There is a general hesitation with the idea of imagination as a way of viewing things in the hope that things unseen can be identified, and that somehow it will leave us with awe, wonder, and perspective. This hesitation comes from not wanting to indulge in possibilities that are alternative to evident patterns today, but I think we have reached a point in time where patterns are giving us more reason to think otherwise.
In Man Without A Past, a phenomenally entertaining film by Aki Kaurismaki, a man who has forgotten who he is, is detained at a police station for not providing the police with his name. He looks at an officer from his little cell and says, ‘I believe I have a right to make one phone call’ to which he is told, ‘You’ve been watching a lot of movies’.
On an obvious and perhaps, superficial note, if movies didn’t exist, there certainly would not be such a large pool of stereotypes in this world – of everything from people, to places, to stereotypical expectations of how human lives must be. Advertising would not exist, consumerism may not be what it is today, and glamour may be cheap and fast. And yet, these things might not be the answer to what if movies didn’t exist, but to what if movies didn’t evolve the way they did.
There seems to be a choice to be made when wanting to either find out what a world without movies looks like, or what a world where movies took a different evolutionary trajectory would look like. I am led to believe that both questions could lead to the same answer. What looks like an exploration of history is what also looks like a question filled with a desire for the unknown, which is interesting because history is claimed to be the repetitive study of the same sets of knowns.
One may be wiser in retrospect, especially in terms of film study, but we must ask what does it mean for the future of cinema. Current technological, aesthetic, and conventional evolutions are now independent of the traditions of each of those fields, and instead are now dependent solely on the relationship between each of those factors in the here and the now. Aesthetic changes occur now due to technological progress, which is pushed by the need for convention to be easily circulated, which can only happen on the basis of a mutual appreciation for form and content being generated as much as it is being dissected – again, retrospectively.
There is no denying that everything we follow in film came from the tradition of literature. Naturally, it suggest that genre, narrative, structure, method all the way to reception theory and the culture industry-ness of things make it all seem like an inevitable path to have been taken, I sincerely believe that questioning the moves of turn of events required then and requires now a will to know an unknown. Whether it is to change the course of history or just find a new avenue to capitalize on, the best way to observe this is to see the commercialisation of films in countries during the time when the countries themselves were adopting capitalism. This infiltrates the spaces of all kinds of art. Even past a will to learn, and a desire to use learned knowledge, a study would lead to an appreciation of existing conventions. No desire for something should be due to the fear of nothing.
Since film has tried for years to immortalize and catalyze that process to the point that it has taught literature the fickleness of immortalization. Film has forced itself to specialize with each other, as opposed to perpetuate the kind of inbreeding of tropes that are relevant in every aspect of life from fiction to human mentality. Modern cinema has had to quicken its pace and attempt to surpass the pace at which literature develops and evolves, and from trying to keep up with that, cinema is trying to move ahead and build its own space in art where its rules and traditions are all encompassing – whether its film making, or films studies.
Apart from the obvious chain of events having showed us that film is, essentially, faster, stronger, harder and forms a huge part of how we communicate, it may have also made the same mistakes it predecessors had made. It may have made art accessible, it has also made it obsolete. It can only seem like our best option to break meta-narratives and existing discourses of the world because it was the one that started them.
The biggest ‘what if?’ of film today is what if we never became self-reflexive. What if film was not so conscious of itself the way we are of it? The latter only being a result of this modern need to rationally identify things just so we can reassure ourselves of the apparatus that surrounds us, completely neglecting to consider that it could use us in return. In its unconscious form, it could have assumed a state of passiveness which could have brought a halt to technological changes. It could have never sought meaning, therefore the arbitrariness of aesthetics would have been identified earlier than before. It may have never been an industry. Films may have just as well been restricted to its physical form, since it never evolves, of celluloid, metal, and light, and that would be its own spectacle.
Words: Nivedita Nair
Art: Tara Anand
Edits: Amal Shiyas