Sunday, January 2, 2011
Two questions which surface after seeing this long and tedious film are (a)Why was it so popular? (b)What motivated the film-makers to make it ($160 million, for heavens sake!)? I will leave the plot alone, since you have probably seen it. (It's about syringing ideas out of, or into, other people's heads, though I would think talking a more convenient procedure.)
With the world becoming increasingly complex, we are discovering ever newer and harder to pin-down or articulate dissatisfactions. We crave for answers, however half baked. Gurudom is a thriving business as people turn inwards seeking ways to fill the void left by the demise of faith, which no science or philosophy is able to fill. The present film seems to belong to the same genre of quackery as the latest breed of self-help books and self proclaimed jet borne sages, with or without flowing robes/beards.
The film has a germ of truth in that it vaguely mirrors the ideas of Jung in recognizing the vastness and depth of our inner world, which we have been slower to appreciate than the dazzling glories of astronomy and physics. On the other hand it presents a very desolate picture of the mind as a computer like automaton without intrinsic hope or creative energy. No room for the soul in this mind. And can happiness be found only in delusions and dreams? Surely we are not made of such vapid stuff, there has to be hard ground somewhere.
The investors probably realized this is a genre to cash in on, with the success of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which dealt with a similar theme of selective memory erasure and Matrix, dealing with collective delusion.
Very early in the movie, I decided not to make an extra effort to decipher the plot since I was clear there is nothing profound here. My compulsion to see it was mainly to join the discourse about this biggest block-buster after Avatar. The special effects are not impressive since you know it is just a computer generated deja vu of the world falling apart, (served ad nauseum since King Kong), and a dream or not in any case. Finally, cinema itself is the stuff of dreams, so what difference does it make? For the rest, people and objects criss-cross the screen at high velocities accompanied by appropriate noises, and folks (unless they happen to be apparitions) bashing or shooting at each other for reasons best known to themselves. They wear grim expressions (who ever heard of humor in a dream) and Ellen Page in particular has both eyes and mouth wide agape probably signifying architectural precocity, in contrast to her unforgettably innocent portrayal in Juno. The script itself is a desultory running commentary on the self manufactured logic needed to make sense of the psycho-neural skulduggery.
The pseudo-profundity and undecipherable plot accounts for it's mass appeal and one can imagine the heated discussions among the nouveau intelligentsia, on the drive back home, or over a drink, to dissect the plot thread by thread. Apparently, the market for such fare is much larger than one would imagine. In a way it may be good that people are asking self exploratory questions of the right kind, even though they take such puerile answers seriously. After all, the complexities of the times are fertile soil for charlatans and confidence men to thrive.
Best avoided, with due apologies to Nathanael Hood, not the first person to admire it. After all he is in the illustrious company of no less than Roger Ebert, who gave it four shining buttons.