META-NOMAD

Blog: TSPDT6 & Note on Xenobuddhism

On Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Antonin Artaud stated that the film was meant to “reveal Joan as the victim of one of the most terrible of all perversions: the perversion of a divine principle in its passage through the minds of men, whether they be Church, Government or what you will.”

And in my opinion it does just that, and it goes about it in no overly complex way, there’s little in the way of sophistication or creative temperament, just a sublime (and I do not use that word lightly) performance by Renée Falconetti, a minimal set and a focused camera technique. The film is an exercise in compressed spirituality, wherein each time the camera is focused upon Joan of Arc’s face one gets the feeling of a real, visceral belief in God, in saviour. The feeling is akin to reading the works of Lovecraft, where that which is nowadays often accused of being a fiction is brought to life by those who have firsthand experience of the/an Outside, whether it’s Arc’s God or Lovecraft’s Occult, both are read as if that which is usually questioned is taken as reality, fictions become fact. The use of light and dark could be said to be kitsch, potentially obvious, yet it stands entirely true for its purpose as that which reveals the good from the bad. There’s very clear inspiration here for countless films to come, the use of harsh close-ups, little-to-no-makeup, angles utilized as status signifiers, yet it is unarguable that what stands out is Falconetti’s ability to make even the most staunch non-believer question their heart, even for just a second. In Dostoyevsky’s 1869 novel The Idiot, the character Prince Myshkin, having viewed the The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb (below) in the home of Rogozhin, declares that it has the power to make the viewer lose his faith. Well I claim the reverse is true for Renée Falconetti’s performance as Joan of Arc.

 

 

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb – Hans Holbein the Younger, 1520-22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renée Falconetti as Joan of Arc.

Now, onto the rest. The Wedding March and Pandora’s Box (1928) are both difficult to find, in fact, now I’ve left the era of really early stuff I imagine I’m going to be confronted with both rare and protected films. People on Sunday (1929) was about as enjoyable as it sounds, don’t bother. The Man with the Movie Camera (1929) I generally thought of as pretty convoluted and hammed up, this is usually the case with a lot of French stuff to be honest, they try just that little bit too hard and what could have been an interesting experiment/experience trails into a nonsensical reference only a few people will get. The Blood of the Poet (1930) was another non-find. L’Age D’or (1930) supposed to be one of Bunuel’s greats, hell I couldn’t draw much from it. Earth (1930) by Dovzhenko was a film I was looking forward to, Tarkovsky lists it as one of his favourites, stating that Dovzhenko understood how to create simple cinema, truly minimal film, there’s a fine line and I guess once again my temperament fell onto the wrong side of it, alas…I was unimpressed. Hell, I never said I was going to glorify the whole list, hopefully by the end of this I can give you the films from this 1000 that’ll actually interest your 21st-century addled brains.

Edward Van Sloan: [Introduction to the film] How do you do? Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning. We’re about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation: life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now is your chance to, uh… Well, we’ve warned you.

James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) I’m guessing is as clear cut as Frankenstein films are going to come, oh, and also it’s our first ‘talkie’, there’s dialogue again so these might just get a little longer. This is a very clear cut horror which arguably spent a little bit too much time in the editing room (unless there’s a story there I’m missing out on), it’s often jarring how quickly we’re moved along to the next clear piece of narrative, almost…mechanical. I jest, with a remaster this could quite easily sit alongside contemporary horror films as an example of how well a written work can be turned into film.

Extras:

Note on Xenobuddhism:

XENOBUDDHISM BEGINS WITH XENO by XENOBUDDHISM

‘Land goes on, gets blunt, boils this shit down:

“Xenobuddhism- the illusion of the substantial self isn’t dispelled by argument, and for most people it won’t be meditation or some of kind of psychological discipline that does it – getting copied, downloading thoughts, splitting/merging consciousness – that stuff will really have an impact and yes, it will be difficult to ignore”

Xenobuddhism is neither Buddhism nor accelerationism nor transhumanism. It is born from their convergence. It’s Buddhism once exposed to the mutagen, the black liquid. It’s the technocommercialist takeover of dharma in the realisation that techniques for realisation have outpaced humanity. Capital begins rerouting human agencies, demonstrating emptiness as the immanent engine of history. Buddhist modernism sought to update the former based on the latter; Xenobuddhism is dharma expounded by modernity itself. Xenobuddhism is unconditional accelerationism apprehended in the guise of a religion. The self illusion – the heart of the human security system – will be vaporized, and the species with it. Enlightenment and Enlightenment colliding. Whoever says it’s a dystopian picture really hasn’t been paying attention to history thus far.’

