Disturbing mirrors of a sci-fi thriller

"Source code", written by Ben Ripley,
directed by Duncan Jones

Early on in “Source code” its hero, confused with not understanding who and where he is, glances into a train bathroom mirror and jumps in shock seeing somebody’s else face as his own reflection. This potentially intriguing revelation, due to the genre of the film, is quickly dealt with a stock sci-fi explanation. Yet, seeing that we are not who we think we are, breaking the safe walls of our identity convention is one of the rarely touched domains of film, which seems to be the ideal medium for such explorations.

Another disturbing moment of the screening occurred, this time, outside of the screen. As the plot kept moving around a terrorist thread hidden in a car, a voice come through the movie theater speakers calling for the owner of a particular car left in a parking space to immediately return to the vehicle. A slight wave of nervousness rolled throughout the theater: was the car just blocking somebody wanting to get out or was it already surrounded by anti-terrorists suspecting a bomb and the shopping mall was to be evacuated? Were we in danger? Was the reality mirroring the film?

What do we attend dark movie theaters really for? Is it to come close (but never too close) to those questions that we are afraid to face in reality?

Are the screens acquiring some sort of artificial intelligence and perhaps start to reflect back to us that which we may not be ready to face?

Isn’t the constant strive for films to become current plain dangerous? In a very practical way the reality and its screen representation may get entangled in each other so much that we will lose the sense of who and where we are.

Another strange conclusion from “The source code” - once dead, the only way to stay alive for a short while longer is to assume the identity of a (more?) dead person. If you do it with heart and for the right reasons, it may grant you new (alternative) life!

All that is telegraphed, galloping with the requirements of a spectacle. Such films are as much intriguing, stimulating, entertaining as they are frustrating with their unrealized potentials. It seems that the genre is already nimble enough to deliver thrills without necessarily being contrived in their plots, issues and their solutions.


Original impulses

Technologies in music conducting and documentary filmmaking.

Kai Bumann, a German conductor working in Poland, when describing his method stresses the importance of understanding the original impulse for a given music composition. Before conducting a particular piece he wants to know how its composer saw the word. For Bumann music is closely connected with philosophy and theology. Finding the impulse that preceded a given score becomes the basis for the conductor's work. For example, sometimes during these searches he arrives at “deep layers of sorrow.”

Seeking the original impulse is a noble and elegant technology of any interpretive craft. Can the same be applied to a documentary filmmaking? Not always, seems to me.

I’ve made a few film portraits that indeed were based on what at that time I perceived were the initial impulses forming the lives of their heros. Among others, “Philosopher’s Paradise” was based on such approach, so was “Red with Black”. The latter was obvious and easy since Henryk Musiałowicz speaks straight about his artistic turmoils. “Philosopher’s Paradise” (although favorably received by critics and viewers and accepted by its hero)
left me concerned because my approach forced a spiritual diagnosis of the inner core of a philosopher, who to many (including himself) is a hard core materialist. Was I really allowed to force my POV on an image of another person? To this day I remain hesitant about my directorial choice in this film.

The above reflections were perhaps one of the few reasons why my latest project - “Lawnswood Gardens” - purposely stays away from any kind of (be it metaphysical or historical) investigating of its hero, instead it focuses on an attempt to render emotions connected with my meeting with Zygmunt Bauman. Granted that the word “my” is dangerous in this above context. Yet, there seems to be a qualitative difference between uncovering somebody’s initial impulses and reporting one’s own reaction to this person.

Does it mean that a conductor could be more free exploring his “heros” (composers) than a filmmaker exploring his screen subjects? Perhaps we are approaching here a wall of a documentary filmmaking. The wall of humbleness toward one's own limited understanding of others and of respect toward their complexities and vastness. Another wall would be potential harm that a film could inflict upon its heros -one of the reasons Kieślowski abandoned the documentary form.

It’s possible that I am just splitting hair here. It’s possible that a certain arrogance (of vision) is necessary to make documentaries. Perhaps this never easy maneuvering between one’s own perception and understunding of its potential dangers is the hardest element in a documentary film directing.