Primer: when a film feels close to home

The first time I knew about Primer, it was around the year 2010. It attracted my attention because it is a highly-acclaimed, low-budget sci-fi film, directed and written by Shane Carruth, a software engineer who has a degree in Mathematics and who hadn’t made a feature film before, with the help of a small crew of five. At that time, I did not have the desire to watch it.

Seven years later, I encountered the title again and, this time, I was livid to watch it. I finally watched it on December 9. I had heard many good words about Primer. But, even after reading countless positive endorsements, I was still emotionally unprepared.

I am not ready to dissect its unconventional and deeply complex narrative; it will probably take me years and many buckets of tears to untangle the devilishly-intricate chronology. Heck, I will never start on dissecting the science and evaluating its soundness; kudos to Carruth for not dumbing down the jargon-laced dialogues. But, I am ready to talk about its ‘realism’.

Of all the films I have watched, this has to be among the most realistic. I am deeply immersed in the story to the point of almost feeling at home. When I thought other films were bona fide, Primer brings it to the next level. The fact that it is sci-fi can be surprising to some people. For me, it is partially surprising. Let me elaborate.

Believe it or not, speculative genres like sci-fi are able to embody realism. Not literally, of course. Instead, they make use of allegories and ideas to illustrate the real world. In fact, the so-called more ‘realistic’ genres often fail to explore real life issues. So, I am not surprised by the sense of realism.

What surprises me is how near-perfect the immersion is. Despite dealing with real life issues, the audience is still emotionally detached from the characters and stories in most fantastical films. Thematically, Primer is not special as it deals with unethical use of technology, a cliche of the sci-fi genre. But, I have my own ‘theories’ about how the immersion came into being (I use the ‘t word’ very loosely here).

The directing and editing were so neatly-done, they look like the works of an experienced professional. The cinematography, however, is grainy at times; it still reminds me about the film’s micro budget. But, that seems superficial. I am sure there are other elements, more abstract ones that contribute to the immersion. (Oh, and condescending tone in this paragraph is unintentional. My apologies).

The special effects are almost non-existent in Primer, unusual for a film of such genre. Apart from how impressive it is to convince the audience that this special effects-deprived film is sci-fi, I also believe it’s a contributing factor to its realism; the audience knows how special effects are just visual ‘fabrication’. I am not saying that special effects ruin the immersion. I just think that, more of than not, they are only used to emphasise escapism.

Previously, I mentioned about how Carruth refused to dumb down the scientific jargons. Besides its praiseworthiness, it also entices me to believe in the authenticity of the science. In many sci-fi films, the lack of technical language make them look disproportionately more ‘fi’ than the ‘sci’. The rest of the dialogues, however, are very down-to-earth.

When the main characters are not speaking jargons, they are speaking in an everyday language. No floweriness, just mundanity we are familiar with. Don’t get wrong. I do love poetic language; it can make great narrations and monologues. But, admittedly, it can be uncomfortably artificial in dialogues.

Oh, and the acting. For me, the lead actors’ performance radiated sincerity. They effortlessly performed dialogues that were cut off mid-sentences and overlapped each other, which parallel real-life casual conversations; I wouldn’t be surprised if they improvised their lines. Also, despite not being overly-animated, they were still able to convey emotions; not every normal living person is loud and extroverted.

I believe those elements contribute to my wonderfully sublime experience. Their audibility and visuality make them relatively tangible. But, I should not forget one abstract element which can be easily missed: the depth.

In this case, it is less about the depth itself and more about its presentation. Some films, both commercial and arthouse, try too hard to look profound, they end up bearing an image of pompousness and superficiality. Primer is the complete opposite.

Instead of a film with deep and hidden meanings, it merely presents itself as a story of two men who accidentally invented a time machine, which they use for their selfish gains. Basically, humans who become corrupt when the opportunity arises. Even when you are not one of them, I am sure you are mindful of how irresistible the dark side can be. Quite mundane if you think about it.

As I said before, with its theme of technological abuse, Primer is not thematically groundbreaking. But, instead of dwelling on it, the film treats the overused subject matter as nothing more than an accessory; it prefers to accentuate the genuine human story.

I really wish more films (and TV shows as well) follow Primer‘s footsteps. More mundane languages, more natural acting, more sincere human quality. Obviously, such motion pictures exist. But, I just wish they were more bountiful and more widely-accepted. One can dream.

Oh, and as I am typing this, I have only watched the film twice. In the future, after watching it for the umpteenth time, I will certainly change my opinions. It would be disappointing if I fail to refine my reasoning and knowledge.

I don’t get the Potheads

No, not stoners. Harry Potter fans.

Well, I have yet to read the first three novels and all but one supplemental book. I have yet to read The Cursed Child, the official HP fan fiction. But, I know that I am a fan.

Harry Potter is one of the things I love the most in life. Love the characters. Love the thematics. Love the vast world-building. I’ve also made my own (borderline pretentious) interpretations about the series. Harry Potter is a huge inspiration in my life.

But, if you have read my past articles (as if!), you would know how I despise fandoms, especially the ones where I supposedly belong to. I did a whole article dedicated to bashing my fellow bros aka Pewdiepie fans. I am going to do the same thing to my fellow potheads.

Just like how bros misunderstand Pewdiepie as a persona, I believe Potheads also do the same thing with their beloved series. In this case, they distort the messages to be the complete opposite.

Hogwarts school of hypocrisy and misguided elitism

Potheads love to lump themselves to the four Hogwarts houses. Gryffindor for the courageous, brave and determined ones, Slytherin for the ambitious and cunning ones, Ravenclaw for the witty, learned and wise ones…. and Hufflepuff for the sad, soon-to-be-nobodies weaklings.

Hufflepuff is a sad story. It has an unflattering image not because its values are debilitating, but because they are empowering: Hard work, patience, loyalty and fair play.

It is arguable whether loyalty has an important role in it. But, you cannot deny how important the other three are in our learning experiences, in and outside the classrooms. Learning requires efforts (hard work), time (patience) and ethics (fair play). Hufflepuff’s values are essentials in education.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think every single Hogwarts house cherishes commendable values. We must thrive to embrace them in how we live our life. But, Potheads often forget that Hogwarts is a school and knowing our priorities is key.

You may be a courageous Gryffindor who thinks you can brave the exam. But, if you think you can do so without sparing time for after-class study, you are a prime example of the blurred line between bravery and idiocy. You may as well start a magical duel while wandless.

You may be a knowledgeable and intelligent Ravenclaw. But, if you are too lazy to put them into use and too lazy to learn more, your knowledge and intelligence would have less worth than trolls’ diarrhoeic shit. Do you seriously think mere brain equals instant success?

