-Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
He’s called “the poet of film”. In this section, I proceed to write about his movies.
No, it’s not a typo, it’s written like that!
Tarkovsky does a phenomenal job in articulating immigration, solitude, and their consequent existential crisis on human beings. Nostalghia is made in Italy, and is a result of Tarkovsky himself going through deep thoughts about his home, Russia. The movie centers around the ideas of i) as an immigrant, to go back home, or to stay where you immigrated to?, ii) the loneliness you experience after immigration and how one copes with that, and iii) to what extent and how does your behavior change, be it with respect to yourself or others around you. In addition to positing such difficult, mindful, delicate, and important matters, Tarkovsky depicts a marvelous art, which I find being (almost) at extremes of non-linearity in artistic thinking and illustration. By non-linearity, I’m not only talking about flashbacks in time, though we do see a few walkings back and forth in time throughout the movie, but I’m pointing to how he juxtaposes together way too many delicate elements of art. The way he moves the camera, from close-ups to distant views and vice versa, the way he draws (from my point of view) surrealistically connected paintings of water, roads, pods, his home, the framework he’s trapped in (i.e., the last scene), you name it, is stunning. Going back to the ideas, I find myself, as an immigrant, empathizing with Tarkovsky.
In the movie, Oleg Yankovsky as Andrei Gorchakov, is a Russian poet that travels to Italy to research about a Russian composer who had immigrated to Italy, but later had gone back to Russia. Tarkovsky justifies this with a story Andrei tells a little girl when he’s smoking in a pod and the girl is watching him. The story is about a man who is rescued from a pod by someone else when the other person thought the man was drowning in the pod. After rescue, however, the man calls the one who allegedly “saved” him, an idiot, and puts it this way: You didn’t save me, I was living there. This translates to when you immigrate from your home country due to inconveniences around you. The food of thought is, then, the following: Even though one’s home country is cumbersome for one to live in (i.e., the pod), is it worth leaving and not living at home? The answer is obviously open to each person’s experiences and point of view, but I see it a very subtle point to think about.
Another interesting angle of the movie extends the loneliness of an immigrant to when one might feel isolated in wherever he’s living in, be it their home or not. It’s a very common situation in many people’s lives that they feel others around them don’t understand them. You can’t communicate, you can’t socialize, you can’t co-think with others simply because you’re different than almost everybody around you. It basically means you’re physically living home, but have mentally immigrated to somewhere else, where nobody but you is. This phenomenon is beautifully illustrated in Domenico, the crazy man in the movie. To me, the sharpest point about his life was when he explained how 1+1=1! Yes, you see a big board in his place (or is it really a place to live in?) with the (in)-equality perfectly justified by the fact that when others don’t understand you, you plus someone else doesn’t lead to a group of 2 persons, it’s still you without the other person. Domenico puts it this way: If I pour two drops of water on my palm, it won’t lead to two drops, it’ll make one bigger drop. Anyways, Domenico is the symbol of a person who is isolated from their society because people around them don’t understand them and label them with being crazy. The most stunningly beautiful depiction of this is when, in the last scene of the movie, Domenico delivers a speech on how filthy, inhumane, and miserable the human society as a whole has become with people not understanding each other. Tarkovsky is awesome in this scene showing Domenico’s audience, which is in essence us watching the movie, as the people of the town each standing distant from each other and not even moving. The only creature who tries to help, but can’t, is a dog, the symbol of loyalty! Domenico then sets himself to fire with Beethoven’s ninth symphony playing in the background. This is a very smart match between different forms of art. The choice of Beethoven’s ninth is deliberate. The ninth is Beethoven’s last symphony. He died after that. I see the match as the following: I’ve done a lot of investigation in Beethoven’s life. He was, in many aspects, very much like Domenico. He was extremely lonely and died a bachelor. At many points in his life, people didn’t understand him. Domenico ending his life with Beethoven’s ninth essentially establishes a connection on how he, and Beethoven, both died alone.
Interestingly, Andrei also finds himself becoming very similar to Domenico after a while in Italy. His mind got so messed up that he reached a point when he wouldn’t even get excited by his hot translator who tried so hard to sleep with him. Even when she unexpectedly came to his room and exposed herself to him, he didn’t care at all. The dialogue by Eugenia, the translator, in that scene was spectacular. She explained to the viewer how different it is to think like Eugenia, just a normal person looking for love, sex, and a happy life on the one hand, and Andrei, someone who’s struggling with extremely difficult questions in mind not getting satisfied with a routine life, on the other. Eugenia perfectly points out passing some point when sexuality can become an unimportant aspect of your life.
Tarkovsky also keeps talking about his mother in his movies. Nostalghia is not an exception. We see several memories and dreams in his mind (black and white scenes), in which we observe his mother, the characterization of his mother in his wife, and same illustration pointing to his homeland several times. Several movies of Tarkovsky (which I’ll write about in other posts) connect Tarkovsky’s wife to his mother. This is in agreement with the Freudian philosophy (as far as I know, they call it Oedipus Complex in psychology and has been heavily criticized by stigmatizing men as “mama’s boys” under that theory) that men, subconsciously, look for their mother, a loving guardian, in their wife. It’s as if Tarkovsky keeps bringing this idea up, e.g., also in Solaris, to remind us of what sexuality can (not necessarily) actually mean.
