Tuesday, May 8, 2012


'Cinema is the supreme art' - Lenin

What exactly fascinates a filmmaker? What exactly goes in his mind while deciding a frame? Or how exactly does a cinematic medium work? And what makes cinema so popular? Is cinema an Absolute art? Is it possible to portray the reality in a real way through cinema? I always looked for answers to these questions because my relationship with cinema has been extremely special and personal one. Special because even after pursuing cinema seriously for so many years it still hasn’t stopped fascinating me. And personal because it has helped me rediscover and reinvent myself spiritually as well as intellectually throughout my quest as a human being all through these years. But finally Kieslowski has helped me respond to all such queries with a fresh perspective towards this unique art form. 

Whatever we see around us is what can be simplistically termed as a ‘Reality’. And whatever is the reality we perceive it with our naked eyes. We do perceive it through other means also as we hear it, smell it, touch it, taste it and permeate it in our systems through our consciousness. But largely visual medium is what helps us the most in choosing what to believe or what not to believe. Moreover visual sensation masks other sensations also making itself the most dependable one. Camera can be called one of the greatest inventions of modern times. But when we use camera as a tool to capture the reality, things undergo a radical transformation. Our eyes and other senses actually help us to perceive the reality ‘as it is’. So when we introduce some other medium to perceive the same reality the vision starts distorting. Camera as a visual medium alters the way reality looks like, feels like or sounds like. It creates a sort of distortion or alteration in the way we perceive the world around us. And it does this the very second it enters our visual field. This distortion is something which creates a sort of magic. It not only offers a different field of vision but it also offers endless possibilities the way things can happen apart from what and how they really are. We can only imagine how even the simplest of realities can actually shape when filmed through this medium. A simple frame of a man walking with his dog on a road or a woman holding her child in the lap can look extremely different when viewed through a camera. And this is what actually fascinates a filmmaker who makes use of this medium to not only portray the real world but also mould it in a manner he feels like. 

A camera gives enormous power to the person handling it. He not only becomes able to capture the vastness of everything around himself in a completely novel manner but he also starts viewing everything around critically with a third eye. But this power is both constructive and destructive as well. It is constructive in a sense that it helps the filmmaker to organize the images and shape it in a form of perspective. But destructive because a filmmaker has to die several times at both personal and social levels simultaneously before lending a final image to the audience. And this power does come with a great liability too. Because a cameraman/filmmaker is not only responsible for the things he captures but is responsible for the vision he lends to that image too. When I talk about responsibility associated with this medium I am not really referring in terms of social/societal perspective but surely the personal choices the artist has made in order to organize that perspective. A novice actually goes crazy when he holds camera for the first time in his life and consequently realizes the immense potential of this medium. And by the time he comes to terms with his enthusiasm and passion he finds himself drifted miles and miles away from where he actually started. This is what happens to Filip Mosz, the protagonist of Kieslowski’s extremely important film ‘Camera Buff’. Filip, an average middle class man living a decent standard of life with his wife in a small apartment of Poland, goes berserk when he buys a moving camera to shoot his new born baby. When his boss appoints him the responsibility of filming the jubilee celebrations of their firm, he realizes how the reality moves and behaves through a camera. But gradually his camera craze and this altered vision carry him far away from his own reality. He switches over from shooting the home videos to socially relevant documentaries. And when he tries to lend his own perspective to the recordings he finds himself in a hitch. But by the time he actually realizes, the damage becomes irreversible. To put it together, the camera not only views the world from a different eye but it also creates a new world around itself. It’s almost equivalent to the presence of another being around us. So it’s not simply a filmmaker holding the camera and shooting what he feels like, it’s actually an entire world created by the camera around itself for which he is responsible and answerable too. 

Till now it is clear that a camera generates possibilities, distorts the actual picture and creates a world of its own. When we say that it creates a world of its own, it creates a world where people look different, sound different, behave different and feel different even though they are real people playing real life inspired characters. They may be a result of complete fiction but even that fictionalized makeover incorporates enmeshed, inseparable deep rooted facets of reality. But the fact is that reality is not often a mono-dimensional and monochromatic entity. It is a multi-dimensional and polychromatic framework where everybody and everything, howsoever significant or inconsequential they may be, have a locus of their own. Basically a reality is further made up of numerous small and big realities. And furthermore, there are various point of views associated with that reality. Since there are various viewpoints to it, there are always different versions existing at the same point of time in a society. All this makes it a very very complex arrangement. So when we try to image this complex arrangement with a camera, things start simplifying instinctively. And howsoever we may try to be pristine and meticulous in our approach, we would often end up missing out on some or the other detail. In other words, a filmmaker may endeavour to give a real perspective to a reality or he may try to present different perspectives to the same real thing but in the end there would always be an angle which would remain hidden from the viewer and howsoever he may try to be apathetic or unbiased to the issue it would always be the perspective of the filmmaker in the end. But on the other hand, it would also not be wrong to say that cinema is the only vehicle which can carry so many perspectives at the same given time. It does miss out on some or the other but it’s also true that it is the only existing art form which can justify so many dimensions at one time. In fact, Cinema is the only medium which can give a multidimensional view of the same event. Visual medium does simplify many of the things most of the times but ultimately onus lies on the filmmaker as a craftsman for being true to the art. He may forgo his social responsibilities but he should never disregard his larger responsibility towards his own craft. 

Further simplifying, when I talk about a multidimensional and polychromatic view, I am basically closing on thought, action and the combination of both. A painting justifies thought more than action. A dance justifies action more than thought. Music is pure thought. Poetry and prose may talk about and inspire action but mainly they are thought driven. Theatre combines both meticulously in almost equal proportions but it lacks universal and popular appeal. So cinema is the only art form which combines thought and action uniformly while simultaneously having a universal appeal as well. Universal because it involves the audience through many different forms of action although there is a deep rooted thought driving those actions. According to me action is something which involves a person initially and immediately and then the thought takes over. And cinema is such art which does this exactly the way described. Moreover it has the power to reinvent itself at various levels of thought and action every time. Furthermore, cinema doesn’t devalue any other art form; rather it highlights the effect and power of other creative mediums. Thereby it would be very just in concluding that cinema if not an absolute but it’s almost an absolute art. 

At last I feel that I have found answers for my extreme fascination with cinematic medium. Cinema for me is a source of endless possibilities. Cinema for me is an ever inspiring hope which would continue to enlighten me in difficult times of my life. Cinema for me is definitely the supreme art.