An intriguing read by Xenobuddism to be sure, I quarrel with the idea of the human-security-system here in relation to Buddhism. Yet it reads as if there were a mirror (=human-security-system), read the story of The Sixth Patriach Hui Neng. So here I would say that Xenobuddism makes the mistake of the first poem:

The body is the wisdom-tree,

The Mind is a bright mirror in a stand;

Take care to wipe it all the time,

And allow no dust to cling.

The human-security-system here acting as the mirror, yet the proposition that there is a mirror (within Buddhism) is wrong:

Fundamentally no wisdom-tree exists,

Nor the stand of a mirror bright.

Since all is empty from the beginning,

Where can the dust alight.

Whether or not this implies that the Buddhist mind falls quite sharply into unconditional ways of ‘thinking’ would require further investigation. There’s no mirror for dust to collect upon, there’s no human-security-system for the black liquid to collect upon, so it’s washed directly through you, potentially into you, there’s little time for transition here it seems. The substantial self (as Land puts it) in Buddhist terms never was, it was created after and so it’s more a case of realization of negation, as opposed to dispelling an attached psychological reality.

 

Blog: Organic Economics and TSPDT3

Serres & Nakamoto: Organic Economics

Connections between both Michel Serres’ ‘theorization’ of organisms as a series of interlocking boxes and Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision of a decentralized blockchain-based economy (Bitcoin)

It is not a unique black box, but a series of interlocking boxes; and this series is the organism, the body. Each level of information functions as an unconscious for the global level bordering it…What remains unknown and unconscious is, at the chain’s furthermost limit, the din of energy transformations: this must be so, for the din is by definition stripped of all meaning, like a set of pure signals or aleatory movements. – Michel Serres, The Origin of Language

The solution we propose [To the double-spending problem] begins with a timestamp server. A timestamp server works by taking a hash of a block of items to be timestamped and widely publishing the hash, such as in a newspaper or Usenet post [2-5]. The timestamp proves that the data must have existed at the time, obviously, in order to get into the hash. Each timestamp includes the previous timestamp inits hash, forming a chain, with each additional timestamp reinforcing the ones before it. – Nakamoto, Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System

Serres here writing in 1982 – 26 years prior to Nakamoto’s publication – notices the inherent capabilities and integration of a ‘blockchain’ (or in Serres’ example interlocking boxes) system within consciousness and notably communication. If we are to very roughly fuse both visions, that a single ‘block’ from Nakamoto’s economic system, makes as much sense as a single box from Serres’ series, both are pieces of information disconnected from the whole which makes sense of them. Much alike Serres’ series wherein that which remains at the chain’s furthermost limit is unknown and unconscious, what remains at the furthermost limit of Nakamoto’s blockchain is the distant memory of a proven transaction.

What is there Serres’ conception of an organism e.g. a system, from the blockchain: A globalized, ever-growing, decentralized ledger. Both systematically receiving, exchanging and storing information. However, here’s the part that really interests me:

Serres’ organism as systems retrieve information, but ultimately decipher the signal from the noise (as noted with ‘tiny perceptions’), that is, organisms actively deduce from the chaos of the interlocking boxes that which they need, yet at all times all those boxes and links are needed. I don’t need to feel the weight of my arm, texture and temperature of the can before and whilst I take a sip, yet they are there and always will be. “Organization, per se, as system and homeorhesis, functions precisely as a converter of time.” So it is from this “bouquet of times” we pick our signals.

