The engineering of consent for an autocratic regime amid the apparently chaotic cohort is an intriguing subject visited and revisited by the artists and story-tellers all throughout the twentieth century. Is there a servile aspect in our character ready to obey a sinister idea and a vain promise? Is there a masochistic side we share that is ever-so glutton for punishment? The wave touches all of these and more.
Rainer, a high school teacher is assigned to teach a class about autocracy. He agreed with sincere discontent as he feels the subject to be away from him as much as it can. Still he makes a sincere effort to make his students, a bunch of unruly teenagers apparently miles away from believing anything, let alone authoritarianism, to understand the core concept through a week-long social experiment: forming a group called The Wave. With his charisma and openness, Rainer brings the idea of autocracy into light, using the classical tools that any tyrannical leader uses: asking to be better than a fictitious other (here the anarchism class taught by a fellow teacher), urging to stand together and invoke awe into the heart of others through that unity, feel to be a part of a whole larger than one individual, find a common purpose and work for it. In some strange away, the youngsters of a very affluent society, apparently dissociated from any ideological tenets, feel drawn to the entire fiasco, as in someway they are ravenous for finding a meaning of their otiose existence. The events of the film gradually descends into much more baleful affair, leaving us with awe and disdain, vainglory and disgrace.
The most important feature of The wave is its narrative of an anarchist harbouring a side famished for power that he himself was unaware of. It is what makes the film from a mere insight into the human psyche to a soul-searching mirror for all of us.
Here our paths will diverge
Here on this idyllic mountain road
You will go away towards the vain and vapid
The ordinary you yearn
The normalcy and the mundane;
And I will remain here
Sitted by the rising brook
Waiting for the devastation to bear.
The greenery would accompany me,
The nameless ageless forest
Trees standing through lifetimes of decay and rebirth
The chirping birds born to spend but a spring
I would wait for the grand to unfold
The reasons end here now departing
Along the road through which you went back;
I’ll dream of scurrying through the idyll idleness
And the end that is nowhere near.
Ramin Bahrani tells us the story of an America that is excluded and marginalised, an America that lives on the fringes of well-being barely surviving with its handful of resources, an America that does not ridicule the American dream but rather mournfully observes the affluence that pushed it away. Chop shop is the story of that Americatn underbelly, seedy, sordid and gritty.
The twelve year old Alejandro works at the repair shop of New York. Occasionally he has to work as a street hawker or in a ‘chop shop’ (Chop shop is a workshop where a vehicle, often stolen, is dismantled and sold in parts). His sister Izzy works on as a food supplier from a van while at night secretly sells her body in order to earn enough money to rid themselves off the poverty by trying to realize their mutual dream: to own a food supply van.
Eventually, through their hardship they manage to gather enough bucks tho buy a dilapidated van from Ale’s friend Carlos’ uncle only to be informed later that the van is not fit for the purpose and would cost too much to fix. Enraged, he attacks Carlos in public, only to understand the futility of the whole scheme: their endeavours and their dreams, their struggles and their vain attempt of escaping, all are meant to feed another chop shop where every part of their soul is to be broken, shattered, dismantled and sold cheaply as a part of an exorbitant dream.
The way Bahrani approaches the nude and rude realism frame by frame is immensely laudable. One cannot help but observe the effects of the neorealist movement of Iranian masters in the work of this promising film-maker who is, certainly, going to provide many more gems in days to come.
Whenever a sincere attempt to measure the depth of twentieth century will be made, there would be Camus and his thoughts. The greatness of Camus, the literary giant, may be inquired against the backdrop of Camus, the succinct philosopher, only to conclude the inescapable truth: they are inseparable. The world Camus builds in ‘The Plague‘, the world Camus hints in his short-stories such as “The renegade“, the world that shatters in his novels like “The Fall” or “The stranger” or in his play “The Just Assassins“: all of them are not dissociable from the hoarse outcry of “The rebel” or the morbid fatalism of “The myth of Sisyphus“. Why is it that Camus so close to our heart, my heart: I often ask myself. I wonder why, even after reading all the masters of Twentieth Century, in my mind Camus remain standing tall, hovering over everyone else. It is not simply because of his literary genius. His works were never amount to be as ambitious as Ulysses of Finnegan’s Wake. His oeuvre is not as magnanimous in its depth and premise as that of Sartre. Still Camus remains as the one and only: because, he holds in his head the duality of our generation, the dialectics that is tearing us apart: the dialectics between fatalistic ignominy and rebellious upsurge.
To write about someone like Camus, it is hard not to give away to the temptation of putting one quote after another, letting the words speak for themselves and keep observing the awe in the readers’ eyes. But I am not going to give in to that, because Camus for me is not one-liners; he is the totality. He is the Atlas holding the world of our thought upon his shoulder tirelessly. There is something within the premise of his novels and short-stories that advocates the in-depth analysis, a rereading of the text of apparent clarity. His characters are somewhat recurring, as if he is putting himself in the shoes of different persons in different circumstances. The perils of his characters are not varied since they are from a particular temporal space and afflicted by the same duality in between their dreams and actions. Sometimes he is dangerously close to solipsism, sometimes his absurdist point of view takes a deterministic aura, sometimes he destroys himself through a rebellious urge; yet for any Camus admirer he always presents the same genius: the indefatigable dichotomy.
To understand Camus one should read him in the context of his place and time, but still, like any great man of word, there’s a distinct flavour of universality in his writing. One may dip into a Camus novel without preparing himself to read him and still would emerge as someone else after going through the vicious world of the mastermind. And that is how Camus changed the world, not merely by describing its projections and attributes, but belonging and accommodating the change within himself and within the psyches of the readers. Camus has become an integral part of anyone who even dared to gloss over the pages of any of his books; never letting the reader rid himself off him, thus creating a world sombre, ineluctable and yet dulcetly fatalistic.
The best way to capture a Graham Green novel on the silver screen is perhaps to remain true to the writer. Phillip Noyce does exactly that to produce this excellent political thriller that Hollywood has produced in last decade.
Michael Caine plays the British war correspondent Thomas Fowler placed in Saigon in French ruled Indo-china. The battle for independence against the French colonialism is tearing the nation apart while the colonialists and the Communist regime from the southern part of the country is battling it out in the hinterlands of the unfortunate country. Fowler, the reluctant observer and commentator, meets an idealist American health worker Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) who befriends him and seems to be holding the naive idea that instead of colonial power or communist regime Vietnam needs a third force to rule itself. While Fowler grows fond of Pyle, a rift appears in between their relation when Pyle falls for Fowler’s lover. Knowing that Fowler is married and his obstinate wife is not willing to grant a divorce, his lover realises that there’s no future with him and she leaves with Pyle. While this affects Fowler personally and professionally, he tries to cope by immersing himself into his work which leads him to see clearly through the murky water of politics, the bigger forces playing under the hood of small crooks and the true face of the familiar ones around him. The story is not only how the things are ugly and gruesome underneath, but also how the macabre world compels one to take side. The film perfectly depicts what Green novel intended: the end of nook for a dispassionate observer in the modern world where everyone must take a position.
Taking a note of the adaptation of the novel in silver screen in 1958 and in 2002, one can see the evolution of Hollywood. The first installment of 1958 was a thinning of political undertones of the novel, rendering it a rather trite patriotic war drama. On the contrary, Noyce’s adaptation was as sinister and as breathtaking as Green’s novel truly is.