8/22/2009

Phenomenology of Truth

Krzysztof Janczar as professor Lewinski
and Sakiko Yamaoka as the Performer
in "Phenomenology of Truth",

written and directed by Pawel Kuczynski

In the volume 5 of “Melee, a quarterly of philosophy and culture” there is a transcript of a discussion that took place after the premiere screening of the “Phenomenology of Truth”, a 30 min. narrative short starring Krzysztof Janczar as professor Feliks Lewinski and Sakiko Yamaoka as the Performer. Both Sakiko and Krzysztof did amazing jobs in this totally fictitious story. Another words: screen characters have nothing in common with the real lives of the actors.

The December 2008 discussion took place in Manggha, the Center for the Japanese Art and Technology, Cracow, Poland. (Melee hit the polish bookstores, mostly Empiks, in August 2009). The amazingly positive and upbeat talk on film language, philosophy, Japanese and Western cultures lasted almost two hours. I am translating some of its parts in the order of the discussion:

“I have watched the “Phenomenology of Truth” for the first time and must admit I am enchanted. It shows that film as a medium not only can translate from one level to another, but also is capable of commenting on a specific philosophical idea.”
- Michal Oleszczyk
(a film scholar and a critic)


“I liked this film a lot. It is witty, warm but also provocative (...) It asks if the East-West dialog is possible and if so how. It excellently shows the problem of the “surface of things. To me this film, I am saying this a a practitioner, could be a very good illustration of how East and West can communicate with each other”.
- Bogna Dziechciaruk-Maj
(the director of Manggha,
the Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow)


“The film deals with meeting of two cultures. When I watched it today - that was my first viewing and I am very impressed by it - I thought that perhaps a good keyword to this film would be transculture. (...) Today the question “to what extend can I penetrate another culture?” is replaced by “to what extend even a surface connection with another culture can change my relation with my own culture?" I will give you an example from my own life. My discipline is aesthetics. For many years I was educated in it and then I educated others using its primary principle: that a work of art must be perfect. This perfection is understood in various ways - for example as the harmony of many elements within the whole, when nothing can be eliminated or added to the work. The work of art is a masterpiece if it makes a perfect, completed whole. When I started dealing with the Japanese aesthetics I came upon a notion that perfection in a work of art is vulgar. It is so because a perfect work of art is a closed system, it does not contain mystery, it does not invite to be entered, does not motivate a viewer to participate. I do not think that in the moment of encountering this notion - and it was a shocking experience for me - I penetrated another culture, penetrated Japanese culture, but it allowed me to profoundly change my relationship to my own culture. It does not mean that I abandoned our idea of perfection in art. It continues to be my idea. It is just not so universal, so unquestionable as it was before. When I deal now with various aesthetic issues, the experience of meeting the Japanese perspective is somehow present.”
- Krystyna Wilkoszewska, Ph.D.
(the head of the Aesthetic Department,
the Jagiellonian University, Cracow)


“This is the third film by Pawel Kuczynski that I am watching and each time I am struck by his attitude of distance, humor and, I would say, impishness, which in a way makes fun of philosophy. (...) The film provokes questions such as: isn’t the “phenomenology of truth” indeed a great vision but just requires better prophets? Aren’t all philosophers condemned to theorize about the truth and the seeing instead of just seeing themselves? Doesn’t the Japanese woman in the film, in her naiveté, see more and deeper, and therefore better exemplifies the rules of the phenomenology of truth than its creator could ever do? I think that - as is required in a truly philosophical film - we do to get any conclusive answers here.”
- Adam Workowski, Ph.D.
(a lecturer at the Papal Theological Academy in Cracow
and The Collegium Civitias in Warsaw)

“I tried to build the story using a formula of a counterpoint: if there is a controlling idea, there should be also its reverse. In the accord of the dialog idea of this festival, I wanted to create a filmic dialog between philosophical ideas. I am glad that was noticed. Transculture was also very important, not only in this film, but also in the workshop that we conducted during the festival. The workshop was based on short dialogue written especially for us by Mikhail Epstein, an American scholar born in Russia, the theoretician of transculture. He rebells against identities being totally determined by places of birth, by native cultures, and not by our free and conscious choices. Epstein is convinced that one can live “on the border of one’s culture”, that one can have a few cultural identities.”
- Pawel Kuczynski
(more about the festival workshop
in the “lecturing” part of www.directing.com)