So what of Nakamoto’s system, which in the same way as Serres’ is related to time, that is as Nick Land states:

“…the claim being made, but the claim being made here is that the blockchain is Post-Spacetime and that means that we are not Post-Kantian. We are not Post-Kantian because the Kantian Transcendental Aesthetic is not disrupted by Einstein spacetime, instead, it is the draft it is the blueprint, it is the precursor for the spacetime of the blockchain which has now been instantiated by the Bitcoin technology. So we have now artificial absolute time for the first time ever in human history.”

A goliath claim to be sure, yet what of its possibility. For if artificial absolute time is a reality and any form of Post-Kantian time is now impossible, this means that Serres’ “bouquet of times” or ‘bouquet of succession’ or successive experiences etc. become locked in, they become interlocked truths which cannot be altered, but can be looked back upon, in and of. One could (when the technology gets to this stage…it’s close) travel down the infinitesimal succession of times and perceptions they previously missed. So Serres’ unconscious is entirely deconstructed, his system of “mobile material points distributed in space and governed by a law” becomes a horrific, or emancipatory (in terms of economics) reality, and that “law” is cryptographically locked moments in time, cryptographic truths decentralized and available to all.

So in short: The utilization of the ‘blockchain’ (Bitcoin protocol/blockchain technology) as an extension of the ‘natural’ organic system, itself a series of interlocking boxes; either an abstract connection between the organic and mechanic via capital, or a material connection via acknowledgment/perception of ‘purchase/consuming’.

Note: The fact they both immensely dislike centralization was the thing that caused me to notice their connection.

TSPDT3

HÄXAN (1922), I could write about this film for a little too long to be quite honest, in fact a re-watch to analyize any single aspect of the film wouldn’t go a miss. This film is the epitome of ‘ahead of its time’. So much so, one wonders whether or not Haxan is some strange found object, as if film was transported back in time and is used in place of a skull during a satanic ritual.

This film embodies superstition, the documentary format is throw into scripture…ancient, forgotten, esoteric, myth comes alive and takes no human prisoners, rooms and lives are awash with literal, viral madness. Nunneries follow insanity, and the Nuns the devil. ‘The Devil Takes Many Forms’ in a general motto to hold onto throughout the film, whether it be gold pieces strewn over the floor, demonic pigs on their hind legs, witch-trials, torture, hate, suspicion, paranoia and more enters into a hellish stew of burning theo-historical documentary madness…from 1922. On a practical note, the cinematography isn’t necessarily sublime, but it is merticulous, everything framed, the costume design and ‘special effects’ (for what those words are worth in 1922) are all on par with that one would see 50 even 60 years later, it feels as if the film is both a debt and sacrifice to an unknown ancient being.

Keaton’s Our Hospitality (1923) isn’t my humour, I mean the 21st century’s cynicism and rorny have ruined my innocence for slapstick comedy, thus a lot of Keaton’s antics seem simply immature now.

Keaton’s Sherlock Jr (1924) is fantastic, the running length helps I must admit, 40 minutes of cut-to-the-chase humour works well, his control of flow is superb and I get this feeling that in comparison to Chaplin he’s not as artsy fartsy…the stunts also are grand.

Listen, I’m not some Rotten Tomatoes rate-everything-pre-1950-highly schmuck, thus, Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris is dull, I mean really dull, at no point did I give a shit about any high society antics, which seemed to exist in a feedback loop, perhaps that was the point, I don’t know, I’m none the wiser.

I can’t find a good enough version of Greed (1924). Also want to read McTeague prior to viewing.

Strike (1925), my first Eisenstein, and boy was I blown away. It’s blindingly obvious to me now which techniques filmmakers owe Eisenstein for. Precisely for the fact his use of montage and quick cuts are/is so well done it becomes near impossible to believe anyone else except this director could have invented such a technique. It’s glaring how this could very easily effect a down-and-out worker, or group of workers, how such a viral and infectious strain of perfectly paced cinema could crawl into the heart of a group and grow outwards, the fuel of utopian dreams. Eisenstein clearly marks the movement from objective reality, towards the forece of the subjective vision, Eisenstein’s utilization or proto-utilization/invention of montage as a means to sway how the viewer views the film is a technique heavily debated (André Bazin), yet without these early political subjective perspectives would Lynch exist, would a film be able to dig its claws as deep. Without Eisenstein’s political montage Lynch’s maggots would cease to exist.

