October 31, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

Film is our subjective voice

Lately we’ve seen a couple of films that give different takes on WW2. Specifically digging deeper into less thought about groups that were caught up in the German burst of expansionism and genocide. A child unknowingly tumbling towards tragedy, his mother, father and sister each making different family-wrenching decisions (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). In Defiance, Belarusian Jewish brothers become heros, willingly or not. The Reader is also ambiguous, open to interpretation. At what point does compliance begin? And in Katyn we are reminded that the received narrative of WW2 is not the whole truth.
These are very old wounds, and recently I’m aware of more movies with such open stories. Watching them, I understand why we can’t let go: too much grief still, too many stories that still need telling. At least our species will never run out of dramatic expamles of human extremes: the horror and the heroes. We are defined by the inconceivable.
For me, nothing competes with a good movie for turning my head, like hands placed on my face, towards a different view. Was is like that? Did he really do that? Biopics are the best for answering those. But a movie can send you chasing, through a wiki or a book.
The news tells us what is going on. It offers a flood of details, facts, snapshots of events, information, filtered truths, incredible images, and a few Big People we can observe from out seats high up in the stadium. The present unfolds like a spectacle before us. We all cheer our side from a distance. (Go Big Al!) Many of us have been lulled into thinking we are just observers, and that our futures are in our hands. Liberalism and redemption, and flat-screen tv.
But films tell us of other worlds. They whisper the past, and whistle the future, full of ‘mights’ and ‘coulds’ and ‘woulds’, desire and will. The subjunctive is never far away. Having just about finished a year of Certificate 3 Spanish at the Canberra Institute of Technology, the nuances of this ‘voice’ remain as fascinating as when I learned French as a teenager.
In Romance languages, and in German, the daytime corresponds to the ‘indicative’ voice, a time for action, clear sighted pragmatism. In my mundane world, the garbage goes out while it is still light, wouldn’t want to trip or maneuver in the dark. The word for day is always masculine, if I’m not overlooking an exception somewhere like Romania. When do wars and marches take place?
But the subjunctive is for night time, when evening hides reality, and the feminine veil floats over dreamers. Shadows threaten, knives flash, bodies couple. Movies live in this netherspace, sprinkling magic dust in our eyes, that we might see differently. We dream separately, but we watch together, even when we do it asynchronously. And then we talk about what we have seen.
In the daytime we will see, but at night, we might.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:43 am | Comments Off on Film is our subjective voice |
Filed under: Arts

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