While the surveillance state inserts its proboscis into our psychic circulation systems, I will attempt to look on the bright side. It’s an audience. I am accustomed to revealing my most private thoughts and wrestling with my demons in public and listeners are listeners, after all. It’s not for me to pick and choose. I should be glad for the company but seldom has anyone from the public hung in there past the first act. Does this mean at least someone might get through the entire output? What if it sucks? What if it’s so great, they come out of the woodwork as fans? Then, by their word of mouth, my public expands and expands. Pretty soon everybody’s sending me salutations and money. Is that worse than toiling away in obscurity?
It’s not for me to judge you personally. I include myself in the surveillance community. The variety of voyeurism practiced at the multiplex is non-intrusive. Those that subscribe to the golden rule won’t take advantage of their neighbors the same way as films do characters. There is a kind of vigilance about the world around us that is rewarded through natural selection and we can develop that through movie watching. We don’t have to pry into real people’s private lives. Filmmakers have tamed and civilized the act of eavesdropping for us. Movies provide an outlet for our nosy, curious nature without anyone’s privacy actually being disturbed.
Whereas its obvious that the vast majority minds their our own business pretty well, the preponderance of audio/video and other recording technology all around us begs to be turned on. Still, it tickles me to think how far behind the curve the intelligence gathering agencies are. No one keeps tabs on his or her fellow citizens as well as movie watchers. In our society, you can learn more about human beings in a two-hour movie than by living next to them on the same street for years. Anyway, the information we seek most diligently, by scrutinizing the actions of others, should be whatever teaches us most about ourselves and that’s how the movies work.
“Requiem for a Dream,” (2000) is a story of addiction, a gorgeously grimy picture that cuts to the bone. Each time I’ve watched it, it has stayed with me for days. Opening act scenes of the budding romance between pretty addicts make their risk-taking appear glamorous, but love gets mixed-up with getting off, pushing them over the edge. If you’re inquisitive, like me, you’ll hop on the danger train with them while director Aronosvsky examines the tragic spiral from feel good scratch to fetal clutch.
In the same story, there is an elderly woman that lives by herself. She spends her lonely hours watching television. She becomes obsessed with trying to make herself look better and fancies appearing on television as a substitute for a more meaningful connection with her son. What would be considered a softer addiction proves to be equally devastating.
“I wanted to show how addiction is about repetition and obsession.’ Listening to Aronovski’s comments while re-watching the film was informative. “When we were amoebas in the primordial soup we were looking for carbon molecules to get high off of.”
The mix of fantasy and denial that allows addicts to plunge themselves into the abyss is blatantly familiar to us all, at this juncture in history. Unhealthy habits assail us from all directions and none is more potently self-destructive than our dependence on fast, cheap, easy fixes for our complex, long-term, critical challenges.
“It’s about the lengths that people will go to escape reality and when you escape your reality, you create a hole in your present, because you’re not there, you’re off chasing a pipe dream in the future and you’ll use anything to fill that vacuum, coffee, TV, tobacco, heroin to feed the hole. The hole grows and grows until eventually it will devour you. This film is about how you can use anything to get high off of, anything to fill that hole.”
He’s saying everyone wants safety, security and connection. When we feel powerless to get it, we settle for a substitute, but there is no substitute. He said that back in the year 2000, before everything changed. We’re going to follow this filmmaker into next month to review his latest film entitled “Noah,” made 14 years later. The story of the great flood appeals to the part of us that longs for a clean slate. It’s a metaphor for “cold turkey.” Civilization must go through withdrawal, if we’re going to survive, but we’re so badly hooked that we convince ourselves the correction will come from God, or in other words, don’t count on us to do anything but what addicts do.
Aronovsky is fascinated with excess and that works well in a movie that is literally about addiction, such as of “Requiem for a Dream,” but not so swell in his movie about death and dying, “The Fountain” (2006). He achieves mixed results in his films about performers, “The Wrestler” (2008) and “Black Swan” (2010). The work is always daring and visionary, but his stories, with the exception of “Requiem,” tend to collapse under the weight of their own excess. If you’re not up on The Theater of Cruelty, this director will school you with his moves.
The problem often lies with where Aronovsky choses to begin. To my own sense of correct proportion, the third acts of his last three films overshoot the mark by a power of ten. Imagine if Beethoven started his Ninth symphony in the middle. There would practically have to be bombs exploding at the finale.
So we will see if an apocalyptic deluge will be a subject that lends its self to Aronovsky’s predilections. I hope it doesn’t fly off the rails. All concessions to the Theater of Cruelty considered, at one point does one begin pushing back at the screen?