Its surprising that I’ve been blogging for more than two years and haven’t had a single blog post mention anything regarding movies. I wanted to write one since a while, but I couldn’t come up with any specific topic. I still don’t have one, so this might turn out to be a collection of vague musings about my perspectives on films and connected issues.
I love spending time watching, analyzing and exploring films. Whenever I’m not programming , I’ll often be listening to music, watching some movie or checking out some commentary/analysis about a film on the web. I find the experience to be so intriguing that at times(not too infrequent) I prefer enjoying an isolated movie session(s) than a social gathering with friends and family. Movies stimulate my mind and they’re really addictive! I feel a strong urge to watch one when I’m movie-free for a long time, maybe for more than a month or so. At such times , my mind seems utterly frustrated with a lack of (creative/artistic ?) stimulation.
This is surprising because my mind is definitely energized most of the times: The quantitative part with the usual programming stuff like algorithms, math-related ideas etc. And the other non-programming part of my mind is engaged due to my indulgence in reading articles as varied as ‘How the world economy is in a bad shape at present with the US and UK being the only countries with a promising growth output’ in ‘The Economist’ , to the philosophical and physical perspectives on existence in the ‘Nautilus’. I read a lot on the web. When I’m not doing anything in particular , I’ll be listening to some good tunes. On an average, I must be spending an hour or two every day on music. So I find it odd then that after all of this there still comes a moment in time when I’m left feeling agonized and irritated about a certain void in my mind. When this happens, I just need to conform to this urge and shift into film-mode. Until I get that good hit of a movie, everything else I do seems lack-luster.
That description might have sounded negative but I’m glad I have this obsession over films. It feels amazing at the end of a really good movie when you’re going through these various emotions, after-thoughts and ideas and pondering about the meaning and significance of it all. Its like getting a well-deserved high! I’m not a voracious book reader, but I’ve heard a lot of people describing books in a similar manner. But for me its a wholly different level of engrossment between the two. Maybe I haven’t read the right books yet that perfectly match my likes. Maybe I lack the imagination to conjure up an entire world that will stimulate my mind and command its full attention. Maybe I don’t have a good command over the language to enjoy the plot painlessly without referring a dictionary every few words! Another issue is that books require a long time to be set aside for them. The last book I read was ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Hexley and I really liked it. Gave me a lot of things to ponder over. But reading that book was hard! It had so many difficult words that I felt frustrated at times to constantly look them up, which definitely affected my reading experience. Well, maybe if I keep at it , I’ll be able to enjoy books as much as movies after a few years. I’m certainly waiting for that moment. Until then, however, books will definitely not match the audio-visual and mental experience of watching an intelligent and deep film. There are very few things that provide such an experience in a short time span of a couple of hours.
So then comes the question of what are the kind of films I like? I don’t really have any specific set of genres that I love or hate. I liked the slow romantic comedy ‘Lost in Translation’ , and at the same time I loved Kubrick’s ultra-violent ‘A Clockwork Orange’. As long as they are unique, coherent , well thought out and well executed the nature of the story or the theme doesn’t matter. In fact I really like exploring different and esoteric themes. They provide a window into the unknown and stretch your imagination to new frontiers. Its interesting to see aspects of the world you didn’t even know existed. Its a different experience exploring the world from another’s point of view. Watching so many movies has had a definite influence on who I am as a person, my views and my morals. I feel I have a wider perspective on things and don’t really treat issues in a white or black manner. There are a whole lot of different shades to each and everything present and there is no right or wrong. Accepting this is far wiser than propagating and imposing a rigid world view.
But if I had to mention something specific, I’d say I like plots and themes that explore the psychological and philosophical aspects of the mind and life. Films that analyze the thought process of a person or a group of people. How those thoughts, opinions and emotions have an effect on the individual’s life and others around him for better or worse. Interactions between different clashing views. Quite a few films that I’ve seen recently center around these issues.
Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is an amazing film that explores the life and mind of a young individual, Alex, who’s a part of an ultra-violent group of thugs that rob people, rape woman and indulge in other extreme forms of violence just for the heck of it! To get the kicks. The first half, where there is lots of explicit graphic content describing these activitites being performed, is quite disturbing if you aren’t used to watching such films. But the very expression of all these acts on screen unsettles you and leaves you feeling utterly disgusted with the character. They also bring out the coldness in the protagonist’s mind, he does not feel a thing while indulging in any of this. In fact this is what he looks forward to, this is his source of excitement. Listening to Beethoven, charging up with the music and going on a violence-spree. And this is what makes gives way to the second half, when Alex is caught for his crimes. He is enrolled in a mind-control therapy to ‘cure’ him of his psychological disease. He is forcefully shown clips of himself and his mates performing all those violent acts for hours at stretch. Initially he enjoys it, but then after a certain point , he can’t take it anymore. It becomes claustrophobic for him to watch all of it. Eventually it becomes a form of excessive torture, all those actions of his. He now associates any kind of violence or sexual perversion with torture and shies away from it. Its an automatic semi-conscious response. He is now cured. Which brings the viewers to the final part. Here, we see that even though Alex is ‘cured’, the society around is still a mess. We see that Alex is now facing torture and his helpless to defend himself. As he is unable to react violently, all he can do is run away from everything. He is helpless, and everything that he did to the society in the first half gets to him at the end. A reversal of sorts! So now, you as a viewer, are left completely unsettled and confused. Do you agree that it was the right form of therapy? Or is it just immoral and non-human to force-control somebody’s mind leaving him exposed to the bad elements of society?
I’d love to write more about my thoughts on the film, it was really that fascinating. Kubrick’s other movies like ‘2001: A Space Oddyssey’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ are all amazingly deep too! ‘2001’ explores the evolution of humanity right from apes to the space-man(the so called perfect form of man). It explores the issue of Artificial Intelligence and how man is really an imperfect psychological being, the conflicting issue of violence leading to civilization , before as well as now. And a lot more. ‘Full Metal Jacket’ takes a look at the psychological aspects of violence and war by centering on the Vietnam War. ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ takes a look at our primal sexual desires, a completely esoteric topic!
All these films are wonderful! I would love watching these again and again, because on every viewing you take away something unique from it. A wider perspective. Such films are sometimes hard to watch and interpret in a single sitting. They demand complete viewing attention. And the more attentive and absorbed you are, the more details you’ll pickup. There’s literally no end to exploring Kubrick’s films, you can go on and on. A lot of movies I like lie in this category. They are usually ‘heavy’ viewings. You can’t enjoy and understand them if you wanna watch them casually on a Saturday night with a couple of friends over. You have to be eager to work your brain and explore everything in detail . A lot of people , in general tend to avoid such movies. They say they hate working their brain over a movie. All I can say to them is that they are missing out on a lot. Instead of watching that stupid 2 hour action flick, which has been done a million times before, it is far more rewarding to work your brain over some intellectually-stimulating film.
But its not like I just like ‘hard viewings’. I like ‘light’ films too. Those that are subtle and easier to watch and comprehend. ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘Before Sunrise/Sunset Series’ is a good example. Even though I used to get extremely bored watching romantic films(just like the brain-dead action flicks) I liked these. They are unique in the sense , they explore different themes related to romance. They are shot beautifully, and the dialog is engaging. These kinda films often fall in the ‘indie’ genre. I’m increasingly finding this genre, if you can call it that, more and more interesting. These are the perfect movies to watch on days when you’re really overworked and exhausted, or you’re in a mood to just watch something light. They don’t offer deep insights and incomprehensible theories, but they reveal a side of things you haven’t seen before or maybe showcase the life you’ll never live. Something different, something sensible. They feed your curiosity.
Movies offer freedom. They allow us to jump in and be a part of someone or something completely different from ourselves. Our lives are limited, and there’s only so much you can do in one. And all of us during some point have the desire to be someone different, if only for a limited amount of time, and experience things we just cannot do in our real personal lives. In my opinion, movies offer that perfect escape that allows us to indulge in our imaginations and fantasies. At other times, they offer us new perspectives about our own way of life which we can duly imbibe. Maybe, my intense obsession with movies comes from the fact that I’ve got too many different personas inside me and all of them want to be awake at some point in time. Ultimately they provide a perfect escape!