Solaris: Acceptance of Horizons

We want to extend the earth to the borders of the cosmos.”

Surrounded by sublime vegetation, trees and earth, a lake spans forth caressing the traditional architecture of a home. Rain comes heavy overshadowing the minor footsteps of humanity. There’s subtle references to a far off world called Solaris thrown into the picture, each suffocated by the remaining humanity within Tarkovsky’s writing and cinematography. There’s a sense that the question Kelvin poses, namely whether or not science can be moral or immoral needn’t matter here, for these grandiose questions are juxtaposed against the timeless tranquillity of the traditional countryside, a cliché that only someone with Tarkovsky’s skill could make original once more.

Image result for solaris 1972

We’re introduced to Berton, a pilot who previously witnessed a four-meter-tall child on Solaris, slimy, nude and creating a waves within the ocean, a horror which was dismissed by the masses as a hallucination, and in a typically Kafka-esque manner Berton’s life and story has become the subject of ridicule, yet needless to say, the man himself is wary to bring the nauseous memory to the surface once more, for fear of its induction into the plane of reality, or at least, whatever remains of reality for our horror-stricken Berton. The opening to Solaris acts as a grounding for a past, one that teases little and is sincere in its acceptance of animals. An element of contrast that thematically resides at the back of one’s memory throughout viewing, against the coming madness fades a memory of normality.

Image result for solaris 1972

Upon arrival to the station Kelvin is greeted by little hospitality, all that awaits him within the station hovering above the ocean is paranoia. Consistently placed circular windows look out onto Solaris’s surface, a surface entirely oceanic and irradiated. A pulsating behemoth of water emanating a desire to the lesser to prod its potential mysteries. Kelvin soon learns his only acquaintance upon the station, Gibarian, has committed suicide, reportedly he entered into a perpetual state of depression “since the disturbances began.”

Before long such ‘disturbances’ become apparent to Kelvin and the viewer, hallucinations appear which are collectively shared by those aboard the station. Materializations of a conception of memory, or the memory of a person are brought to life on Solaris. Kelvin’s deceased lover Hari has returned and as such he decides to fire her away in the knowledge that she is dead, yet Kelvin soon learns that the hallucinations will never fully leave, and they are to return time and time again, each time learning more and more from the matter of your memory. The infinitesimal corpses of your memories materializations pile up as the ocean continues to probe your mind for the most minute of details. Each hallucination only as much of that ‘memory’ or that ‘person’ as one’s mind can muster, as such, our crew are left with ghost like visions of their past loves and experiences.

Image result for solaris 1972

These abstract horrors cling to nothing but their provider for life, and so the lives of hallucinations are entirely burdened to their creator, as such they will do what they can to convince your of their reality. As the 20 years deceased relative you once knew attempts to convince you of their reality, piecing together fragments of your own mind, be reminded that you are not going insane, you’re merely being probed by a planetary ocean with a consciousness, one that’s far more advanced than your own, humanities’ hardware is outdated and so you shall only receive packets of information caught in an empirical feedback loop. Attend to your own madness, and be kind as to not step upon others’.

Of late and of the past there has always been the unspoken idea that space exploration will act as a form of physical transcendence for humanity, wherein upon our ascent into the cosmos our limitations shall leave us behind, an ignorance so pure as to imagine that merely some form of empirical travel could remove our horizon when in actuality we’re still within it. It is not ourselves that have changed, only our position relative to our birth.

Tarkovsky’s vision of Lem’s Solaris is unapologetically anti-2001. 2001: A Space Odyssey is mistaken in attending the idea that humans could outsmart technology, 2001 goes as far as to imply the reversal of Solaris wherein it is Hal whose memory is slave to its fragmentation as opposed to humanity. Solaris from its very beginnings fully integrates the natural flaw that is humanity into the perfected systems that either they’ve created, or exist elsewhere, outside or noumenally. 2001 at its core is a story of man’s mastery over space, to argue this point I put forth Ebert’s explanation of 2001’s ending:

 

By now, man is intelligent enough to realize that the monolith was planted by another intelligent race, and that is an awesome blow to man’s ego. So he sets out toward Jupiter because the monolith beams signals in that direction. And man takes along “Hal 9000,” a computer (or tool) so complex that it may, even surpass the human intelligence. The ultimate tool.

