[I may write a paragraph or two at the beginning of each post about some aspect of film-making, sharing thoughts, facts, or experiences, etc. This may or may not be related to the films I write about.
Do feel free to comment on the films, my writing, as well as recommend and discuss other films. The more you participate, the more meaningful and enjoyable this would be! Lastly, I plan to adopt the widely-accepted technique of reformatting titles beginning with ‘A’ and ‘The’.]
I always think that editors are one of the most under-appreciated folks in film-making. How far we have come from the old days when editors used to be exclusively women! Editing was considered no more than a cut and paste job, and since women sewed and tailored, editing was treated as a menial job relegated to women. Today, what would Spielberg be without Michael Kahn, or Scorcese without Thelma Schoonmaker?
Many Indian film-makers aspiring for Academy Awards need a primer on editing. A Slumdog Millionaire’s editing makes it appear as if Lagaan’s editor was stricken with diarrhea and thus was unable to work.
When I was young, one of my best friends became a paranoid schizophrenic. In the years since, I have seen schizophrenia up close – its impact on patient and family, its treatment, and its social stigma. Not many movies treat mental illness simply as a disease. It is usually sensationalized, or trivialized, or turned into tragedy or melodrama. A Beautiful Mind sensitively portrays John Nash Jr., a mathematical genius who fought paranoid schizophrenia, and successfully achieved global recognition. This is Ron Howard’s masterpiece after the earlier Apollo 13.
Russell Crowe is astonishing as the mild-mannered, socially handicapped genius. He metamorphoses into a Gladiator of the mind, fighting demons of insanity. The film deals with complex mathematical theories to just the right extent, keeping it understandable to laymen. It shows what true love is all about – not passion and romance, but hard work and commitment. It touched me very deeply, without insulting my intelligence, and without offending me by trying to manipulate my emotions.
Thoughts about insanity and genius lingered afterwards. In his Nobel auto-biography, Nash reveals that his recovery is not entirely a matter of joy. “One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos”, he says. I wonder if apart from his groundbreaking work in mathematics, this revelation will turn out to be his most significant lesson for mankind.
The germ of four different interlocking stories causing chaos reminded me of the butterfly effect in chaos theory. Despite big-ticket stars like Pitt and Blanchett, they are not given any preferential treatment, as required by the plot. This integrity is rare in Hollywood. Superb cinematography, strong character development, and deeply thought-provoking. We can easily identify with all the characters, none of whom are villains, and do not intentionally act wrongly, yet the situation spirals out of control. It is also an intriguing look at how cultural barriers have unintended consequences.
Such a powerful film shot in different locations of the world with numerous actors cannot be weaved into a compelling yet easy to grasp drama without supreme editorial work. In retrospect, I was mesmerized by how the director and editor managed to weave this thrilling complex drama and piece together disparate clips into an integrated whole.
Bandit Queen – a film I saw once and do not wish to see again. A film that made me feel ashamed of being an Indian, with its caste system and patriarchal society. A film with that scene of repeated sounds of a door creaking – a sound I do not wish to hear again.