I have recently started watching Woody Allen’s cinema seriously after restraining myself a lot because of his clumsy, non-serious acting but I must confess that within a very short span of time I have become a huge fan of the man and his movies. Woody Allen’s cinema is really unique in the whole arena of world cinema because it has very fine balance of both independent and commercial streams. There are several trademarks of his cinema which makes it really a delight to watch. To list a few, firstly almost all his movies are based in ultra urban and classy metropolitans of the world. His characters are very modern and can also be easily identified with. And also the plots of all his movies are very contemporary based on the casual and routine encounters of moral issues in our modern lives. His cinema is meant for every kind of audience. If his cinema promises to be massy on one hand then it also promises to be intellectually and critically superb on the other.
Recently I got an opportunity to watch one of his very famous movies ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ made in 1989. I have been deeply influenced by the plot and concept of the movie. Ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal has had an affair with Dolores for several years, and now she threatens to ruin his life if he doesn't marry her. When his brother Jack suggests to have Dolores murdered, Judah is faced with a big moral dilemma: destruction of his life or murder. Meanwhile, documentary filmmaker Clifford Stern is trying to make a film of a philosophy professor, but instead he's commissioned to make a portrait of successful TV producer and brother-in-law Lester, who to Clifford represents everything that he despises (imdb). The movie states the fact that every time a moral decision is taken in life, consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or in innocence and ignorance, some crime is committed against an individual or the society.
Life as people say is a struggle. A modern man struggles for survival and locating a niche for himself in this society. But the struggle which we talk about is not a mono-chromatic and mono-dimensional monolithic quest. This struggle takes place at various fronts. The struggle is social, political, economic emotional and personal simultaneously. But what we tend to forget in this complete rigmarole is that a man who is struggling at so many fronts at the same time, also has to struggle for something which is inclusive of and yet beyond all this. And that is the eternal struggle of man himself. A modern man in the entire race for survival and identity has forgotten his eternal struggle and even if tries to struggle he fails miserably. But if the eternal struggle is so significant then why doesn’t the man seem to strive for it and even if he strives then why does he fail so often? The question is complicated but deserves to be answered.
A modern man has created so many codes and structures in this world. But whatever structures have been created are meant for social fulfillment rather than enriching a man eternally and personally. The social purpose has always been given a higher priority as compared to an inherently private purpose. And this is because man has always been considered responsible to the community and society he is a part of. In a way he is expected of owing all this to the community which serves him the basics of existence. Not only that to be doubly assured, he is made morally responsible for it. In this entire process the issue of eternal and private struggle has been completely abandoned. And if it ever becomes relevant sometimes, then the strength which is required for this struggle is not adequate because it has been exploited for other purposes.
As human beings in this modern world in our entire lives, we do encounter many moral questions. And whatever moral choices and moral decisions we take are based upon the memory of our religion and civilization. Howsoever we may try to refrain those decisions from these two considerations, they do influence the entire decision making process consciously or subconsciously. In my view this is also one of the basic reasons of suffering of a modern human being. Morality is a sort of matrix in which the human lives are glued firmly. And like any other structure which a modern man has constructed in this world for his own comfort, morality is also a huge structure which we have established for our own advantage. And we do manipulate it according to the enormity and graveness of the situations we find ourselves. The moral choices which are available to an individual are non-ecological and irrational. Each and every time we are made to choose between the two and a third alternative is never available at all. Forcibly, we make a choice which doesn’t end the issue but complicates it many fold. In fact least consideration is given to find alternatives to the existing ones. But in my view morality as a structure is flawed not because of the framework itself but because of the basic foundation on which the entire framework stands and that is the foundation of religion and civilization. The question of morality should be decided by the moment itself in which the quest for its answer has become so relevant. Each moment of life howsoever difficult and intricate it may be, carries the possibility also, the possibility of resolution and the possibility of a fresh hope. Whatever is right or wrong, whatever is moral or immoral, the moment should be the sole deciding factor. But that doesn’t appear to happen very often.
A modern man follows religion as a support system and as a reference point in life. Religion which we tend to follow throughout our lives is more of a social phenomenon rather than being a personal and private choice. Religion as a structure is a sort of authority which dictates to us what is relevant but that relevance is again influenced by what is appropriate for the society as a whole. Whatever fits in accordingly is accepted and whatever doesn’t is labeled otherwise. Religion has become a social commodity which everybody tends to consume as per their wishes and requirements. Rather than being a material product, religion should be a product of our conscience. It should be the voice of our soul. It should not be directed by what epics and texts and priests have to say. Everybody must have his own religion and that should be the religion of conscience and soul. Between a man and a woman, if anything should exist, then it should be the code of love rather than the code of morality as dictated by the religion. Between two human beings irrespective of who they are, to whom they belong, if anything should matter, then it should be the code of intimacy. What do our respective religions have to do in all this? Why should morality exist between them as a wall? If a man and woman relate to each other through the code of love and intimacy then there would be no need of marriage and there would be no prostitution also. We as a society have so far created only labels and have utterly failed in exploring the depth of relationships between individuals. Not only this, but we have also compartmentalized those labels into boxes of moral and immoral, sacred and profane, legal and illegal. And then we call ourselves the most progressive and advanced species in the universe. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transegenderism, lesbianism, prostitution, marriage, promiscuity are merely labels and nothing beyond that. Nor do they translate into the extent of intimacy between two individuals and neither do they predict and comment upon the shelf life of a relationship between them. The only thing they do is to malign the equation between two individuals. Religion which we follow has only divided people into sects and classes. It has miserably failed in enriching the humanity with attributes of love and respect for each other.
Whereas civilization is concerned it was meant for organizing people into a progressive society, a society where people should look after each other, and a society where everybody can contribute in fulfilling each other emotionally and spiritually. It was never meant to create fear. It was never meant to be the basis of every decision making process of an individual. It was meant to strengthen the humanity, not to weaken its very foundation. But the only thing it has achieved is making its individuals weaker emotionally and functionally. It has segregated the world into spiritually bankrupt societies which can offer nothing to the humanity except the fears which have been fed into their roots from the very beginning.
Why are we afraid of each other? Why can’t we love each other? Why have we created an atmosphere of paranoia where every individual appears to be a criminal somewhere? Isn’t it a universal crime which has been committed somewhere against the whole humanity? We have lost our meditative powers in the whole struggle for survival somewhere. We need to re-discover them and we need to re-organize ourselves into a better society where people should rely on their own conscience and soul to decide for themselves, what is moral and immoral, right and wrong, acceptable and not acceptable.