Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Nymphomaniac vol. II – Lars von Trier

Nymphomaniac_Lars_Von_TrierBeing free is being lonely. Always.

Nymphomaniac is all about freedom. Free sex, free speech and free will versus hypocrisy and bigotry; the nymphomaniac says it clearly. Seligman’s digressions are nothing but digressions; the nymphomaniac says that clearly too. But overall there is still a major digression to her story – the parallel between sex and art.

There is nothing true about sex and art if they’re not free. So ultimately is about the profile of an artist in relation to his own art. It’s reflective, descriptive and didactic. An artist’s statement we’re learning about while having fun and getting sad for it implies loneliness, the loneliness of the one who cannot bargain, cannot compromise and cannot lie.

Art is just art (?), words are just words (?) and sex is just sex (?). The question marks only indicate the billions of possibilities to relate to these statements.

The concepts are pure but when human nature is involved purity becomes mere abstraction. Art is seen as crap or vice versa, words are never really understood – not by the one uttering them and even less by the one listening to them. Sex is taboo, side dish, religion, sport or anything else you wish to add. And there’s morality to blur it even more and there’s false morality to make it all opaque.

We’re all different, says the nymphomaniac, so there is no possible way to fit the boundaries of morality to protect each individual’s freedom. Some have less freedom than others.
The nymphomaniac would erase all rules and morality and would leave us all to be guided by our own consciousness. Those who can refrain themselves from harming others when there’s no punishment in sight deserve an award.

She is both naïve and cynical. An idealist.

And so is the artist who probably feels less free than any other individual in the society. Or the one who feels less free becomes an artist? But the ideal public who could fully understand and accept the work of art as it is does not exist or it exists in a percentage that will always leave the artist unfulfilled and misunderstood.

“Lascia ch’io pianga
mia cruda sorte,
e che sospiri la libertà.
Il duolo infranga queste ritorte
de’ miei martiri sol per pietà.”
G.F Handel


Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese

This one is filled with spoilers, mixed up, accidentally hidden and crystal-clear spoilers. If you didn’t see the movie and hate spoilers, don’t read it but you should definitely see the movie. If you saw the movie than scroll over the trailer and read if you feel like it. You are more than welcomed to place a comment.

Stuck in the middle of nature, humanity is, absurdly, not in equilibrium but off-balance. Only animals and the gods, if gods exist, are in harmony with the world, their violence and goodness are extreme, never controlled, sublime.

Our brain is the tool that can help us find an equilibrium that won’t hurt us, our surroundings or the others. It is also the tool that can make us perfectly violent. In the same time, our brain is the first to stop us in achieving perfection be it in goodness or in violence.

We don’t use our brain to make our existence truer. Day by day we exhaust it building the scenario in which we’re the good guy – sometimes the victim, sometimes the hero – who always fights for the right cause. All our actions have perfect alibis. Our brain is working overtime on that.

Cinema is one of the many reasons we are all prisoner of our self-absorbed, escapist scenarios. This form of entertainment was the opium of the people throughout the 20th century. The scars of this century were continuously looked after by cinema; healing them and opening them repeatedly.

Cinema offered much stronger illusions, released more powerful violence, feed more effectively the frustrations than any other force that influenced the masses. Because cinema it’s not the judging, finger-pointing church, nor the ruthless economy, nor the humiliating politics. It washes off class-boundaries, moral values and offers everybody a personalized ecstasy pill in the dark. It offers the illusion of freedom in a damp, dark room.

Today, even if one’s not a cinemagoer he or she would still build up the conscience-appeasing scenario resembling to film scenarios of the cinema’s golden era, because the silver screen left a prominent mark on our day-dreaming language.

In the same way cinema abducts us and melts our brain into whatever story we are watching, the scenarios we build up every day to overcome our pettiness, cowardice and harm we inflict on the world, alienate us from our true selves, they alienate us from the truth about our actions. Luckily, like any form of art, cinema learned to offer the opposite too, to expose our weaknesses, to work as a wake-up call.

What does it mean to be true to oneself? Art, religion, secular law, philosophy and even sports talk about freedom, honesty and fair-play. We brag about all this things when we feel mistreated but do we use them effectively in our relationships with our fellow human being?

Freedom is probably the most uttered word in human history, it is the star concept of human kind yet we seem to be most afraid of using it. Because freedom means to choose between those two sublime extremes only animal and gods can reach: pure violence and pure goodness. If we practice the first we’re locked away, if we practice the second we’d probably end up crucified. So what’s a human to do with freedom? What does it mean to be free on a human scale? How do we become free? Once free, can we still be active in society or even alive?

