the grass is always green on the screen

A cinema plays in the background as someone cooks in the kitchen. A TV show fills in for company at a dinner table. Videos on Youtube incite anger while travelling to work on the bus. Watching movies in a theater takes you away from yourself and attempts to dream you into a world not so different from yours, yet so different.

Which one of this gives the best viewing experience? Film in itself is a very dictatorial art process, more dictatorial than say, writing. When a person writes, it her thoughts alone that play on the paper. There will be outside influences, sure, but they are all blended into the writing process where they are indistinguishable from the author's. In the case of film, it is the director who calls the shot at the end of the day or it is the producer by the virtue of having money or it is the actor, for having a face that can sell. In this case, the power is centered in a few people while the work is of hundreds of technicians, craftsmen and administrators. This gives film a far more central perspective than other works of creation. The second person in the hierarchy of making a film is far removed than the first who calls the shots, creating a huge imbalance of power that in fact presents the best idea forward: it can be money, it can be stardom or it can be the auteur who rules the roost.

The counter-argument to this could be that only a few writers are published at the end of the day. Writing however is more universal than filmmaking, making a film is a labour intensive process that demands a high level of skilled technicians across various domains, meaning your ordinary person on the street has very little probability of making a film that can act as a thoughtful Whatsapp forward while the same person can embed a pdf file with a 20 page story.

Youtube videos, personal videos, news, TV shows all of them fall under the category of perpetually made media where one can consume an inexhaustive variety of content that seems to emanate from a bottomless pit. We as audience can always distinguish between a film and a TV show or a YouTube video. Part of the reason is that “cinematic” look, while the other is also the level of intense detail that a film has to carry in its duration unlike a TV series that has the benefit of a few to many hours of time at its disposition.

Films are one-off projects that takes years in gestation and require to tell an effective story in the time allotted, which makes them also very pregnant with information and substance. Even a bad film can be evaluated for its demerits, say an actor's ego or the simple lack of technical finese but the same cannot be said about TV or a random video on their internet even though all the media's primary aim is to engage and at some level, entertain. The overall complexity involved in making a film and then bringing it to the people is multiple hoops farther than the average TV show. Though Netflix and Amazon are trying to bridge that gap by making cinema disposable, they have the same net effect as say television before them or pirating. A movie is made for the big screen and the eyes cannot be lied to even though the wallet has feelings of its own.

I keep asking myself this question, why movies? Over the course of the last fifteen years I must have watched thousands of movies in different settings, to the point I know the tropes, what to expect and a general immunity from being immersed into the medium and still I find them compelling. They could be termed as an addiction but sure I can let months pass by without watching a movie but when there is the possiblity to watch one, I give it a shot. It could only be seen as an interpretation of a sort of reality, the closest I have to get into someone else's skin and watch their fabricated world from behind their eyes.

In this respect watching a movie is a very personal act, it is not something together with someone rather going alone and having an individual experience of seeing someone's world from through their head while being in yours. It feels like I am finding another narrative to understand Being John Malkovich, but watching a movie is what it is, going to floor 1.5 sandwiched in the very world with moving people and experiencing what it is to be another person/s.

The fact that movies are also made for theaters primarily and not for computer or television screens tells a lot about the focus demanded while watching a movie. Watching video on a laptop screen or a cellphone is a very passive form of demanding attention, there will be always other real world scenarios that demand attention – the real world scenarios of being in a bedroom, in a kitchen, in a train or waiting in a hotel lobby. These spaces also allow someone to observe the reality that exists outside the synthetic reality of the video and by the virtue of being real it demands more attention. Whereas the primary viewing place of a film is in a theater is a synthetic space made for the consumption of a synthetic reality, which demands that nothing else in that room is more interesting than the happenings on the screen.

Film is the ultimate culmination of all the previous forms of art – what can be a better emulator of reality than an interpreted reality? Livestreaming could give more insights to our human condition but that is boring as it does not have the necessary drama to keep us engaged. As a story telling and mythmaking device, cinema is one great expressive medium. Check out your local kinos for movies that are being played and buy yourself a ticket and treat yourself to a movie without judgement. Try to find as many details as you can or just allow yourself to drown in a new world, but use the medium as as meditative tool. Come out and see the world around you and see that for a fraction of a second has become cinematic. And there you are the hero of your own story.

#film #appreciation #reality that Anna Karenina?

