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Director - Lantern of Hope

BY HAMMOUDI ABDELWAHAB

Note: This reflection was too long to be entirely posted on the web by Word-Mart (and they were right). Although they appreciated the content, they advised me to summarize it and to try to give an overall idea of the subject. That is what I did.

Anyway, those who happen to be interested by the reflection in full (it is the size of a book); I can send it to them.

(The author)

 

“If the spectacle remains an outlet for the crowds,
People have always the artistic works that they deserve.”
                                                                                                                                                                 (Hammoudi Abdelwahab)

 

A Social Function for the Cinema?

There is no doubt that the artistic act is an act of production and that the emotion remains the first condition of its fulfillment and the condition of the artistic terrain’s fertility as well.

Another undeniable fact is that movies appeared in the twentieth century to cope with a social demand and need. The cinema is not the reflection of the reality. It is a facet of this reality. It is a component that came, at the appropriate time, to enrich it.

The cinema: the dream of the human societies.                     
We dream in the movies: the obscure theatre recreates the night.
The film: the dream images.

Everything in the ceremonial of the film screening, participates in deactivating the relationship of the spectator with the immediate reality. The darkness, the sitting position, the comfort preceding the projection induce a passivity that increases as the film moves on.

"Indeed, the spectator is not in state of hypnosis, but the autonomous alpha rhythm of his brain, as shown by the electroencephalogram, is more ample, more regular.” (Edgar MORIN: Le Cinéma ou l’homme imaginaire- The cinema or the imaginary man -Gonthier1958 – Paris -My translation)

The motor inhibition is therefore quite real. Slowly, the film asserts itself as responding to the same imaginary need of the dream.Are not we therefore entitled to wonder if, like the dream at the individual’s level, the movies do not have a repairing function of the spectators’ psyche?

Closing of a theatre for any reason, would not that amount to a displacement of the spectacle to the street to satisfy the need that the theater can no longer satisfy?

Could we not consider the spectacle in theatres, as a means for the audience, to unload their excess of energy of all sorts that has not yet found its way out in real life?

It seems that there is a movie function (nevertheless to be verified) that we seem not to acknowledge to cinema: it is its repairing function at the level of the audience’s imagination. On the other hand, in the world of the moving pictures, could we not class the films according to the objective that they aim to achieve? 

We will have, for example:

1 – The Beacon films (orientation).
2 – The Warning films.
3 – The Pedagogical films.
4 – The Mobilizing films.
5 – The Therapeutic films.

And in this respect, any important film is to be considered as an audience programming film (in the “data-processing” meaning of the term).

Anyway, when showing a film, we speak of a “program”, a term which is strongly significant. That is for the cinema. What about the people who make it?

 

Philosorectors?

No doubt that among the people who are extremely aware of the problems of our world, we find the filmmakers. The status of the film director in a society is, before all, a status of an intellectual, a thinker.

Even if he does not tell it expressly, his film, if it is an important one, is here to suggest it.

An attentive perusal of some great films makes us aware of the fact that these are our modern philosophers. If the word existed, we would call these moviemakers by neologism: “philosorectors” by contracting the words philosophy and directors. When you listen to them through their interviews, on television or in specialized magazines, you are often struck by their knowledge of culture. They are truly the spearhead of human thought.

Many film directors have already given answers to many crucial issues.

And as a matter of fact, we must no longer feel ashamed, when speaking of psychoanalysis, quoting Hitchcock, Visconti or Freud; speaking on politics, sociology or any other human area of knowledge;  or quoting Renoir, Fellini, Chahine, Ray, Wilder, Ford, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola to mention only a few among them.

The moviemaker (re)shows the beauty of the universe to people who have been rendered blind of the banality of the habituation, and it is not surprising that many among the filmmakers fight to set love as a milestone and hope for it to be an orientation for the human race. Hadn’t this always been the dream of all the Prophets? In this perspective, how about trying to see, through the movies, which are a human adventure among many others, the (GREAT) HUMAN ADVENTURE?

Acting and filmmaking are intelligent acts that address human intelligence.  It is a process where the actors are: intelligence and emotions.

For our part, we have made this experience one of trying to see life through the camera’s lens. Tremendous was our astonishment! We have gained in lucidity, and the following questions spontaneously occurred in our mind:

Is this experience worth sharing?                                 
The movies: a great school?                                       
And the answer seems to be: why not?
 

1. The Beacon Films (Orientation)

The adventure of the human evolution tends to be the moral perfection which is the beauty. It is an eminently aesthetic tendency. At the climax of his evolution, man becomes the support of a moral value. Rather say, that the human being is, in the end, a moral value .The man is a medium. He is a biological substratum to abstracted values that are morals. The moral value is an aesthetic value. The finality of the human evolution is of a moral order, and therefore, inevitably aesthetic.

