Two films about awareness
For some reason I've been holding off reviewing The Motorcycle Diaries, which Adam and I saw way back in December. Well, I've finally got around to it, and I've found a most unusual film to compare it with.
Koyaanitsqatski has no characters, no plot and no dialogue. It simply shows you our planet - as a desert, with wide open spaces, and then as a city, with masses of people scurrying about. It ends with a rocket taking off - I was thinking, cool, space travel - and then the rocket explodes and tumbles down to earth for what seems an eternity.
Weird, huh? I thought so. I'm glad I watched the special feature "Essence of Life", where director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass (now on my "interesting composers" list!) talk about what they were thinking.
The film is about awareness. It's not really a call to action, although it has been interpreted that way by critics. But it's just a particular way of viewing the world, culminating in the film's only English text at the end, a definition of "Koyaanitsqastki", which was, from memory, a way of life that is disintegrating, crazy, and in need of change.
That's what appealed about the movie. It's not about preaching, it's just about 'look around you and see'. Of course, we're looking through the eyes of the filmmaker, so it's hard not to come to a similar conclusion as the filmmaker. Such is the power of those who wield the camera.
The Motorcycle Diaries was also about awareness. Ernesto Guevara starts the film as a serious, determined medical student going on a harmless student trip around South America. On the way he sees what is really happening - what his people have done to the native people (sweeping generalisations here) - and wonders if he can do something about it.
The film's attracted huge controversy here because of Che Guevara's later role in the Cuban revolution. Here in New Zealand, one review (which seems to have disappeared) calling Guevara's goodness into question, received quick rebuttals from the New Zealand-Cuba Friendship Society and the Cuban Ambassador himself (not a bad writer, I must say!).
But controversy aside, the principle I get from both these movies is that before there is action, there must be awareness, an awakening to the problem that you were born to solve.
Melodramatic? Okay, try this version: Before you act, assess the situation, assess the resources already in place to help that situation, and assess your own ability to help.