You may be an ambitious Slytherin who competitively pursues academic achievements. But, if you are willing to cheat to get what you desire, you don’t deserve the rewards. You are not entitled to something just because you feel so. In fact, outside the school setting, you would be considered a felon. It is surprising that Death Eaters are not dominated by Slyther… oh, wait.

I believe that elitism can be a force of good. Demanding the most skilled and learned to perform the most important jobs is reasonable and perfectly human. Not only such elitism is perfectly fine, I think it should be encouraged in our lives. But, that is not the case with Hogwarts.

From all of four Hogwarts founders, only Helga Hufflepuff understood the essences of education. The rest thought education should only be reserved for anyone who possess those irrelevant traits. It is the same as making Gods out of people for simply being rich (whose money may also be inherited). It is a misguided form of elitism.

And just like any forms of misguided elitism, those three Hogwarts houses are racked with barefaced hypocrisy. Despite constantly patting themselves on the back, not every Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin embodies the values of their respective house.

Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor. He did not have the gut to face his ‘best friends’ whom he betrayed, did not have the gut to face Voldemort whom he swore loyalty to. He was too much of a coward to confront the consequences of his own actions.

Slytherins like Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape and Horace Slughorn are strongly driven by sky-high ambitions. But then, there are also Slytherins like Crabbe and Goyle whose only ambitions is to be the ‘little’ bitches of Draco Malfoy, world’s number one Daddy’s boy.

But, by far, Ravenclaw is the worst house regarding this. From all the Ravenclaws that have interacted with Harry, none of them seem to embody wits, wisdom and love of knowledge. Despite her magical prowess, Luna Lovegood is also a conspiracy theorist and literally the Anti-Hermione. Cho Chang is an expert in being a guilt-tripping bitch. Gilderoy Lockhart is a narcissist whose only skills are obliviating others’ memories and stealing their works (I have to give Flitwick a pass. Apart from his magical prowess, we know little about him).

But, the worst thing is, all of the intelligent characters in the series are non-Ravenclaws. Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Ginny Weasley, Cedric Diggory, Severus Snape, Lily Evans, Tom Riddle aka Voldy, Remus Lupin, the Weasley twins, just to name a few. Heck, even Harry and Draco seem more intelligent than those Ravenclaws.

If you value something so much, why don’t you practice it instead ? Why keep preaching to resisting ears? Is it about trying to impose an air of superiority while simultaneously sneering at others because you suffer from insecurity and trying to compensate for it? I guess we will never know.

Yes, I know this is unconvincing. It is never addressed either by the characters or Rowling herself. This is purely my interpretation. But, I have another opinion about the series, which I am more confident about.

Marauders’ so-called integrity

Say ‘Wormtail was a cowardly traitor’ and every pothead would nod in agreement. Say ‘the Marauders were a bunch of remorseless bullies’ and you would encounter polarising reactions.

Regarding that, the HP fandom community is divided into two factions: one who sees the Marauders (apart from Wormtail) as heroic angels and the other sees them as a gang of bullies.

I belong to the latter.

It is explicitly shown in Order of Phoenix and Deathly Hallows how they made Snape’s life a living hell. They even started bullying him before their first arrival at Hogwarts. They didn’t see him as a human being worthy of respect.

“But, Remus Lupin didn’t participate in the bullying. Also, James and Sirius stopped bullying Snape after the former dated Lily.”

Remus was not a bully. But, his friends were ones and that didn’t seem to mind him. It does not matter if you never participate in it. If you tolerate any acts that harm your fellow human beings, you are also a complicit.

And yes, they did stop bullying Snape after James dated Lily. They did mature as individuals. But, there is still no indication of remorse. End of torment does not mean repentance. It just means the tormenters stop giving a shit about their victims.

In fact, when reminiscing about their past in Order of Phoenix, Remus and Sirius saw themselves as nothing but misbehaved children. I don’t care if you are a six-year-old or a sixty-year-old. If you are a bully, you are a fucking bully! Do not sugarcoat it! Your age cannot and will never absolve you from your sins!

After learning the truth, Harry didn’t end up hating James and Sirius. I mean, one is his biological father and the other is a surrogate. Some of us cannot stop loving our loved ones even after their horrible deeds; it is a human thing. But, Harry also stopped seeing them as perfectly angelic figures. Harry has learned to accept that humans are creatures of many shades of grey.

Closing statements

My identity and a bit of Newt

If I have to choose one house, I would definitely choose Hufflepuff based on the reasons I stated above. But, deep down, I am not a Hufflepuff. I am a Ravenclaw.

My idea of fun involves having intellectual conversations, watching documentaries and arthouse films, visiting museums (another reason why I go out, besides foods), reading and googling (mostly googling) for knowledge that has no practical purposes, (over-) analysing works of arts and entertainment and pondering about everything that intrigues me. People have called me a pretentious little prick, which is not that inaccurate to be honest. I often look down on others for simplistic thinking which I sometimes feel guilty about. Sometimes.

That proves how not only I am staunch Ravenclaw, I can also be anti-Hufflepuff at times. And still, if I am enrolled at Hogwarts (as if!), I would choose Hufflepuff over any other houses. As much I love them, my values cannot be of any service or even appropriate in every setting. I have to admit that mine are far from perfect.

Oh, and don’t preach me about the so-called perfection of Gryffindor. It is a house where self-righteous pricks congregate their self-righteous arses from which they preach their self-righteousness. Instead of genuinely courageous beings, I often see Gryffindors as the fictional equivalents of Social Justice Warriors, constantly derailing their own progressive causes.

I am going on a tangent here.

On Pottermore, there is an article called 7 ways Hufflepuff are way better than you realise. From the title alone, you can tell it is one of those amateurishly-written blogs (yes, I am projecting). Some of the points make sense, albeit weakly argued. Others are unfounded altogether. I would be disappointed if Rowling wrote it herself. But, there is one point that attracts my eyes: the house’s lack of conventionality.

The article uses Tonks’ appearance as a representative of said unorthodoxy. But, it is too shallow of an example. We need something that goes beyond the physicality, something more profound and.. I can think of one example: Newt Scamander.

Google ‘Newt Scamander masculinity’ and you will see articles about how the magizoologist defies the traditional masculinity. Instead of being conceited, insensitive and showy, he is nurturing, emotionally sensitive and unassuming. He is a deviant male lead. Even in this regard, Harry Potter is still a cliche character. Unsurprisingly, deviance like this one is not universally loved.

In his Pop Culture Detective video, Jonathan McIntosh shows how film reviewers from mainstream media outlets criticise the character for his supposed lack of charm. Their minds are still indoctrinated by the cultural establishment to love – and only love – what we have been accustomed to. Feel pity for them.

