Monday, October 11, 2004

The stills

Among the many insights, particularly into cinema, my close friend Vasant has given me, one has been about the separation of 'art' cinema from socio-political movie making, both of which, in common parlance, are categorized under parallel or art cinema. Without delving deep into the details of what are the traits that make up this separation, I should say that 'art' movies are just about aesthetic aspects of the world around us whereas socio-political movies are a commentary on various other panoramas of human behaviour and/or societal & political occurrences of our times. Socio-political movies, at certain level, have a message or an opinion, whereas 'art' cinema is an evocation of just our finer aesthetic side, more to do with the aspects of beauty and emotion than the faculties of values and reason.

About a week back, I started reading a book by Sergi Eisenstein by the name 'The film sense'. The first chapter is titled 'Word & Image' and essentially, to my mind, talks about this evocation, the trait that demarcates art cinema. This evocation is not limited just to cinema, per se, as Eisenstein himself points out. However, it is in the context of cinema that Eisenstein elaborates on this aspect of evocation.

We associate a theme with images. A clock is representative, for example, of time. So when we look at a clock, we do not see three arms circling about an axis; rather, we perceive time. Likewise, all that comprises memory are images; and the thought of a subject paints in our minds all of the images that we associate with that subject. And as human beings, a lot of these images, representative of a theme, are common to the memories of each one of us.

So as an art film maker, one's goal is to reproduce in the audience's mind, by juxtaposing images, the whole theme itself. Eisenstein goes a step further & says that not only the theme should be reached in the audience's mind but the path to this holistic realization of the theme should be relived by the audience, the way the artiste envisioned the theme by the means of her images. Therefore, its really an evocation, more of a journey than a mere destination.

A silent night. A sea drowned in its own vastness. Battleships silhouetted against starlight - These were images from Eisenstein's film "The battleship Potemkin". A perfect build up of anxiety; an illustration of a time fraught with fear and uncertainty, almost crawling; a shape of things to come.

The montage, whatever little I saw of it in "The battleship Potemkin", is potentially capable of rendering words useless. Its minimalist, breathtaking and true "art"!

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