Aria – June 8, 2018
– Director: Ingmar Bergman
To me, he’s the utmost best in the history of cinema. I believe Tarkovsky was his follower. This section is dedicated to him.
I’ve never seen any movie tackling and explaining so many different and difficult philosophical notions of life like Persona does. The movie, in a nutshell, is about a nurse, Bibi Anderson, who’s trying to cure her patient, Liv Ullman, who is suffering (a sort of?) depression. Liv has stopped speaking for unapparent reasons and they’re trying to figure out why and cure, that is, make her speak. To me, the story got exciting right in the very first 10 minutes when Bibi’s boss at the hospital conveyed the fact that they actually know what’s wrong, but the audience has no clue whatsoever. That’s when we figure out we’re not dealing with a normal nurse/patient situation. After spending some time at the hospital analyzing Liv, they decide to go live apart from the society, alone, in a house in an island. And then, you’ll figure out Bibi and Liv are not actually two people, they’re the same person!
One of my most favorites was the fact that as a human being, much of what we do is influenced by fear. Say, fear of death, fear of getting hurt, fear of losing a loved one, etc. There’s an amazing scene articulating the notion of fear beautifully, and that’s where Bibi tries to splash boiled water on Liv’s face because she’s pissed off at her not speaking, and the fear of getting hurt is the only factor that makes Liv talk, she screamed “Please don’t.” And then, went mute again. The only moment in the whole movie when Liv talks is because of her fear. Thinking about this in terms of the fact that Liv was, in fact, Bibi’s subconscious (somehow), Bergman pictures it, stunningly, how our subconscious makes us do, as a consequence of fear, what we wouldn’t normally do.
Bergman truly surprised me with the sexual conversation between Bibi and Liv, which I think is the most erotic scene in history of cinema without any picturing of sex itself. You only listen to Bibi talk about her sexual experience in her past, and the mere act of listening takes you to the depth of the experience. I was feeling as I was literally watching it happen. The writing of the dialogue is amazing, how Bibi narrated it is flawless, and of course, the important notion of what sex actually means for women is articulated neatly. Later on then, we see the consequences of an immature experiences in Bibi’s life. I will leave this part for open interpretation.
Persona tackles the following question: Who am I actually? What is my identity? How am I defined? Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself, who is this person looking right at me? Have you ever thought of your identity, your beliefs, your thoughts, your self, a level beyond the person who’s looking at you in the mirror? Bergman separates our physical shape from who we actually are, and draws this as a person who’s trying to get herself, i.e., her patient, to talk (who has stopped talking), which in turn shows how she’s struggling in dealing with the traumas that have happened in her life. Bibi confides in Liv, i.e., herself, throughout the movie and tells us a lot about her happy and sad experiences. Then, at the last scene, you see her talking to herself (I’ll leave this for you to watch) in one of the most brilliant possible manners, and then she merges with herself in a jaw dropping scene.
It is still too soon in cinema to show lesbianism, or even maybe to think about it, when Persona brings up the idea when Bibi and Liv get close to each other, sexually, and then Bergman leaves, legit everything, to your interpretation in the next scene when the two are talking to each other and one of them doesn’t remember what happened last night. To me, it is very intellectual and open-minded from Bergman, to not only think about, but illustrate lesbianism in the 60s! And yet, even at the moment I’m writing this in 2018, being gay is unsettled.
Did I say the “fear moment” was the only moment when Liv talked? Yeah, I lied, sorry, but you weren’t ready yet. Bergman talks about the idea of nonexistence in the first scene with the boy sleeping on a white bed. As he, himself, puts it, in an interview, this idea came to him when he was hospitalized. Apparently, he was astonished, in a positive way, about his experience of anesthesia. This is clearly connected to the notion of death, which is a point of emphasis in many of Bergman’s movies, e.g., The Seventh Seal. Persona ends when you suddenly see Liv say one word and sleeps, and that word is “nothing.” Bergman starts with the notion of nonexistence and death, and then finishes with the same notion.
Persona brings up many ideas, challenges, questions, etc., that make it impossible to explain them all in one writing. Persona requires hours and hours of analysis and critique. But I think Persona is one beautiful comprehensive lesson on the philosophy of life, considering different aspects of it. If you want to see how a genius, i.e., Bergman, looks at life, you should watch Persona!
Aria- July 13, 2018.
Cries and Whispers (1972):
I can summarize the movie as a description of the following emotions: loneliness, isolation, pain, fear, and helplessness. Bergman experiences a period of time in his life in which he’s been very very lonely. According to himself in an interview, in that period of time he kept seeing (basically he meant hallucinating) 4 women all wearing white. Cries and whispers is illustrating those 4 women and their story is telling us about how Bergman felt. To be continued ….