What is surprising about Newt Scamander’s ‘deviant’ personality is not the deviance itself. Many works of arts and entertainments have violated the norms since the beginning of time and will always do. As zealous as they are enforced, disobedience should be expected once in a while.

What is surprising about Newt Scamander is him not being a major character in an indie or arthouse film. He is a major character in Harry Potter, a profitable franchise with strong mainstream popularity. Pop culture is infamous for its obedience to the establishment. The fact that a form deviance can exist in such sphere is a marvel in itself.

I am disappointed with myself. As someone who loves to analyse entertainment and hates traditional gender roles, I should have spotted it myself.

The lesser bullies

Snape is indeed a well-crafted character. He has sacrificed his body and soul for the sake of defeating Voldemort. It is dishonest for us to dismiss both. But, at the same time, they cannot erase one absolute fact: he is a fucking horrible person!

He abuses his power as a teacher, he preys on vulnerable students and he finds pleasure in torment! Praise his heroism. Praise how well-crafted he is as a character. But, there is no sound justification for us to romanticise someone who can be described as a heartless bully…

… And the same mindset should be applied to the Marauders.

Yes, I know. In comparison (Wormtail excluded), they are a lot kinder, warmer and more virtuous than Snape will ever be. But, again, you cannot ignore the facts that James and Sirius are also remorseless bullies and Lupin consciously tolerates them. They are the reason why his heart is ravaged with a sickness called bullying.

Despite everything, some of you still lay your eyes on the Marauders through rose-coloured lenses. This blog is not the first time I spout such rant. It seems nothing will convince you to take them off. But, I will keep trying.

I have this one trick, though. A trick so painfully obvious, anyone would have thought about it long ago: stop comparing them with Snape! Of course, they would look angelic with him in the picture. From now on, remove him out of it! Judge every single one for who they really are, not for someone else is.

The greater bully will always look worse than the lesser bully. But, like it or not, the lesser bully is still a bully.

It seems to contradict what I said in the beginning about how I love the characters. Well, I do love them because they are very grey.

Okay, a few characters are indeed black and white. The series also has the cliche ‘good vs evil’ theme. But, pay attention and you’ll see how complex many of the characters are.

When we think we know them, they suddenly reveal ‘new’ aspects about themselves; they are like infinite onions where every layer embodies a surprise. They also possess wonderful imperfection; their strengths and weaknesses make them feel more relatable, more human. Real humans are always more complex than we like to think. It’s sad how I have to point out this obvious fact.

We cannot completely hate many of the characters. We also cannot romanticise them as well. Once again, they are of many shades of grey. That’s the reason why I love them.

BvS: a never-ending, action-infested clusterf**k… with moments of surprising depth (a shamelessly late review)

From the title alone, one can tell I will be bashing the film which many people have relieved themselves on for the past two years. So, if you are a fanboy or fangirl who only see imaginary flawlessness in your beloved motion picture work, click away.

Or don’t. Besides bashing the hell out of it, I am also planning to discuss about the film’s positive aspects AND attempting to persuade you to reflect on the dissenting voices. I don’t care if I will be persuasive or sound like a self-righteous prick. Okay, now let’s start with the beating.

First of all, the story is horrendously tedious! Not slow-pacing, but tedious. A slow-paced story encourages us to patiently wait or even to not expect anything at all; we are encouraged to relish the present. This is more common in arthouse films where immersion is crucial and non-negotiable in every scene.

A tedious story, on the other hand, keeps lingering on the same points despite its promise of incoming fresh scenes. It is nothing but a spawn of broken promises and aesthetic disappointment. Unless you are easily awed by mindless jam-packed actions, there’s nothing that can save us from a film’s tiresome pacing.

In fact, BvS is unbearable because of its mixing of tedious pacing and high octane actions. The three-hour-long duration makes it even more gruelling. I left the cinema feeling mentally exhausted. Personally, I don’t mind the exhaustion as long as it is legitimate. A film may provoke strong emotions that last for hours (or days). It may also provoke us to think hard as it is either loaded with information or confusing at the first watch.

Confusing. Also what BvS is to me. On this part, I am not sure if the problem is with me. Maybe I failed to pick up vague hints that can enlighten me about the story. Maybe I was (and still am) unfamiliar with the original source material. If it’s the latter, we have a problem.

An adaptation must be able to stand by itself. The original source materials are its inspirations, not its extensions. If we need to explore them for more info, why bother adapting them in the first place? Is the entertainment really less about quality and more about profit-making? Did I just ask a rhetorical question where I seemed to fake some level of profundity? But, as I said, I am still not sure if the problem is with me.

Oh, and I am going to end the bashing with something predictable: Martha. Arguably one of the most mockable moments in the history of mockable entertainment. Two individuals immediately bond with each other just because their mothers share the same name. The heartwarming charade is so brazenly displayed, its so-called warmth becomes hollow and insincere.

And yet, meaningless and deceitful facades still dupe us. We still hate subtlety because it requires understanding of life beyond what the basic senses tell us. That’s unfortunate since subtlety is one thing that brings depth to works of arts and entertainment. Subtlety helps us to dodge traps like self-conceited pretentiousness, sickly sweet sentimentality or, in the case of Martha: the movie, shameless idiocy.

Enough with the bashing. As I said in the beginning, I will also talk about the film’s positive features. Just because I hate something, that doesn’t mean it absolutely lacks any redeeming values. In this case, it is the not-so-subtle menace shown in two scenes.

The first one is Batman’s nightmare scene. Apart from the drastic change of setting and Batman’s voice, it doesn’t feel dreamlike at first. The ensuing chaos also seems normal. But suddenly, in the middle of the mayhem, winged-demons are arriving from the sky, snatching every single human that is seen as a threat. It literally looks the beginning of God’s wrath.

Except they are not demons; they are not even supernatural. Once you take a close look, you will see they are mere human soldiers, completely clad in black armour and adorned with mechanical wings. But, how the scene was crafted really does wonders.

Camera angle, showing the ‘demonic’ soldiers’ daunting arrivals from the sky. Background music, laced with droning male vocals. The limited colour palette of light brown and black, evoking hell on earth and man’s inner darkness respectively. As a result, those flying soldiers look like they were born among hellfire. Even the wingless and more human-looking soldiers look demonic as well. It is a very nightmarish. But, not the scariest scene ever made.

Heck, it’s not even the peak of the film’s disquieting atmosphere. For me, Lex Luthor’s painting scene is the winner for possessing greater subtlety and requiring more in-depth dissection. The said painting depicts the biblical angels and devils, with the former emerging from the sky and the latter soaring from the underworld.

