Karma 2.O

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

In the next several posts I will share my 2017 discoveries.  These are the films that moved me and or inspired in one way or another.   Here they come.  In no particular order.  

Naming the new Lanthismos' film one of “best of” somehow does not sit well with me. The film is so disturbing and challenging that I am inclined to say “I hate it”. Can I hate it and name it among the best of 2017? I hate it and at the same time I tremendously appreciate it for its audacity, technical dexterity and the questions it posses.  

The questions:
How, if at all, do we take responsibilities for our actions?
Can we afford to be oblivious to our actions?
How mindful are we in our lives and work?
Do our actions return to us?  Do they have to?  
If so, how?
How do we pay for our mistakes?
Where is the border between the private and the social?
Can we will justice on others?
Do children posses moral radars that we have lost?

The story is quite troubling. It's troublesome irk comes from a combination of two techniques: the first is a preposterous assumption thrown into a reality and then treated with utter seriousness. The same happens a lot in Kieslowski's films – for example in Double Life of Veronique.  

The second comes with externalizing and visualizing (and making audible) that which is about to happen. The result of which is the unnerving feeling that the boy on the screen is an exemplification of something bigger. Or that his fury is foreshadowed and somehow made subconsciously known to the main character.  (The first possibility narrows down to certainty if we follow the myth of Iphigenia.  But I assume that not everybody pays attention to the clue and that furthermore not everybody remembers the myth.)

There are many decisions of varied degree of subtlety layered in the film.  For example most of the time Collin Farell speaks fast as if trying to put a spell on reality. He can't. Nobody can. Our deeds will hunt us until we will have to pay for them in full conscience.  Hence karma 2.0


Poetry and politics

November 6, 2017.   Downtown Warsaw.  

A bikers' club pays its respect as about 2000 people march in silence 
to honor Piotr Szczesny who, in a political protest
set himself on fire.
The phrase on the placards - “I the common, gray man” 
comes from the letter Szczesny left behind.    

Fast forward to a poetry meeting in early December:

The meeting is with Adam Zagajewski a poet of a strong stature.  For years his name is spoken around the time of the Nobel For Literature announcement.  Although Zagajewski does not hide his political sympathies his poetry does not deal with politics.  

In one of his poems  called “Mysticism for beginners” Adam Zagajewski describes his epiphany that everything we see in our daily life is just preparation for …..  He does not spell it out but it’s clear he means death or moving into the unknown. 

The poem - after the list of daily images of wonder - ends with a phrase:

“are only mysticism for beginners, 
the introductory course, 
prelude to an exam,  that's been postponed
for later.”

At the beginning of 2017 the publication of the latest poetry book by Zagajewski lost state financial support.  (The new regime tries to marginalize its critics and create “a new elite”).  The publisher called for help and announced subscriptions for the upcoming title.  Among the citizens who chipped in was Piotr Szczesny who later in the year chose to take "the postponed exam" into his hands. 

Szczesny, in a public place, spread copies of a well written, measured letter protesting the current changes in Poland.  Then he set himself on fire and days later died in a hospital.    

Zagajewski says he is in debt to Piotr Szczesny.


Is theory futile?

 Cate Blanchett in Julian Rosefeldt film "Manifesto"

finally a film about ideas fueled by ideas and yet the one that puts ideas where they properly belong namely somewhere after the visible, after the felt, after the lived and experienced. 

it is a quite disquieting proposition: it seems to show immaturity, limitations and well… idiocy of any attempt to formulate a formula. 

does it show the need to transcend the urge to put things into a set of theoretic assumptions and scoldings toward reality in the name of a newly discovered “truth”? 

if so to transcend it with what?

does it express the failure of all attempts “to get things right”?

an amazing rhythmic feast, to say the least.  a wonderful acting presentations (who cares that a few of the vignettes could be critiqued as overdone - the totality of the piece if alive and moving)

my favorite one is of course a classroom scene with quotes from recent film manifestos. 



Self Immolation

 "I, an ordinary, common man, urge you - wake up!"
 "Wake up"

This is the site of the self immolation in a political protest of a 54 year old man.  The man, Piotr Szczesny,  before setting himself on fire passed around copies of a letter which listed 15 areas of his protest.  They included: limiting individual freedoms, destruction of judiciary system, breaking constitution, centralizing law, rampant nepotism, disastrous foreign policy, waging cultural and emotional warfare, encouraging anti-immigrant and anti-minorities attitudes, ignoring tremendous medical service needs, ruinous educational reform, destruction of nature.  Mr. Szczesny writes that we should not fight with the supporters of the ruling party because: 

they are our mothers, brothers, neighbors, friends and colleagues.  It’s not about fighting them (that’s exactly what the party in power wants), and it’s not about “converting them” (because that’s naive), it’s about convincing them to realize their views in a lawful and democratic way.  Perhaps a change in the party leadership will suffice.”

Even though the above paragraph seems to be directed to those who are personally responsible for the current disaster in Poland, the rest of the letter addresses the people and not politicians.  At the end of this letter Piotr writes “Wake up.  It’s not too late yet.”

Those who aren’t sensitive to the idea of democracy and a true common good society shrug their shoulders and go about their business.  After all economy is in great shape.  The government belittles Mr. Szczesny and paints him as a victim of the opposition which, according to the official party line,  just wants to maintain the old, bad way things were.   Others are terrified by the gradual but steady disintegration of freedom, democracy and decency very often done in a manner recalling worst ways of the previous Ruling Party.   Both sides call each other “commies.”

Piotr Szczesny is dead.


Screenwriting workshop

An insanely ambitious film-making workshop has begun with writing three short scenes.   


Spoor, the book III

continuing my translating attempts:

“I am moved by satellite pictures and the curvature of Earth.  Is it indeed the truth that we live on the surface of a sphere, exposed to the stare of planets, abandoned in the great nothingness, in which light after the Fall coagulated into small particles and spread out everywhere?  Yes, that’s the truth.  We should be reminded of this daily since we keep forgetting it.  We are under the impression that we are free and that God will forgive us. Personally, I think it’s not so.  Each deal, transformed into minute vibrations of photons like a film will eventually take off into the Cosmos and till the end of the world planets will watch it.”

With the access to such sensitivity of the narrator/main character we are nevertheless deprived of the knowledge of her innermost emotions that curry her to commit crimes.  That's what I don't understand and am waiting for the movie adaptation to hopefully make sense of this divide.