Spirituality in Cinema
continued from last issue
Now, if cinema is a tantra, and not a trade, then what could be said about 'cinema's destined role?'
I think we are out of Tarkovsky's era of hopefulness to assume that cinema will fill in the spiritual void of modern time. Neither do I believe it is possible to have a meaningful, sustained, two way dialogue to develop a synthesis of thoughts between the cinema maker and his/her audience in today's market ridden, entertainment saturated world.
However, what is worthwhile revisiting in Tarkovsky's writing, is his concept of 'imprinted time;' the filmmaker using 'time' as his/her primary raw material to create art. It is within time and with time, that a filmmaker has to sculpt; create a seamless chunk in time, a complete fragment, an enclosed capsule where audience observes in a nutshell the entire life spanseven the cosmic destinies of the characters living within the time frame of the film,
Cinema came into being as a means of recording the very movement of reality: factual, specific, within time and unique; of reproducing again and again the moment, instant by instant, in its fluid mutabilitythat instant over which we find ourselves able to gain mastery by imprinting it on film” (Tarkovsky, Andrey, Sculpting in Time, University of Texas Press, Texas, USA).
There is something inherently specific about cinema's technique of imprinting on celluloid the residue and remains of objects, people, and a particular reality in time. The technology of photography creates an avenue to transfer one form of existence into another; in the process to reinterpret, create and deliver a new reality within time. Cinema should not be taken lightly, because it is a tantra: it has special power; an unmitigated and unresolved command brought into man's hand by the advancement of technology, a power largely misunderstood and misused,
Photography is an imprint or transfer off the real, it is a photochemically processed traced casually connected to that thing in the world to which it refers in a manner parallel to that of fingerprints or footprints or the rings of water that cold glasses leave on tables (Krauss, Rosalind, The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths, Cambridge, MA).
If we take these words seriously then we also need to think seriously about the consequence of taking imprints from real objects and real time. The consequences are both ways: for the objects, people and time objectified for the purpose of cinema; and for the cinema and cinema maker who has taken of from real objects, people and time to create a fragmented experience of time. Men's superiority in film making lies in his/her capability to harness time, to be able to have a specific chunk in time under his/her control, to be able to replay it, change it, put meaning to it, and to finally own it.
While a person attempts to make a film, he/she has to be extremely careful and cautious about what and how he/she is representing reality within the film. Unfortunately, cinema has become a fashionable trade today; and filmmakers feel powerful and glorious being able to maintain such large units, being able to control and create time, and finally being able shout 'action' and 'cut'. This madness of power has ruined the ethics of filmmaking.
There is something inherently specific about cinema's technique of imprinting on celluloid the residue and remains of objects, people, and a particular reality in time.
When one is shooting a film, one must never forget that the film is being shot from one single perspective, and that is the perspective of the director. Only the director's eye, his/her way of seeing is the centre of all visibility. In order to externalise the concept of reality the director see's his/her own mind, the camera is used as an artificial eye to create multiple perspectives and create a sense of multilayered time,
I'm an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I'm in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse's mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies. This is I, the machine, maneuvering in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations. Freed from the boundaries of time and space, I co-ordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explained in a new way the world unknown to you (Written in 1923 by Dziga Vertov, the revolutionary Soviet film director, in Berger, John, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Books, London)
With the invention of camera the world has entered a new realm of reality where the language and currency of images have become extremely powerful. The meanings and signifiers of our day to day concepts such as love, sex, marriage, romance, nationalism, even spiritualism are invented and dictated by the politics of images. Take for instance Jai Santoshi Ma, a film made in 1975 by Vijay Sharma depicting a woman working endlessly in her domestic realm to finally materialise with her devotion and truthfulness the figure of a Goddessthe Santoshi Ma. Goddess Santoshi Ma is forever sympathetic to the woman's cause and promises to save her from all disgrace against tremendous odds. After the release of the film, in particular regions of India women started giving pujas in name of Jai Santoshi Ma, these pujas still continue on.
This is why, particularly in our region of the world, cinema is a tantra. In South Asia, visual images are so powerful that, it can and has created Gods. In Bangladesh, people take to the streets protesting the death sentence of a fictional TV drama character. How much more careful then, South Asian film makers must be while they are responsible for creating crucial mass public emotions and opinions? As John Berger says, “[E]very image embodies a way of seeing…seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.“
Images are potent and provocative; however, we must remember that, they are not toys. They are not to be taken lightly and trivialised. Human doesn't become God just because men have learnt to harness technology and creative impulses to give birth to one. Human mind remains limited with its fragmented sensory organsnot even capable to comprehend and experience the universe they live in. All we can do is to embrace our only miracle; and that is, the workings of the Divinethe spirit and emotions that run through us to make us capable of miracles.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009