Its appearance on the scene is very brief. Brief, yet assertive. Once again, the background music was well-composed, this time with haunting string sounds. But, what makes the painting domineering is the remarks of Lex Luthor, who exudes a menacing aura (if I may use the word). He said:

[The painting] should be upside down. We know better now, don’t we? Devils don’t come from hell beneath us. No, they come from the sky.”

That’s not randomness. If you try to interpret it (using logic, of course), the results would be so fitting to the narrative… and internet users have done so. Some think it represents Superman who is probably seen as the devil by Lex. Others think it represents Lex, who sees himself as the ‘angel’ who fell from grace, aka the devil. Symbolism is one boundless space, always open for any sound interpretations.

Subtlety. Yeah, I know. Said that a zillion times before. Bla bla bla bla. But, I want to keep underlining its importance in conveying depth, as proven by the two scenes. Subtlety is the only reason why I don’t hate BvS completely. In fact, I am now open about the possibility of me hating the film less in the future. I might have missed other hidden messages!

Let me change the topic for a while and tell you a story:

I am a Harry Potter fan. I love most of its characters, their quirks and surprising complexities. I love the expansiveness of the fictional universe. I love the thought-provoking thematics, unpretentiously expressed throughout. I love its progressive social stances. I even have made my own analyses about the series, encouraging the growth of my critical thinking skill.

And because of that skill, I cannot unsee its flaws.

Apart from the inconsistencies (which is common in any long-running series), there are also defects like lack of novelty, unexceptional writing style and hasty series finale. I hate how Goblet of Fire and Order of Phoenix, especially the latter, are given poor film adaptations by having their depth thrown away. I also believe Half-Blood Prince understands the HP spirit more than the original source material itself. That’ll stir up the fandom.

I hope you, BvS fans, are still here. I know some of you are rational enough to not make a God out of your favourite film. But, for those of you who do and still adamant about its absolute perfection, let me ask you something:

If I have the ability to shit on Harry Potter, one of the things I love the most in my life, why can’t you accept that BvS, your beloved film, has its faults?

You don’t need to be a pretentious snob to criticise the film. No need to be a Batman and/or Superman hater. No need to be a hardcore Marvel fan. Heck, you don’t even need a highly intellectual mind.

All you need is to accept that imperfection is inherently inescapable, even for the things you love dearly.

Dystopia is here: A portrayal of communication technology usage

A revised version of a university assignment I made in 2014. We were assigned to analyse a work of art and entertainment that includes new media as its main focus:

Because of its increasing importance in society, cultural representations of the new media has been getting more prominent recently. What Have We Done? is a good example. It is a 2014 short film directed by Sammy Paul and Tim Hautekiet. It is interesting to point out that both people are Youtubers and the film was uploaded to Hautekiet’s Youtube channel. Basically, the directors and the film are parts of the new media themselves. This essay will discuss how the film portrays it. But first, I will have to summarise the plot (to watch the film, click here):

The film is a musical and most of the dialogues are singing. It tells the story about a 19th century Englishman named William Sturgeon, who travelled to the future with his own time machine. The reason why he visited the future is he was disillusioned by the human society and he believed in the existence utopia. In the 21st century, he met a character portrayed by Tim Hautekiet himself Sturgeon asked Hautekiet to introduce him to the achievements of mankind in which the latter eagerly did. But soon, the 19th century man was even more disillusioned; he realised that humans have regressed. Instead of being used for the greater good, technology is used for the complete opposite. Humans are getting less intellectual, more detached from each other and worse, more dehumanised. Sturgeon decided to go back to his time and destroyed the time machine.

The most obvious aspect of the film is its music; it is banal and mostly lighthearted. The banality represents how humans never learn from our mistakes. Ignorance is caused by the lack of knowledge and lack of interaction with people from different backgrounds. The film strongly implies that every single generation in human history is guilty of it. The same thing keeps repeating itself. The lightheartedness represents how humans, including Hautekiet’s character, are apathetic to human regression; sometimes we even cherish it. That is represented by his cheerfulness.

But, the film’s lighthearted music can be perceived as sarcastic and it is possible that Hautekiet’s character is acting so the whole time. According to Miranda Bruce-Mitford (1996, p. 80), “music represents the ordered pattern of the universe”. The music successfully represents the universe portrayed by the film. Musical films often include dance numbers and What Have We Done? (2014) is no exception.

Bruce-Mitford (1996, p. 76) describes dancing as ritualistic movements that emit energies. The film has two dance numbers. The first one features banal and light-hearted dancing; music and dancing have to compliment each other in a musical. Like the music, the dancing represents how humans keep repeating the same mistakes and how we deal with regression; again, the lightheartedness can be interpreted as either cherishing the regression or being sarcastic to it. These actions can be seen as quite ritualistic.

The second dance number is less unoriginal and less cheerful. Every single dancer is shown with a mobile device in his/her hand. Most of them dance with stilted movements and expressionless faces. Four of them dance in couples and their eyes are glued to their mobile devices instead of their partners. They represent humans who are enslaved by technology; they seem not to have lives of their own and when they do, their lives are dedicated solely to the technology instead to their loved ones.

It should be noted the colour red is prominent in the second dance scene. Red represents danger (Bruce-Mitford 1996, p. 106). The film is warning us that if we are not careful, we would be enslaved by technology. From the surface, the visual and musical aspects may be very important to viewers. But, if one digs deeper, one would encounter strong ontological elements.

In the second dance number, Hautekiet sings these lines:

It’s a pretty sweet deal But your soul is the price!

These lines refer to human habits of buying stuff we do not need and misusing the internet. At the exact moment he sings ‘but your soul is the price’, Hautekiet’s face changes its appearance: his skin turns greenish and his eyes become larger and blacker. He also sings that line with demonic voice. Green represents decay and black represents destruction (Bruce-Mitford 1996, pp. 106-107). Our bodies are decaying in a figurative sense because we are not using them and our minds are always somewhere else. We are destroying our souls because we are detaching ourselves from the physical reality. I refrain myself from using the word “destructing” because it implies that the act is deliberate. It is debatable whether we are deliberately destroying our souls or not. But, it raises another question: what is a “soul”?

Soul” is a very abstract concept and there is no universally-accepted definition of it. I define it as a concept of “self” and that is definition I am going to use. There are four different ideas of “self”: dualism, materialism, monistic pantheism and no-self (Meister 2009, pp. 190-196). Dualism is the idea of mind and body as two separate entities. Materialism states that nothing exists beyond the material world. Monistic pantheism is a combination of two ideas: monism, in which everything is one and inseparable from each other, and pantheism, in which everything is divine. No-self believes that “the individual self does not exist”. In some ways, those four ideas are represented in the film.

