Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Code Unknown: Collage Or Art?

I was bored by Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher where the moment of suffering never comes. If Haneke creates characters that cannot or will not communicate, then one must suffer from boredom, because he is a fine film maker and we must learn to suffer. However, if the attempt is to existentialise alienation, make it an art, showcase it to show cultural and racial isolation, depicting difficulty in communication also, then Code Unknown, Haneke's deft collage movement is actually quite good.

There are some powerful scenes or movements in this movie. My favourites are the Boulevard scenes, the metro scene and Juliette Binoche in the theatre. Of course, this movie can only exist in its deft style but the characters are actually caricatures for if, if they actually tell their stories, then the facade of pseudo-communication, the ghetto existence of most European cities will simply explode. If Haneke strikes a kind of balance between different racial subtypes in this movie, he does not allow his characters to speak, for speaking would involve politics, politics to do something. The artists aim is not just to showcase suffering but to take sides and we do not know whose side he is on.

Any person worth his salt can have an opinion. All opinions, even relating to what coffee one drinks could be political. Most European cinema, under the guise of Art, has escaped from attempting to answer, to speak. To highlight all this xenophobia, racialism, boredom is to stultify the subject matter, for the crisis must be lived, the love torn to pieces, the tumour touched and then, only then can this heartache be led to its proper denouement. Otherwise, this movie is only poster pain, a moving collage.

However, to be fair, this movie has its moments too. It takes courage to stick a poster to a city wall in Europe these days. And Haneke, after all, is quite brave.


Alok said...

I didn't really understand your criticism. What Haneke is doing is just diagnosing a very important problem plaguing most of our cities in the developed world, specially the multicultural ones, where people are not able to transcend the boundaries of race, class, gender etc and as a result can't communicate with each other in any meaningful fashion.

It is just a vision, a look at the state of the things. I am guess your complain is that he is not showing any political solution to the problem and that perhaps he is too pessimistic. but understanding and acknowledging the seriousness of problem is a very important step towards solving it. and i think he deserves a lot of applause for highlighting it so eloquently.

Alok said...

also I love his Piano Teacher very much too. Isabelle Huppert is just phenomenal -- so much pain and so much suffering and she shows it with such seeming effotlessness. I found it extremely affecting, even frightening. I can't say thing for many films of recent years.

Kubla Khan said...

Hi Alok
you are right in saying that he highlights the problems and thus might appear too pessimistic. yet, i was talking about the feeling of not somehow reaching the final denouement, for instance what Jean-Luc Godard is able to achieve with perhaps the same theme. It seems as if the issues are being just touched.
Re The piano Teacher, Huppert's character is in a way so repressed, so emotionally distant from us that even though it might frighten us, we don't seem to scale that extra level of sympathy for her.that is what i meant by a failure of suffering.apart from that, it is a fine movie.

Kubla Khan said...

the very process of diagnosing, as you say is only half the dialectic. pointing out issues is fine, but the essence wd be to take them further. movies have their semantics. we can infer different meaning from the same issue. that is besides the point. the important thing is to try to take the analysis further and not blame it on say immigrants or the native population. in england, this debate of immigrants not actively immersing in the local culture is always news. to what extent can the two groups immerse, when the two might have different world views. the very act of immigration does not allow or force you to unburden yourself of a previous dialectic, a prior semantic.
thus, everywhere else, as in france, the problems will simmer. to that extent, this movie raises or points out issues but is that enough? whose responsibility is it? the state? and if it does so, we end up in room 101.

Alok said...

he is not blaming it on immigrants or native people. in fact he shows that race is only one of many factors that is keeping people apart from each other. the same problem is there within people of same race too. (i think there is a sequence that shows an old man estranged with his son.) the alienation, the social breakdown, the atomisation of society as the sociologists call it is endemic everywhere.

in fact there is a brilliant subplot in the film in which Juliette Binoche is acting in a film which shows how easy it is to manufacture human emotions and false self and then to sell it as an entertainment product. Just one cause -- the ubiquitous media and culture industry -- as to why people feel isolated from each other.

the problem of cultural/social integration is a very serious one. There are no easy solutions and but at least understanding this problem from every perspective might help us in taking some small steps towards some solution

Kubla Khan said...

Alok...agree with participating in this dialogue, trying to understand the different positions etc. i agree with your rather good analysis of the sub-plot. that is quite effective.
on the whole, as i had pointed out in the post, haneke has made a brave attempt. But what say of Godard?
Does not he bring a more intellectually ambitious narrative to his movies? eg...weekend, the algerian movie and others?

Anonymous said...

Good for people to know.