[The powerful finale from Greed, my favorite film]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tree of Life and Why I Loved It

The Tree of Life has been unanimously acclaimed as the best film of the year in almost all critics polls.

Terrence Mallick makes one film every 5-6 years and his films are big events even by Hollywood standards. It was one of the most anticipated films ever among serious film goers. Even 12-18 months before it was released, people were talking about what it might be.

Coming to why I loved the film brings forth the real reason why I love watching films: They bring to you new experiences which take your breath away. A lot of the times, the arguments for artistically inclined films have been about greater meanings than plot essentially. It was all irrelevant here.

The biggest credit for the film is how many memories of a life growing up it brings back. Siblings playing together, the mother reading from a book to the child, the child asking the mother which of the children she loves most, the children playing with the water hose pipe. Stuff like that.

And then, it is absolutely beautiful to watch. The twenty or so minutes which has shots of the universe forming are so brilliant, you get a rush of blood and are charged up by the time the sequence is over. Each shot is like a painting which you can post in your drawing room. Isn't life like that too? It is beautiful. It should be cherished.

The film ends with a message of love and it is indeed what one should aspire to give in this world. This is truly a great film.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Issues With Scenes From a Marriage

Scenes From a Marriage, the 5 and half hour television series, which became so popular, it was later condensed to form a feature length film, is widely acclaimed as a masterpiece. I didn't like the movie much though.

Firstly, as a piece of literature, it is brilliant. Liv Ullmann, who plays the female character, says in an interview in the special features of the Criterion disks that Bergman would never let any one tweak even minor things in his script. It had to remain as was written. They could improvise in expressions and acting but not in dialogue. It made me think, why not? You don't change what Shakespeare wrote when enacting it, even though the spoken language has changed. Why not Bergman. His script has the highest level as far as depth of dialogues go.

Coming to why I didn't like Scenes from a Marriage. Firstly, my biggest problem is that Bergman seems to have brought all the insecurities of a married life into this film. It is as if he jotted down the insecurities which could happen in a marriage and brought them all out. What was missing were scenes where they appreciated things which they did like about each other. There must be a few things. Maybe they did do it in the later film Bergman made, Saraband, where the two get together after many years but I missed it here.

The second aspect is the dramatic change which occurs. In the first scene during the television interview, the couple seem happily married. Then, the scene of conflict between their couple friends occurs and the sudden realization occurs that they cannot live on like this. This is where I disagree strongly. I believe things cannot go on suppressed for such a long time without any scenes of conflict and mutual realization that things are not that good after all. The first scene gave the impression that they couple were living a lie and despite their frustrations, they didn't realize the trouble living together was causing the other person in the relationship. I think couples do realize this with repeated issues which crop up and despite it you live together.

The third is a selfish reason more than any thing. The movie deals with what happens after the marriage of the couple breaks. Yet, it is named Scenes From a Marriage. What I would have liked to have seen is how the couple spent the 10 years together, living in sadness and anxiety. If Bergman had written that, I think it could have made a great movie by itself. This is purely a personal miff.

I did enjoy watching Scenes From a Marriage though. The five and half hours passed very quickly and you just couldn't stop watching. You want to see much more of Bergman after you see this. It is not for nothing that he is called a master.