Dualism is represented by the way people dance. Their bodies are shown to be dancing. But judging from their faces, their minds are somewhere else; their bodies and minds do not influence each other. But then, the dualist nature can also be easily refuted by materialism because how a human brain works also influence the mind (Kim 1996, p. 47). Most of the dancers may have their minds somewhere else. But, their minds become static because their brains are controlled by their mobile devices and their dance movements can be described as static as well; they seem to be directly controlled by the brains.

Materialism can also be used to partially support monistic pantheism. I said partially because monism is shown by the fact that mind and body are inseparable and the film’s materialist idea does not support pantheism because technology is shown as the one and only divine object; pantheism believes everything is equally divine. It is also can be said that materialism also supports the No-Self idea in a way; our minds are influenced by our bodies, which are also influenced by the environments. In a way, those dancers can also be described as not having independent selves. The film has strong elements of dualism, but they can be easily refuted by the other three ideas. I have discussed about the artistic and ontological elements. The last thing I am going to discuss about is how the film portrays human communication.

John Hartley (2002, p. 32) defines communication as “interaction by means of mutually recognised signals.” Interactions can be done directly or with a medium. One may think the interactions as with the help of internet as being portrayed are not true communications. But, I have repeatedly mentioned how the characters seem to have their minds somewhere else. They are not evading human communications, they are communicating with other humans somewhere else! The film does not portray the internet as communication destroyer but as a changer of communication; we communicate more with people from faraway than the people physically close to us. The film excellently, but not perfectly, portrays how we use communication technology.

In the film, humans are described as not unwilling to learn from their ancestors’ mistakes, even with more than adequate technology. Human minds are portrayed as slaves to the new technology instead of the opposite. From the surface, the film seems to portray human communications being destroyed by technology. But, it is not destroying communications, it is changing them.

Bruce-Mitford, M 1996, The illustrated books of signs and symbols, DK Publishing, London.

Hartley, J 2002, Communication, cultural and media studies: the key concepts, 3rd edn, Routledge, New York.

Meister, C 2009, Introducing philosophy of religion, Routledge, London.

Kim, J 1996, Philosophy of mind, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Lowbrow elitism

I still refuse to call myself a big fan of Progressive Rock. I have yet to listen to the works of every legendary Prog Rock band. My knowledge of the genre is still minuscule. But, I know that I am overwhelmed by it. I know about how robust intellectualism and virtuoso mastery of instruments are the non-negotiable prerequisites for its musicians. That’s why I was thrilled to find a BBC documentary titled ‘Prog Rock Britannia’.

For me, it was deeply compact. It concisely retold the chronicle of the wonderfully bizarre genre from start to finish. From the startling emergence to its disgraceful downfall. Oh and about the downfall…

According to the documentary, the cause of its demise was related to the public perception. Prog Rock had been regarded as another form of elitism that dismiss the everyday life of common people. When financial crisis struck Britain in the 1970’s, the distaste finally climaxed. It was no longer socially acceptable to love Prog Rock. It was finally proven how the genre did not represent the people while the more pop ones did.

Yeah, about that…

Prog Rock disgusted them because it encouraged intellectualism and higher artistic appreciation, not because of its supposed elitism. If elitism was indeed the reason, they would not have chosen pop music, an inherently escapist genre that discourages any forms of contemplation, as the music of the people.

In his article Popular culture: a useful notion?, Willem Frijhoff laid out six dimensions of pop culture, one of them is it being everyday culture. Even before I read the article, I already had that thought in mind. Pop culture is what the common people instinctively embrace… and that is it.

We often do not realise how culture is something that we preach and does not always practice. In many cases, a culture represents a society’s loudly-expressed ideals approved by the Establishment, not the actual day-to-day practice of the ordinary people.

If a culture is always the photographic representation of a society, sexually conservative societies would not have high rates of teenage pregnancies, sexual assaults and STDs. Self-proclaimed free societies would not have politicians that advocate violation of freedom. I’d love to call out specific countries. But, I am already going too far on a tangent.

Anyway, I don’t mind pop culture. I genuinely understand why it is loved by many. In fact, I find it to be mentally relieving at times. But, pretending that it represents who we are is extremely dishonest. We should always remember pop culture’s main purpose: pushing escapism.

Pop culture’s idea of entertainment involves abducting us from our loathsome earthly existence to a world of bewitching illusions. That’s nice, isn’t it? If we want a culture to represent us, pick one that can’t even be bothered to allude to reality. Never pick ones that encourage contemplation. Ever.

A disclaimer: when I said pop culture, I was referring to the low-quality kind. There are times when pop culture works successfully combine both escapism and contemplative depth. The Golden Girls is one good example, with frequent social commentaries and occasional emotional moments. Anyway…

If you hate the highbrow because you hate intellectualism and artistry, just say it! Don’t say that your hatred is motivated by genuine anti-elitism when it isn’t. Using such pretext makes you a fraud. Nobody with sane state of mind would want to be one…

Wait, maybe you want to be one. Maybe you are one of those pathetic nobodies who believe life is all about others’ superficial recognition. You will do anything to be the so-called voice of the common people. Fondling your fragile ego is more important than being truthful.

Either that or you just from cognitive dissonance. Maybe you genuinely believe pop culture is not escapist, never was and never will be. You believe intellectualism and artistry are escapism in its purest, unadulterated form. You’re unable to acknowledge your defective mental clarity.

This anti-highbrow sentiment is hypocritical and self-defeating. You exclude anything that you consider highbrow and anyone who embrace it. But then, you exclude. You are committing exclusion. Your efforts to combat elitism ends up creating another form of elitism, where the lowbrow is the only acceptable norms. As I said, hypocritical and self-defeating.

What’s the point of this article? Well, first of all, writing insults is fun for me. Second, I believe our expressions of distaste for certain things should be properly constructed. Our attempts to appeal to the masses should be based on sincerity, not pandering and deceit. Our reasoning should also be sound and coherent; always reconsider every single one of our thoughts. Critical thinking is undeniably arduous. But, it is possible to do and worth the efforts.

Note about the referenced article:

I initially wanted to make a complete citation of Willem Frijhoff’s article. The problem is I forget where I got the article from. I did find a Dutch academic also named Willem Frijhoff. But, his area of specialisation is history and there was no indication that he ever dealt with pop culture studies. Academic studies can be interdisciplinary in nature which still makes me wonder if he is the Willem Frijhoff I am looking for.

Pewdiepie and Trump: literally not the same!

pewdiepie internet 2017 main

Not long ago, Felix Kjellberg AKA Pewdiepie was accused of anti-Semitism. Well, to this day, he is still accused of it. Admittedly, he is known for his humour which can be extremely obscene, even for fans like me. But, a racist he is not.