Official Secrets is made by Gavin Hood whose movies I never watched and starring an actress that I vaguely knew in the back of my head. My need to guess who she was without relying on Google kept me occupied for the entire length of the movie. I considered a few names – Anna Karenina, Katherin Heigl, Princess Diaries Anna, Natalie Portman..while the actress on screen was silently owning all the frames she was in.

It is rare for me to be able to completely immerse myself in a movie. On some level I know that it is actors who are playing roles, I know the writing, editing, lighting, acting and staging choices that filmmakers make and I start trying to decode why a scene was made in the particular way it was. Making a film is laborious and research intensive process that takes months of pre-production meaning what happens on the screen most of the times is not an accident. A good movie for me now is one that manages to reasonably engage me in believing that it is not a movie and transports me into another time and place. A great movie on the other hand completely suspends reality and helps me project myself onto whoever and whatever I want to (in Fight Club I became the camera, while also being Tyler Durden, Marla Singer, Meat Loaf and the sex starving cancerous woman. All this sometimes in the same viewing).

In this respect Official Secrets is a good movie. The characters were not templates though they were cliched to a certain extent. One knew what was coming next but not exactly in the way it was coming. The lead up to the drama was engaging and the element that held everything together was the background score by Paul Hepker and Martin Kilian. The music is almost indiscernible because the dramatic and visual elements took the center stage but without the music the film would have had the film stripped of its reality.

Ralph Fiennes has made him the image of Voldemort for me and that means even a comic, drinking a beer on the beach scene with him has a foreboding sense of evil. He is an excellent to addition to a great cast including an ex-Spiderman supervillain, who plays the pre-villian role of himself from Spiderman. It works like your typical journalistic investigation movie with a handsome amount of your ideas of spies and humanitarian lawyers thrown in.

The film is a telling of what happened before the start of the Iraq war in 2003 and the smokescreen the American and British governments were establishing as a buildup for the war. It is a film that comes off as being right on a moral level but given the skeptical nature of truth in today's world it hard to take it seriously without doing some background reading for oneself. I particularly liked a scene where George W. Bush giving a pro-war speech in the TV is instantly cut to from the TV's point of view onto the protagonist's face as it reels in horror. The message here is, we believed the government's narrative while being angered by it at the same time.

I like the end credits in movies like this where they have slides with real world information, let us call them information credits. I also liked that they do a post information credits and pre-real-credits scene which was a dessert to all the grim proceedings in the film. As I left the kino I felt like a spy myself, heroic and alone. I walked out into the real world of desolate Berlin and as the first blast of cold wind hit me square on my face, the reality fell apart. There was no background score and as I walked around the corner, I vanished into a small stream of Friday evening people.

Oh and it is Keira Knightley as the patient end credits informed me. It also turns out she played Anna Karenina in what would be an unconscious twist to my random guessing.

#OfficialSecrets #KeiraKnightley #Voldemort

or the art of projecting whatever you want

I watched Lara last night. It is made by the guy who made Oh-boy apparently and I can't bother to get myself interested about it. It seems like an indie big deal though I do not know the existence of the movie or any of the cast and the crew till the moment I walked into the theater. The sound of popcorn is really annoying, I think it belongs to the same nuisance club as cellphones, couples on a date and kids. Or couples on a date trying to make a kid while being on a cellphone..anyway.

From what I saw it was the story of an evil woman who was waiting to kill her lover who is a pianist. Midway through the movie I realized that the lover was actually her son. There was something to do with pianos and suicide. Lara tries to kill herself because she is a narcissist and a bad pianist? Many characters come and go, they all are pretty memorable. I liked the woman in the bathroom and the saleswoman in the mall. Their little presence made the film warm. The old piano teacher who looked like a boiled egg growing fungus was pretty cool as well. My only grouse was Lara. The actress looked hideous enough to play a snake. But in the last half hour of the movie I kind of starting liking here and then it all made sense.

I walked out thinking she was terrific, like every other character actor who inhabited the screen. Turns out I understood the movie wrong but that's the point of watching a foreign film, it gives you all the liberty to conjure whatever story that fits your liking and then match it up with the images on the screen, I find my inside jokes funnier than the ones written and often I end up laughing or crying more hysterically than your Joe-next-seat audience member.

It was a surprise even for my fellow German companions who mentioned that the movie was well shot and acted. Then they ruined my movie for me which involved a narcissistic, suicidal mother and turned her into a more sympathetic character. It is no Whiplash but it's not your typical hot Hollywood garbage either. Watch it in the theaters near you, stream it or pirate it, it makes for a nice winter evening viewing minus the popcorn.

#GermanCinema #review

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