Film Review: Detachment

“I realized something. I’m a non-person, Sarah. You shouldn’t be here, I’m not here. You may see me, but I’m hollow.”

Sometimes an experience can devastate you to an extent that the time holds it breath and the moments come to a standstill until the devastation is utter. Watching a film like ‘Detachment’ is such a powerful experience.

While it is convenient that a film is supposed to concentrate on a single aspect, or a single character, Detachment, almost resolutely refuses to do so. The film opens up with the confessions of a few apparently everyday teachers who reveal their discontent about the system. Next the film portrays the central character’s (portrayed by Adrien Brody) personal afflictions in a surreal lyrical fashion, while also depicting the world around him: deliberately entangling into subplots and making apparent minor characters significant. Adrien Brody, a full-time substitute teacher roams around from one school to another working for a few days to months until the new assignment comes. At night, he trudges the gritty streets of Newark, afflicted by his agony and state of gloom. His station in life as a floating ‘flaneur’is not just the typical commitment phobia described in the Hollywood films for millions of times. Rather it is his way to remain sane: his detachment is his armory. A few glimpses of his anguished childhood, his visit to his grandfather in the nursing home: everything reveals and yet encloses some of the darkness his carries. Eventually he meets three women: first a very young prostitute whom he reluctantly gives shelter, next a student of his class victimized by the beauty myth and male-chauvinism of the society and finally a fellow teacher who is apparently the epitome of perfection in a chaotic world.

I am money, I change hands like the dollar bill, that has been rubbed by a lamp; Then a genie appeared and cried loudly, with volume; But the tears were all for myself, and that’s where it all went wrong

220px-Detachment_posterThe film features how the society victimizes the teachers; how the teachers, frail individuals in their own domain try their best to cope with the pressure and violence; how the racial-patriarchal-violent-consumerist hegemonies spill over into the small worlds of small men trying their best to fit into a world that is not compatible to their well-being. The ensemble cast is used to best of their potential. Lucy Liu’s ironic expression and finally breaking down, Marcia Gay Hayden’s precarious position of being the matriarch when things are falling apart, James Caan’s way to cope through the method of being cynically funny: nothing seemed out of necessary for this dark narrative to unfold.

“Whatever is on my mind, I say it as I feel it, I’m truthful to myself; I’m young and I’m old, I’ve been bought and I’ve been sold, so many times. I am hard-faced, I am gone. I am just like you.”

It is almost impossible not to succumb to the temptation of giving one quote after another from the film. The lyrical monologues of the central character, the hallucinogenic camera-work, the embroidery of emotions spilling into the separation sequences shortened by jump-cuts as if the characters are trying to live those moments faster: all are woven into such a wondrous tale that one wonders, long after he finishes watching the film if something within him still palpitating with agony.

 

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