I understand that jokes like his can be unpalatable and can be abused by bigots. But, I am one of those who differentiate vulgarity from bigotry. Of course, mainstream media outlets rebuff that. Their disagreement with this view compel them to perform shameless dishonesty.

Instead of analysing his videos in their entirety, the media extracted some parts and reported them…without giving any contexts! Many in the Youtube community, including fellow content creators and even his detractors, came to defend him and called out the so-called journalists who thought slander was journalistic! Traditional media keep trying to besmirch their digital counterparts; this case wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. The annoyance doesn’t stop there.

Some people who were on Pewds’ side compared him to Donald Trump. They believed both shared the same hardship in their public life. Admittedly, they also have to endure daily dose of dehumanising hatred. But, I still can’t see them equals.

First of all, Trump is not being slandered. The media simply report his words and actions that -in any given contexts- blatantly show rejection of the facts, childishness and inhumanity towards his fellow human beings. Admittedly, lies about him do spread around. But, they are minuscule in number compared to unsavoury yet truthful reports of him. That’s different case with Pewdiepie.

Even before the anti-Semitism accusation, people accused him of other horrendous things, like beating his girlfriend and stealing money from his numerous charity fundraising. The evidence? Well, their deep hatred of his videos. They couldn’t lay out circumstantial evidences, let alone the conclusive ones. But, despite all of the falsehood, his fans keep defending him, knowing how poisonous his haters can be.

About Trump’s fans, I notice a juxtaposition. While some do condemn the accusations as slanders, others hold unsettling stances. A portion of them are apathetic and that’s bad enough; apathy towards immorality, even when alleged, means one greenlights its existence. The others are far worse: his lack of morale exhilarates them.

They don’t see his childishness, sexual abuse of women, fear-mongering, rejection of facts, bullying and prejudice as sins. In fact, they believe a strong and powerful leader must possess those attributes. Level-headness, rationality and human decency are seen as sugary, vomit-inducing abnormalities that inherently weak humans crave for. Trump relishes on pandering.

He knows how much his fans fetishise over such sins. The more he boasts them, the more he empowers his fans. For him, popularity is far more important than the dignity of the masses he is sacrificing. As crass as Pewdiepie can be, he still believes in social responsibility.

In recent years, Pewdiepie lost a group of fans because he has stopped pandering to their immaturity, irrationality and lack of sophistication. As he matures, he realises how unprincipled his old self was for empowering his obnoxious fans. Nowadays, he is known for openly lambasting their behaviours. Having many admirers isn’t worth sacrificing the dignity of one’s self and the masses; thankfully, his self-improvement is accompanied by a counter-intuitively fattening fan base.

Many people still don’t realise that Pewdiepie is a satirical character created by Felix Kjellberg. Long time or observant viewers know how to distinguish them from each other. Entertainers aren’t obliged to confirm whether they are in characters or not. Yet Kjellberg has explicitly stated that Pewdiepie is fictional and doesn’t represent his true self. Predictably, not the case with Trump.

I have heard speculations about how Trump the politician is also a character. If that is true (if!), it’s problematic. He keeps convincing everyone, especially his fans, that the persona is a real person. He deliberately and dangerously block out the line between the real and the unreal. But then, what can one expect from a politician? A shred of decency?

Also, ‘normal people’ got consequences for their mistakes. When I said ‘normal people’, I meant people who don’t have extra privileges like fame, fortune or both. Pewdiepie has both and the consequences he got are quite severe.

Apart from the backlashes, he had his Disney contract eliminated, his costly and highly-anticipated web series cancelled and his videos temporarily demonetised. Not to mention mainstream media outlets are constantly thirsty of his blood, keep intentionally distorting his subsequent videos. Despite his fame and fortune, he’s still quite close to be one of the ‘normal ones’, unlike Trump.

From all the horrible things he has said and done, we punish Trump by creating meaningless backlashes…and making him one of the most powerful individuals on earth. If he is an ordinary person, he would have suffer greater consequences than Felix Kjellberg had. Heck, he would’ve suffered more than his detractors like Reza Aslan and Kathy Griffin had. What we’re doing to him are just a weak microscopic slap to the wrist.

He escapes all of the deserving punishments and still manages to act like the most prosecuted person in the world. Kjellberg suffers punishments harsher than he deserves. But, he acknowledges how undesirable he can be; he is a bigger man than Trump will ever be. Even professionally, he is of lower class than Pewdiepie is.

Trump is a so-called master for the dimwits. They believe him when he said a million dollar loan from daddy is small. They think him hiring multiple bankruptcies and conning people show money-savvy he is. Don’t start with his lack of political experience. Bring that up and they will call you petty for having a decent standard; don’t you know that making political tweets counts? But, there is one expertise he masters: showmanship.

Love or hate him, he is a fantastic reality show star. I even religiously watched The Apprentice at one point. If they want to brag a talent of his, why wouldn’t they bring up this fact? Oh, right. That would make him a politically-illiterate obnoxious celebrity. You know, what they have been accusing anti-Trump celebrities of. They would hate to see their orange calf as someone who doesn’t know his place. You know who does? Felix Kjellberg

You may abhor his aesthetics which, as I’ve said before, can be too jarring even for his fans. But, the man behind the character is skilled. The excessively unpalatable editing is actually time consuming. Some of his shorter videos (less than ten minutes long) are produced out of seamlessly-edited hours-long footage. Don’t forget his photo-shopping skills. Yes, every Youtuber needs it to create thumbnails. But, few expand theirs even further.

In some videos, he has fun with photoshopping; occasionally, his fans request him to photoshop their own photos. The results are usually either hilarious or freaky enough for you to scream ‘KILL IT WITH FIRE!’. When you look at them, you will think they are just results of high technical mastery of computer softwares. No aesthetic profoundness whatsoever. But, before his Youtube career took off, he already made lots of photoshopping works and boy, they are beautiful.

Just look at them. You would think they were created by an actual artist. Of course, you wouldn’t have guessed that artist is the same man who play video games, screams like a little bitch and make Nazi jokes for a living. With that fact, it’s surprising how his videos’ visuals lack any pleasing aesthetics. But, his artistry brings depth to another aspect of his Youtube works: his commentaries.

Every time he seriously remarks on a pop culture phenomenon or reviews a video game, his words always contain valuable insight that provoke level-headed and intelligent individuals to ponder about. He does those while still making self-deprecating jokes. The result? An unpretentious and down-to-earth intelligent Youtuber…who also knows his place.

As a content creator who craves variety, he has made commentaries with a wide range of subject matters. But, if you look closely, almost all of them are concerning pop culture and the media, digital one included. Unlike Trump, Kjellberg is aware what he is knowledgeable and ignorant about and he builds an indestructible (and actually beneficial) giant wall between them.