If we are lucky, as the main character in Shutter Island is, we’d have a few people (or experiences, or accidents, or studies) around us who’d conduct on us an intervention at the end of which we’d become self-aware, able to recognize our defense mechanisms, our disgraceful and our honorable traits etc. If we accept the intervention – we’ve already found an honorable trait; courage – we have the chance to free ourselves from our alienating dream, to take a few steps back and have an objective look at ourselves. Now we are free to choose to live without illusions, exposed or we can choose to reenter our cozy, illusionary cage. Either way, we become free to choose.

For us, the “sane” ones, who commit but trivial crimes-that sometimes hurt like torture, sometime feel like murder – what are the choices if we want to have choices? To head for the lighthouse or to stay in society’s ever reshaping cage which will never turn us into perfect lambs, the cage which will only continue to frustrate the lonely wolf within and will always tolerate our numbing scenarios.

Shutter Island is a heartbreaking psychological journey from the illusionary scenario to self-awareness. At the end of it there is freedom to choose between recognizing the harm inflicted on the world or to have a good old-fashioned transorbital lobotomy.

The movie is perfectly built; its architecture has the foundation on one person’s perspective; the music, the surroundings, the cast, the special effects all play along a perfect tune. That one character, whose perspective Scorsese masterly follows, is played by Leonardo di Caprio never off-key.

This escapist story could have not reached its goals in another art form than cinema. A book, a painting, a music score could never conquer our brains as totally as the pervert cinematographic tools do. That’s why Shutter Island is another perfect movie, for it can’t be anything else.

Orlando – Sally Potter

One of the most spectacular self-discovering journeys, literature has known, has found a perfect adaptation on screen. We all say, at least once in our reader/spectator life that cinematographic adaptations never match the quality of the novels. Some do, some adaptations enrich the original to a point that one cannot be taken into consideration without the other. It is the case of Sally Potter’s Orlando based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Olrando. If you read the book and see the movie, no matter in what order, you will never think of one without considering the other. At least, that is my case.

Orlando is about a person’s journey to the inner self, to the perfect equilibrium of the human being. It is neither a man’s journey nor a woman’s, it is the voyage to freedom of the genderless heart and mind, encaged throughout history in the “how you should be” rules of the male or female behavior.

The story is perfect; out of an excellent novel came out an excellent script: witty and sparkling. The dialogs are memorable (they should spice up anybody’s conversation in social circles). The roles are played perfectly by an outstanding cast. Tilda Swinton playing Orlando is a delight. Naïve, idealistic as Orlando can be, Swinton still finds ways to slip in some auto irony.

But what really makes this movie a masterpiece relies in what makes cinema a fully grown art: composition of the image, angle and montage.

All that the seventh art can give back to the major arts, it so much stolen from in the beginning, is to turn stones and oil into animated lights and to turn poetry, music, and architecture into a realm where these are of equal texture.

The plastic composition of the image in Orlando gives the movie its style. The cinematographer (Alexei Rodionov) chooses to shoot scenes using the classic frontal perspective. The composition of the image is strictly built on horizontals and verticals giving a sense off static and rigidity. All this matches perfectly the times Orlando’s is trapped in.

There is a single exception when the operator indulges us with a view from above; in the scene where Orlando returns from Far East, it is also one of the rare occasions when we can see oblique lines in the composition. A perfect moment to escape the western classical golden measure the renaissance came up with. Orlando has just made a big step toward completeness.

The choice of color and light/shade combination is, in the first half of the movie, indebted to the Dutch and Flemish renaissance and Northern mannerist painting; so crafty, opulent and attentive to details.

The montage counterbalances the composition. It is alert and lightens up the atmosphere, contributing to the ironic view of the director on all characters (Orlando included) and social customs.

The irony does not stop here; the costumes are also tools that outline ridiculous gender and social standards everyone takes so damn seriously.

Orlando is a story about freedom and happiness on one’s own, by one’s own means. Fellow humans are all blown by the winds and there’s always rain after their departure. We are all following our dream on our own, needing the company of others only when faith in accomplishing that dream fades, when we are strangers to ourselves or when an ankle twists. Humans should search for unity inside themselves before searching for company. This is what we should do to stand firm against social, political, economical, well, life’s adversities. This is what Orlando stands for.

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