At the human level, the concept can “better” have only a moral meaning, otherwise it becomes racism .We can only valorize a human being among his likes by putting forward his moral values, not his race or his social status……..… There are valorizing functions because of the moral. Like the one of Reverend Scott, the main character of the film The Adventure of the Poseidon (Ronald Neame -1972) Ronald Neame seems to compare human adventure to his film The Adventure of the Poseidon.

The Adventure of the Poseidon is the story of a steamship coming from America and setting off through the Mediterranean Sea to Greece. The path is then completely reversed by a gigantic wave. Most of the passengers, projected against the ceilings, perish in the catastrophe. A group of survivors organize around a policeman and a priest (the reverend Scott). They ascend wearily, by following air pockets, to the part of the shell where the propeller is found, hoping to find an exit. They are finally delivered by an army helicopter. The biggest group listens to the orders of the officer on board, who advises them to remain still, on the spot (no initiative, no evolution): all will die drowned; an important number follows the doctor (Cartesian spirit) who suggests to go ahead: all will perish; just a small group follows the parson and the policeman who estimate that the salvation is found while going to the rear (return to sources, the History): only this group will be saved.

The group that will be saved will be the one who follows the parson. It will be put in safety by climbing a Christmas tree (religious reference = Jesus= moral model). Therefore, the salvation will come from the sky, the high, the sublime, the purification through tests and transformation as it has always been from the stone and caveman age until today. The object of the film is to show that only spiritual qualities can keep man away from the process of degradation that always watches for him. Trust people with great morality, such seems to be the supreme moral and the message of the film. All the other values are, but a well kept illusion. And the other big illusion for all the nations today, is to believe in the notion of territories and hermetic frontiers. To believe in their system.

The world today seeks common factors to humanity. It tends towards unison. The universal soldier preludes to the universal man.

The great writers, scientists, artists as well as languages, are nowadays seen as universal patrimony. They belong to humanity. The UNO starts calling for national competence to resolve international problems. Any competent personality no longer belongs solely to his country of origin. His competence makes him an extra-national personality.

Lakhdar Ibrahimi, Kofi Annan, Larson, all transcend their nationality of origin and become each, a transnational phenomenon. The United Nations charge one to solve the Afghan, Lebanese, Iraqi issues; the other to the complex problems linked to disarmament… They have become THE UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. The natural tendency of the world is to internationalize everything, the problems as well as the solutions.

In a short time, when we will ask someone about his nationality, he will reply: FROM EARTH!

A beacon film that suggests the future disappearance of frontiers is surely La Grande Illusion (The big illusion) (Black and white French film by John Renoir, 1937)

...And when Rosenthal says in the film, “Nature does not care about the frontiers, frontiers are an invention of men”, it is the European Union that speaks out of his mouth. And later on, the crawling globalization. In that respect, the film of Renoir is visionary.

 

2. The Warning Films

The world in which we live today, has become so permissive, that we see put into practice, the most unthinkable experiences. Are we ready to accept, one day, the consequences of the craziest of our actions?

We think that the reality, as difficult as it could be, would never be as scary as these filmed nightmares. But this assumed certainty, only time could confirm or invalidate it.

Biogenetics has become a full fledged science. We now create clones in the animal world. We dare not make the first step towards man-cloning, though the intention does exist and we just wait for the right moment. But Jurassic Park (American film by Steven Spielberg-1993) comes in time to warn us: Beware!

The paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), his assistant and companion (Laura Dern), and the mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are invited to visit, before its inauguration, an amusement park of an absolutely new kind, created by the extremely rich John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) on an island of Central America. They are accompanied by Hammond’s grandchildren, a small boy (Joseph Mazello) and a girl (Ariana Richards). Hammond reveals to his guests, that long and expensive researches in bio-genetics enabled him to give life to prehistoric animals. The group visits the park and becomes fascinated by the spectacle of the various dinosaurs that live in liberty on the island (but without daring to ask him if he really has the right to interfere in the course of life on earth. We often forget that human greed always ends up disturbing the best of our intentions).

This is what makes one of Hammond’s collaborators steal deep-frozen dinosaur embryos. He neutralizes all the systems of security to be able to escape from the island, but he is killed by a small fierce dinosaur. The island then sinks into chaos. Furious dinosaurs terrorize and kill several persons and destroy the installations of the park, until the children (Yes the children again. They symbolize the future) fix the central computer and restore the security system.

The lesson we come up with, after watching the film, seems to be the following: In order to have the right to operate a genetic change in an animal or a vegetable, we should possess the wisdom and the global sciences that were behind the creation of this universe, of which these species are just an inseparable element. And this wisdom still seems out of reach for the human kind.

And still, it is that same wisdom which decided that these majestic creatures should disappear at a given moment of the evolution of life on Earth. Hammond, centuries later, came to interfere in the nature‘s business, but on his behalf.

 

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