Even at many paragraphs ago, it was already obvious how different both men are. But, I will end this article by briefly talk about a slightly tangential and borderline ad hominem distinction: their true selves.

As celebrities, both have met many people in-person and each of them receives two contrasting receptions. One has people judging his appalling treatment of his fellow human beings since ever. Another has been complimented by others for his surprising good-natured bearing, juxtaposing his infamous public persona. Guess which one is which?

Yup.

Sorry, I forgot to include this.

I have seen Youtube comments that assert non-existing parallels between Pewdiepie and Trump. Each comment received dozens of likes. As irritating as it is, I sound like I am exaggerating its presence, making it sounds more widespread than it really is.

Yes, there are possibly hundreds or thousands of individuals who believe in such comparison. But, such belief is still a fringe. From my (admittedly limited) observation, the believers have yet to reigned over any comment sections of Facebook posts and Youtube videos that are tackling the Pewdiepie scandal. The reason why I accidentally inflated is how much I am personally annoyed by those people’s lack of wits. It’s simple as that.

I promise this article really ends here.

Or does it?

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: distasteful, menacing and poignant (a late film review)

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A note for those who haven’t watched and want to: I am not going to spoil the plot. But, I am going to describe the film’s general atmospheres which may or may not be detailed. If that’s enough of a spoiler for you, please click away.

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I was conflicted about watching GOTG 2 because, you know, it’s a sequel. Disappointment was what I expected and disappointment was what I got.

First of all, the off-colour humour. Personally, I CAN enjoy it. I’ve even have told far more obscene (and frankly abusive) jokes to my friends. They are also a very useful outlet to vent my anger and frustration. But, unlike the screenwriter (or the producer who probably pressured him), I know the time and place to express them.

The first volume was as comedic as this one. But, the difference is its humour was very clean; violence is the most blatantly adult aspect of the film. Not to mention that Guardians of the Galaxy is marketed solely as action, adventure and sci-fi franchise, NOT risque comedies. As a result, the lewdness is a very unpleasant, in-your-face surprise. The disappointment doesn’t stop there.

Sentimentality. I love it when entertainment works include emotions that humanise the characters. But, I hate it when their portrayals are too skin-deep and sugary, pandering to shallow individuals who can’t see pass the pretence. For me, this practice encourage insincerity and actually invalidates genuine human emotions. Depth and intricacy are needed to add realism and soundness to the emotions. But, despite the distastefulness, it’s not all disappointment with this film.

Apart from the crude ones, there are also cleaner and more refined jokes we encountered in the previous one. Their wholesome nature gives them a much more universal appeal and relatively uncontroversial in any genres of films. The inclusion of the lewd one, however, is both unnecessary and detrimental, both in aesthetic and practical sense. Without the franchise’s trademark humour, I would hate this installment a lot more. But, admittedly, it can also be more superior in other aspects.

Menace. In pop culture, this film included, it usually starts with the introduction of something too good to be true. If something seems that way, it must be perceived as a red flag. There are also a few hints of the alleged ominousness, noticeable to both the audience and the characters. We know something’s off and yet, we don’t know what that is. In the story’s culmination, the truth is revealed…and boy, menacing it is.

The revelation is deeply unnerving for me. Admittedly, not everyone shares my idea of threat to the psyche; what disturbs me in the arts and entertainment may be nothing for you. But, whether you agree with me or not, it is undeniably an unforeseen dimension that conveys darkly ethereal spirit. This element makes a pop film like this more appealing to me.

An infatuation with the sinister force seems odd or even grotesque. But, personally, I find the attraction justifiable. In the arts and entertainment, its is meant to remind us of its existence in our life. When it comes to the notoriously-vivid arthouse films, the audience is ‘forced’ to experience the vile ‘face to face’. Savour the foul taste, no sugar allowed. A bit different case with pop films.

In many cases, they are nothing but sugar overloads. Every inch of the film reel is caramelised by corporate demands. But, once in a while, hints of pungency sip through the sweetness. Overall, the taste is still sweet. But, the subtle foulness cannot be ignored entirely. In the end, you have to admit there are other layers to the taste.

Depth, created by the stack of layers. Without any ‘undesirable’ ones, pop films would be only surface-deep. There’s nothing to offer other than what can be seen with the naked eyes. The pungency gives us a reason to explore beyond what they can see. In light-hearted comedies, it can be a surprise.

The abundance of humour prevent us from expecting the polar opposite. So, its presence (when noticed) juxtaposes with the merry atmosphere we have immersed ourselves into. It is a deep, hidden well of nasty-flavoured yet drinkable fluid, surrounded by vast sugary fields. If you haven’t discovered it, you really don’t know anything about your surrounding environment. In some films, including GOTG 2, the well is not that hard to find.

In this film, the sinister force is visually expressed, making it physically visible to the audience. Admittedly, the imagery is really not that scary. But, for me, it is more than enough to represent darkness. Just looking at it, we know that we are dealing with a malicious being. Not only the well is present, its content overflow to the surface, forcing everyone to face it. The film’s depth does not stop at the ‘taste’. It also extends to the human psyche.

Yes, I did complain about the gooey sentimentality. But, actual psychological depth is still abundant here and it comes in several forms. The soundtrack, for example. Like the previous installment, this one features pop oldies.

I do prefer them over the newer ones. But, having them as soundtracks in contemporary films activates my warm inner self. It makes me nostalgic of the colourful past that I didn’t experience myself; I haven’t figured out how and why this oddity comes into being. Anyway, this is not all about me.

The featured songs also happen to be the main character’s personal favourites. Along with his walkman, they are the only entities that emotionally link him with his childhood on earth. There’s more to this infamously rebellious man-child. But, his past is neither surprising nor mysterious. Overall, not a complex individual. The other characters, however, are relatively so when compared to him.

Crude, lawless, evil. You may think those traits are innate to the characters, that they absolutely define them. When you think you know them well, they unfold previously-unknown facets of themselves; we become surprised and start seeing them in different (albeit slightly) lights. In the end, we find it hard to synopsise them as individuals, knowing how deceptive their facades are. Again, not that different from the previous installment. But, again, there is one aspect of both films in which the successor aces out its predecessors: death.

The first film has a somewhat mature treatment of death. But, being a pop film it is, the portrayal is almost completely trivial. In the second film, the trivialisation also occur…to some minor characters. When it comes to the other ones, their death is glaringly horrifying and inhumane; they are murdered simply because their murderers think, ‘why not?’. In that short yet graphic moment, the film had its joy wiped out.

