Blesok no. 15, June-July, 2000

Humanism, Nobility, Virtues... Film?

Petar Volnarovski

    It passed a lot of time, more than a century since the beginnings of the film until today. The film, in this CENTURY (and more) of its lifetime, turned into much of it… The most inevitable seems the fact that the film has grown into the one of the strongest and the most dominant media in the inter-human communication, and with no doubt, into the one of the most present moments of human life in general – today. And, may be that until now, even too much discussion has been done about what is, or what film should be itself; what is, or what should be its part in the human life and in the society in general; maybe it is so. But, any phenomenon that happens to us on such daily base, and with so much intensity and continuity – not only that it should be followed and reconsidered as much permanent and intensive, but it’s necessity to be done so… Without stops, and with no decrease in our awareness and thoroughness in that process.
    Taking a look from the technical or formal side, the film has grown into one of the media with the greatest suggestive power: its multi-code nature (image, sound and verbality) from one side, and the high-tech possibilities from the other, gives to it amazingly powerful ability of influence over the recipient, and of enclosing the message that it carries to him. The distance between the medium and the recipient is long and severely broken, and it becomes smaller and smaller as time passes. The suggestive power of the film is not the secret for some time, but the range of it has already reached the point that – in the 40’s and 50’s were pure science fiction. So, from that technical & formal point of view, the film possesses that kind of power that, for instance, every artist – of any domain – would be more than happy if his art possesses even small amount of such power.
    But, when the semantics is the issue, we must ask ourselves what exactly does it bring to the recipient, carefully – and before all – attractively wrapped cover? If we answer honestly, then we must admit: that is not a pretty picture. The power of influencing, changing and almost redefining of the human mind, and namely – the power of building the public opinion – that film actually possesses, mostly is used to modulate the human thought in general in some directions, which are (even mildly said) much discussible. The power of this medium is scary, especially at the area in the re-creating of human needs and desires. Today, it’s clear almost to everyone that the most of the credits on the decline of the Eastern Communist Regimes, doesn’t belong to the CIA, MI-5 or MOSAD, or some other organization of that kind, but mostly on Hollywood, which, along with the renewed and high-tech media as the TV today, are the real Orvel’s Big Brother, from who the very same Western societies were so afraid of. Well now, we’re not going to go any further in the paranoid waters of the theories on the Great Conspiracy or the New World Order… We are merely concluding the range of this medium’s powers. And about the paranoia issue – namely, this media is the very one that insists on the theory, that says: the more paranoid you get, that closer to the real truth you are… But, let us leave it aside, and let us get back to the relation form VS semantics in the film…
    For instance, we can consider the Fincher’s film Fight Club, as an example of a technically (even artistically) superior-made feature film, and see what it offers as semantics, and what message it carries… It ca be said that this film is on the very top of the high-tech production, from the structural and from the formally-technical point of view both. Film that has no downs from that point of view, and a film upon that a man can only have a respect and exaltation. Fight Club is the extreme example on that how big the suggestive power of the film medium can be, an example how it can “touch” and “shake” the recipient. It is so because of the ingeniously invented story, but basically, the secret lays in the art-procedure of the dislocated camera views and the director’s cut that insists on dynamic and intensive “suspense”, primarily based on extremely short scenes consisted of only few frames that human eye can see, but the human mind can process them only with his sub-conscious, but not fully aware, with his conscious. What one can see, is a flash maybe, or a blink-interruption of the scene, too short to be considered as something significant by the recipient. What that really means? It means, basically, that the recipient did see it, but he doesn’t know (he’s not aware) that he did see it. The conscience doesn’t process that info, and the recipient simply reacts subconsciously – so basically emotionally – to that images… With that, the director can manipulate your emotions on his (not yours) free will. So, from one side, this film brings to us an exciting thriller that locates real problems of the western way of life, from the other side it suggests to us the most grounded and the most primitive pseudo-solution in the climax of the film. It is well hidden behind the excellently motivated character’s actions, the masterly leaded plot and the excellent acting performances. But at the end, when – a posteriori – the film is being re-thought, the intensity of the recipient’s emotions is hard to explained and justified by conscious considering, as a result of the lack of info about that phenomenon in the film. At this spot lays the abyss between the excellent formal/technical values, and the deeply negative semantic levels of this film. Because, basically, the film offers a pseudo-critic of the western way of life, as it offers a pseudo-solution on it, too. What’s positive in the film’s semantics, is only the locating of the problem and the anticipation of the problems that it can cause… We can find that kind of an anticipation in the extra-ordinary science-fiction feature film Matrix too, which is also a film with the superior technical/formal values. So, if we remove only the aliens as a pure SF element, we will reach the metaphor on the virtuality of our living and on the need for our awakening, or namely, on the illusion on the values and the criteria we live upon, and the need to awaken from that enforced dream about our real needs and desires.
    So, sometimes we’ll find this kind of the warning (accidentally, or as a some kind of a threat?) in the world cinematography. But the most often, that’s all you can get in the pro-western, and especially in the American cinematography (bravo for the extremely rare exceptions). Nothing more than that. Only empty shell, although in attractive wrapping.
    The actual item which this text aspires to promote, is: do you recall when was the last time you saw a film after which you felt really ennobled, with full chests of noble feelings, and with firm convincing that after seeing that film you are – simply – a better person? When was the last time when you felt more human after seeing a movie than before? It must’ve been a long time ago…
    Maybe when you saw The Barber Of Siberia by Nikita Michalkov? When this film reminded us of the true human values, and what is really love, kindness, friendship… And if not all of it, the great ratio of this film speaks exactly about that issues: honor, human dignity and human values. And it’s not by chance that the only two characters in this film who don’t fit in that picture – are Americans. In this film, the severe damage that western way of thinking did to the human spirit and to the real human values, is quite notable. Michalkov subtly makes that distinction significantly visible. And if maybe – in fable and technologically – it isn’t that impressive (with the exception of the beautiful photography and the great acting performance of some actors), this film with its semantics is in high positive and far away from the previously discussed films.
    And at last, but not the least, we mustn’t miss to mention the ingenious Benigni’s film La Dolce Vita, a film that stands – probably – as the only true human film with the true noble message that we saw in this long-lasted Hollywood rule (not to say tyranny) upon the world cinematography. We won’t say much on this film, because there is no doubt that it touched the heart, soul and mind of every human, as he carries the true human values and criteria within itself… We’ll just emphasize that this film stands as a living proof that the Hollywood’s favorite excuse – that the commercial needs require exactly that kind of a movies as Hollywood produces – doesn’t stand. Because La Dolce Vita, a film that is a pure opposite of the Hollywood films in general, turned out to be a great “blockbuster” indeed.
    Everyone likes to admire the beauty. That’s good. The beauty is good. Here, we do admire the tiger – we admire its beauty, its perfection and its mightiness. But, when we do that, we do it through the bars, or through the solid Plexiglas of the Zoo’s fences, and we doesn’t take it home; otherwise, we can become its dinner. So, when you admire some film, admire from a proper distance; otherwise, we may become unworthy to call ourselves – human.

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