On being human or tough film questions

"Wall Street: money never sleeps"
directed by Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone’s DVD commentary for “Wall Street: money never sleeps” is way more interesting than the film itself. I am a fan of the original but the sequel feels tired. Strangely, or not, the production challenges pop in several times during the commentary. The ease or difficulty of the process of filmmaking is no indicator of the quality of the product yet when a director dwells too much on the difficulties of the logistics of the production and when at the same time the screen lacks joy and vibrancy the link seems clear.

(Michael Mann talking about his “Heat” with 5 times more shooting days than its cheaper version “LA Takedown” never once whines about the complexity and the difficulties of his big production. Isn’t directing for boys and girls big enough not to dwell on logistics, or as my teachers at the Polish Film School were pounding into our heads - “nobody cares about your production problems’.)

In addition to feeling sorry for himself for not having his toys big enough in the commentary Oliver Stone dispenses snippets of his life wisdom. It’s (purposely?) provocative and has a tint of the Buddhist spell in it. As a Sunday Buddhist myself I take issue with it.
Commenting on his screen hero Gordon Gekko, Stone says:

“There is this ridiculous and crude stereotype of rich people being ‘oh what are they sorry for’. Are you a human being when you say that? Are you really trying to understand what it is being George Bush, Richard Nixon, somebody rich? Suspend this crap in your head about them having it better than you do. It is self depreciating because you are saying ‘hey I am having so hard because I am so poor, I don't have the money, why do they have problems’? That's the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You are not human when you say that, you devalue your own humanity when you say that. You must understand everyone else, even if you don't like them. And that takes quite a stretch of your imagination and your heart. Keep your heart intact.”

Nice and profound, right?

From a narrative point of view a black character has to be given a chance to redeem or at least to reveal his inner complexities. Yet when talking to real people about the mega rich and powerful things change. The dilemma of “walking in somebody’s else shoes” appears.

Stone urges us not to envy the more privileged among us, to put ourselves in the place of their miseries and not to be petty. Yet, shouldn’t he put himself in the shoes of those who have less (than he, the rich and privileged himself) before calling them “not human” when all they want is a modicum of the comfort he enjoys?

Clearly everyone on this planet suffers, feels pain and despair. However before philosophizing or moralizing we have to be fed.

Stone is right urging to have empathy for a different other, to understand that we all are twisted, challenged and scared shitless. Yet the bottom line of basic life necessities somehow eludes him. Plus there is something strange in urging the less fortunate of us to empathize with the dimension of suffering in those who are so privileged (and often corrupt).

On the other hand perhaps Stone knows more, perhaps his moral and spiritual stance is simply more advanced and I just don’t get it. Perhaps. Similarly, when Michał Oleszczyk argues from a moral point of view with my raving about “127 hours” (see the comment to the previous post) he may very well be right, yet I am not spiritually mature enough to accept his point. The issue is where does apotheosis of life stop and exploitation begins. We both feel the problem differently and no amount of arguing will change that. With Oliver Stone it could be something similar - where does empathy turn into self-excusing mechanism? Those who struggle with life's necessities will never know unless they find ourselves in his (rich) shoes.

If only life experiences were exchangeable, we all would be wiser and more moral.

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