Those murdered characters aren’t really characters. Their names aren’t mentioned and they’ve got nothing to offer for the plot’s development. We are not emotionally attached to them. But, they are human enough to make ourselves affected by their death. If the attachment is there, we would be made teary-eyed…and that happens when one of the important characters die.

It’s incredible how a film with bouts of mawkishness can also possess emotional profundity. That one character’s death is not laced with sappy dialogues and background music. In fact, the subsequent funeral scene is not that reliant on dialogues. The atmosphere is expressed more through the characters’ body languages, camera angles and, unsurprisingly, an oldie pop song as the background music.

Neither the melody nor the lyrics manifest any embodiment of heartache. But, the latter wonderfully allude to the bonding between one of the main characters and the departed one. The song exudes familial warmth. For some, its inclusion can seem odd for this particular moment. But, I think this works really well.

A simple yet deep song about family, unassuming bodily languages, not a single flowery word being uttered. This moment conveys heartfelt grief…along with tinges of nostalgic joy and hope for the incoming future. There is no self-conceited emotionality, there is only wholesome and warm tenderness.

Tenderness. The film’s best feature and one reason why it still manages to win me over.

Those peculiar, fantastical and thoughtful genres

I am referring to three in particular: magical realism, surrealism and absurdism.

If you tell people to describe them, they would say ‘confusing’, ‘weird’ and ‘pointless’. Of course, they are wrong about them. But, the ignorance is understandable. The three genres are of acquired taste. Even not all of the lovers grasped them at first.

All three have one similarity: they encourage contemplation. They want us to reflect on our own life. They make us contemplate about what is true and what isn’t. They encourage us to reconsider our outlook concerning our own existence. Either that or they make you die of boredom or confusion.

Contemplation is not exclusive to strong realism. Even unworldliness has the ability to foster its growth. Realism reminds us about real life entities we are already aware of. Those three genres prefer us show us we failed to notice by ourselves: life’s ‘abnormalities’.

Their portrayal are always deadpan. No explanation to their existence and mechanics. They are just another life banalities we deal with every single day. What kind of ‘abnormalities’ they are depends on the genres. I’ll start with magical realism.

As the name says, its oddity is the magical elements. It encourages us to acknowledge the ‘magic’ in our real life. The stories feel both very real and fantastical at the same time. Those are more than enough to disaffiliate the genre from fantasy.

Unlike magical realism, fantasy is escapist. Magic is explicitly depicted as a non-existing entity. It abducts us from the real world temporarily (or permanently…). Viewing the two genres interchangeably is ignorance; unacceptable if it comes from actual fantasy writers and fans. Okay, I should go on to surrealism before I end up ranting.

The peculiarity of surrealism comes from its liberal blend of the conscious and the subconscious. It illustrates how both are inseparable from each other. All of our actions are, on some level, affected by something intangible deep inside us. Oh and it’s not to be confused with absurdism.

On the surface, it may looks similar to surrealism. But, instead of depicting the subconscious, it depicts the absurdity of life (the name’s obvious). It reminds us that even our conscious world can be senseless at times. Sometimes, we have to accept it.

Not only they want us take heed of the life abnormalities, the trio also inspire us to embrace them. They are benign and even enriching to our life. Forsaking them seem unwise; doing so, we are defiling our own very being. Those three genres can utilised as our guidance. Well, that’s my personal outlook, anyway.

I may also add a fourth ‘peculiar genre’: science fiction. I find it a unique genre because it has a place in the world of entertainment and the arts. I never thought sci-fi could be artsy until I found Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

From there, I managed to find other artsy sci-fi films like Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (artistry highly debatable, though). Each one has something in common: contemplation about our relations with science and technology. Yes, that C word again.

They dwell on how our life are tremendously shaped by the existence of science and technology. They supply us with greater practicality and alter how we regard our fellow human beings and even ourselves. That’s what artsy sci-fi films have to say. I never thought they could have such capacity until I found Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

From there, I managed to find similar films like Stalker (also by Tarkovsky), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. I am excited to watch Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Andrzej Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe (I’m sure I butchered his name) and read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

I am even excited to explore new genres as well.

Invisible barriers in moving images (and why I love them)

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If you told me to characterise art films, I would say things like unorthodox narrative, strong thematics, lack of popular appeal and heavy use of symbolism. Old news, even for novice film buffs. For a long time, I couldn’t think of anything else. Then, I realised the unorthodox narrative has an affect on (some) art films: lacking visible barriers.

In escapist films, the audience is given straightforward information when a scene is shifting to another one. We are always prepared. Art films don’t do that. They would rather have us get ‘confused’. It feels like we are transported to a completely different universe suddenly. We need to exercise our brains. Even experienced film lovers can get confused. I’ll elaborate.

Art films lack the boundary between the conscious and subconscious, the past and the present. We are brought to from one world to another liberally. The filmmakers only care about the aesthetics they deem suitable. They don’t believe in ‘border patrol’. They don’t think they owe us explanations and clarity. As a result, their works are of ethereal quality (for some of us, at least).

No, this is not surrealism. Surrealism mixes both worlds, ‘disrespecting’ the worldly logic. Every scene in a surrealist film shows them all at the same time. The genre is a reminder our subconsciousness, how it affects our waking life. Even though many art films feel surreal, they actually aren’t.

In non-surrealist ones, the ambiguity makes it difficult to distinguish them. There are no barriers. Transitions between the two worlds do exist. Well, sometimes. When they do exist, they are very abstract and obscure. Objective analyses are always futile. But, subjective ones aren’t.

We, the audience, always try to make our own interpretations based on our metaphysics. In every single one of those exegeses, the distinction between both worlds are a lot more clear-cut. Obviously, none of them are scholarly and universally accepted. But, they work. They contribute to our better understanding of the films. Everything becomes ‘more coherent’ through our personal lenses.

The older I become, the more I appreciate this aspect of films. It does have one practical benefit: it encourages me to be more mentally focused. You cannot let your mind wandering around while watch. If you make an effort in the immersion, I guarantee you would be a lot intellectually rigorous as a person. But, there is another benefit that you probably cannot relate to: the metaphysics.

I am a very introverted person. I love to nest inside my mind. I am so disappointed with the real physical world and my mind is always there as a sanctuary. Either that or I take a refuge in the cyberworld. Obviously, if excessive, they are unhealthy and I would need a help. That’s why art films (and other forms of the arts) help me.

The ethereality is so unworldly, I have only encountered it either in my mind or the cyberworld. It is wonderfully expressed through a fusion of sounds, visuals and movements in such films. Because of them, I don’t have an excuse to be entirely enwrapped by my own world. I also don’t have to worry about getting so obsessed with them. They are not escapist in nature; they would not imprison me from the real world.