-help for both the loved ones and the lovers in the corporate world, but eventually the loss of innocence of the lovers happen and they all get the bitter truth about the loved ones (as you can see we are here taking a sort of ideal situation, the sycophant-gene is altogether neglected, but that can be neglected as its always good for the boss, which is our main concern here). There should be a better solution; there should be a better and easy world for our bosses. The Boss of it all gives that fine solution.

The owner of a Danish IT firm, Ravn, has that terrific idea. He hires a failed actor Kristoffer to pose as a made-up "boss of it all", and makes him responsible for making all the sensitive decision of the company and finally the decision of selling the company to an anti-Dane Icelaner and firing all of the six company's founding members except Ravn. But this foolproof plan has a small but basic problem, the problem that hired actor also wants to be loved. For an actor, the act of getting love is to please by his performance, to get the attention, for a director, it is a approval that someone got jolt and kick by seeing his stuff, which makes him feel something, something similar to being loved. What can be more dangerous than an artist who wants to be loved?

Like other films by Lars von Trier, this film is also an irony, and he spares none (von Trier believes that a film should be like a stone in your shoe :)), just that this time the mood is lighter, the camera is more playful, there is more air to breathe. This breezy irony, plays with the intentions of viewers, as if director is improvising against it, and a comic voice over always keeps things in a light mood and its director's simple way to say that its just a film, and that too a comedy, a irrational one. Film in its goofy irrationality and absurd setting, also examines the relation between the actors, directors, camera and the related ethics. Like the philosophical fool of Dogville, the actor in this film is also director’s doppelganger in particular, and artists and intellectuals in general. As a good satire is only on oneself (otherwise its bitching or criticism, and that is why Altman's The Player is an excellent satire), a good comedy becomes true only if the better jokes are reserved for oneself. Film’s end in which an actor shows what he is good at, is a potent joke on the creative urge and the related admiration that might follow from the performance, because whether it is a corporate cow or a creative crow, its all about being loved.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


As we all know that there is a thin line between a great excellent film and a masterpiece. The thin line is that is transcendence, to use a cliché. It’s the line where the images coerce themselves into one whole and go beyond. We feel free. A film that makes us feel free is itself utterly independent and fearless, of the people who want to kill it with the censorship of the so called profane, or to neglect and ridicule the so called trivial and also those who want to limit it to the worship of so-called good, moral and "useful".

Ordet is so fiercely austere and heart rending. Not a film has moved so much as this one in long time, both emotionally and intellectually. The impact of few films is so deep and elemental that writing about them becomes a clumsy clichéd exercise. This film does not particularly try to express the human condition and expand the human conscious, the prime theme of the film is faith, but it’s not the half-boiled, half hearted faith, but a mad magical love. Since here, even faith has true passion, the things which we might have thought to be slight and stupid, become both lifelike and magical. I, myself, have wondered the way people "use" faith, as one of the way, not "the" way, which defies the very notion of it in spirit. We all have seen, and we all have been, sometime or the other, fearful of faith, but still use it as and when required (As the film patriarch Morten Borgen puts it "But I prayed only because it was worth trying.").

Ordet is a story of Morten Borgen, owner of Borgen farm, and his family of three sons, Johannes, Mikkel and Anders, and Mikkel's wife Inger. They are all dealing with their faiths. The link between them is Inger, who keeps the house alive. The film starts with the scene where each of the family member go out to search for Johannes, who has again ran out from home, thinking he is Jesus. Johannes, who according to Mikkel has gone mad not because of love, but because of Soren Kierkegaard, enters the leaves the frame like the wavering faith of the characters. The way he speaks is prophetic and terrifying. The most terrifying of all is the scene where Johannes sees the beam of headlights of departing car and envisions the death. It is also very excellent use of lighting as a thematic element. Mikkel has lost his faith totally, but according to Inger, he has faith because he is good at heart. Morten, played wonderfully with a mix of old snobbishness and aged wisdom by Henrik Malberg, is also having problem with faith, especially because his prayers for Johannes are going unanswered. Anders is in trouble because he is in love with the daughter of the tailor, who has a different faith.

The main difference between Ordet and films of Bergman, especially Winter Light, with which is frequently compared is essentially the difference between the one still looking for any possibility of faith (faith in faith) and the one who has looked and found nothing, and how to come in terms with it. Actually, it quite unfair to compare the two, in spite of the common theme, because although they seem to be on same continuous line, but it requires a "leap of faith" or a "retract to reason" to jump between the two. Ordet is exemplary in its refusal to reason and rationality because it doesn’t look premeditated. One more film, Ordet is often compared to, is Breaking the Waves, primarily due to its final sequence, but to me Breaking the Waves tryst with faith is like an ironical kiss, but in Dreyer's Ordet, it is a full carnal affair. [Spoilers Ahead] In one of the most striking end scenes ever, as Inger wakes up and passionately kisses Mikkel, we can see the line of Inger's saliva that sticks out from Mikkel's cheek, gloriously celebrating the bodily resurrection along with the soul, and hence when Inger speaks “Life.. Life”, it’s a sensual feeling, not particularly a spiritual one. [Spoilers End]

Dreyer's film is as much about the nature of and our relation with faith, as it is about the limitations of rationality. The vision of Dreyer, as it comes of the film is neither of a cynical nor of a devout. The film, in the end does comfort, but that comfort owes the great burden, the burden of pure and unflinching faith.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Dancer in the Dark.

Last night, I saw Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark. I am still confused which one I liked better, this or Breaking the Waves, I will see Breaking the Waves again soon. Dancer in the Dark has some very sublime moments. Its more emotional but less depressing than Breaking the Waves. I plan to write about it later in detail. For now see this video of the song titled 'I've seen it all' by recording star Björk, who stars as all-good Selma in the film, which is the part of the von Trier trilogy where the heroine remains innocent and saintly despite her actions.

In the DVD, we got to see two more versions of this song, one with longer cuts and the other one with very rapid cuts (especially towards the end). For me long shots work better. Also, this song is filmed using 100 cameras which are fixed at different spots and with few handheld cameras for close-ups and the quality of the later being better than the 100 digicams, was digitally distorted to match with that of digicam's. Lars von Trier talks in a documentary called '100 Cameras' that this experiment didn't work as they expected and explains why. Although this is not the best song of the movie in my opinion, but the most popular one and available online. I liked the 'next to last' song better, I need to see the film few more times to settle on my favorite though. I longed and longed for a song on 'Mum's the word', an idea which is so pivotal to the film as the basic motif of faith and goodness.