Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Innocent Sorcerers

There is one scene in Andrzej Wajda'a Innocent Sorcerers that is the movie in itself. It has everything that a cinema struck can ask for: beauty, words, imagery, poetry, timelessness, sadness, energy, pathos and high drama. It runs well near fifty minutes and takes place in the shabby apartment of a young doctor with peroxidized hair in post-war Warsaw in the early hours of one night. The young man called Basil has decided to help a friend 'tame' a charming young woman they have seen in a music bar and due to some confusion ends up with her. She, who later introduces herself as Pelagia, surprises him by accepting his invitation to his place. What follows is a marvellous scene of such intense wryness, humour, tragedy, drama and cynicism that it encapsultaes everything that can be commented in a politico-social sense about any society in transition.

Pelagia begins by teasing the man and both agree that they should proceed to engage in a sentimental plan with each other according to certain written rules, which he writes down and sticks with a knife to the wall. The rules of engagement aim at introduction, intelligent conversation, followed by a kiss, by perhaps a physical union but within degrees of freedom. If Basil thinks he is clever, Pelagia is cleverer as each aim to out do the other. In conversations that skirt on various issues, from the frailty of human knowledge to human ignorance, the two engage in verbal sparring. Basil then invites her to a game of playing with a match box and scoring on what end it falls on; they bet on taking their clothes off, one thing after the other, at each wrong call. Initially, Pelagia starts to win but later Basil wins more. During these attempts, the conversation is sparkling and flirtatious, tender and tendentious, awkward and soulful, romantic, beautiful and occasionally tense. Each is testing the other and yet each is cynical and unsure not to admit something really tender.

Later as Basil makes her scrambled eggs and later still when Basil is called out by his friends for a few minutes, on returning he finds his flat empty. Basil rushes out looking around the city for her but cannot find her at all. On returning he finds her in his flat and he appears much relieved though he does not show it. Pelagia leaves after a while but after shutting the door, stops and returns to Basil again.

I thought the long scene is a mood scene, a scene that proves time and again the revivifying nature of cinema, its poetic element, its drama. The conversation between the two is beautiful poetry and at the same time, it represents a particular mood, not only for Basil but Pelagia too. I am not sure whether Pelagia is her real name; in the climate of the country that it shows, cynicism reigns supreme. In only that sense is it political, for the city scenes show the city in ruins and yet there is a gay hedonism at work here. A certain gayness pervades the spirit of the times in which these young men and women move or work. This is evident also in the almost lazy way that Basil keeps rejecting the advances of good looking females earlier in the movie. However, in a war sapped place, perhaps there is no place for tenderness or perhaps tenderness is replaced by a boxing match, as takes place in Basil's flat.

The movie has a wonderful background jazz score, which in a sense compliments the gayness of spirit of these young men who certainly seem to have no morals. Yet, in the scene between Basil and Pelagia, and in all cinema I will list this scene very high, the talk is of love and morals. A certain tenderness is missing, a certain cynicism has set in, war has taken away something after all. Both are lonely, though to his loneliness she remarks that she is ambitious. And when he finds that she has left him, he runs frantically in a mix of dazed pain and confused regret. He may after all have found the one he was looking for, she too may have found the one she wanted inspite of her ambitions. Such sentimental plans must be tried occasionally.


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