But Hal 9000, made by man in his own image and likeness, shares man’s ego and pride. What is finally necessary is the destruction of Hal – after he nearly destroys the mission – and that leaves one man, alone, at the outer edge of the Solar System to face the third monolith.

And here man undergoes a transformation as important as when he became a tool-user. He becomes a natural being again, having used his tools for hundreds of thousands of years to pull himself up by the bootstraps. Now he no longer needs them. He has transcended his own nature, as that original ape did, and now he is no longer a “man.”

Instead, having grown old and died, he is reborn as a child of the universe. As a solemn, wide-eyed infant who slowly looks over the stars and the Earth and then turns his eyes on the audience.

These last 20 seconds, as the child of man looks down on his ancestral parents, are the most important in the film. We in the audience are men, and here is the liberated, natural being, Kubrick believes we will someday become.” – Roger Ebert

 

Ultimately at the end of 2001 it is man who ‘succeeds’ or transcends, man achieves mastery over his literal creator somehow and in quite a sentimental way becomes a dough-eyed infant looking down upon Earth. The ending is a Kubrickian rarity, it is – debatably – positive. Humanity overcomes space, a superhuman AI and eventually overcomes their own limitations.

If we’re to return to Solaris however one realises from the very beginning that such a case was never going to be put forth. Where Kubrick has apes utilizing tools, Tarkovsky has man pondering his morals, Kubrick gives us Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, the dawn of something great. Tarkovsky originally wanted nothing, but allowed us schizo electronic sounds as an opposition to unbridled hope. Where 2001 is forgiving, Solaris is vindictive and condemning. Tarkovsky understood that not matter how far we travel, nor in what vessel or whom with, we will always be dragging along with us the vicious memories of humanity.

In their cluttered and confused attempts at grasping the teasing’s of those superior to them humanity only claws back its own insecurities. If for one moment, man, you thought you were going to outsmart a concentrated planetary conscious you are mistaken, for it need only to remind you of a character in your own play to make you grovel and retreat. You might declare as Gibrarian did in a fit of madness “I am my own judge!” but be warned, for on your return to home you shall find no need for pleasantries, for you’ve entered into a labyrinth of horror wherein your worst fears are realised for eternity.

You arrive home to find all has been replaced by a perfect replica, each inch of the supposed matter attending to your reality instils a deep sense of the uncanny. Your dead wife runs to your side, your memory of her lost to time and so she too is lost to time, you’re left eternally with a cast without a script nor characterisation. You are left with only that which you created. An eternity without anything new. The slow death of mystery.

Pleasantville: Knocked from Stasis

The residents of the town Pleasantville are within a TV show called Pleasantville, which our two protagonists, David and Jennifer, find themselves thrown into. A town & TV show which is of 50’s attitudes, whereas our protags are from the 2000s (it seems.)

Thus the town acts as a place of temporal-stasis, a pure-linearity, a linearity which is temporal and spatial, as its main street curves in a loop onto itself. Only that which has been written of the show can happen: A basketball will always go through the hoop, things are done in order, etc. etc. Yet once our two protags are thrown into the town, they act as malicious agents, though not on purpose, anything they alter brings consequences, a quasi-chaos theory within a smaller universe (the town of Pleasantville).

The subtle changes to the Universe remove the ‘written’ characters from their existential script, the one in which they meaning. Once the characters, acting as extras to the universe, NPCs if you will, realise they can do things outside of the written order, their world begins to deconstruct in both negative and positive ways. The sexually repressive attitudes of the 50’s: handholding, kissing at ‘Lover’s Lake’ etc. are cast aside for full-blown MTV-style lovin’, in fact this sparks a conersation in which Jennifer, who’s in her early 20’s, has to explain what sex is to her 50’s mother, the style begins to evolve into a Greaser care-free style, and that which becomes altered in the ‘meant-to-be-black-and-white world’ begins to appear in colour. Yet, certain characters who realise that they can act off script begin to question the ‘point’ of their existence, for if the chef at the diner can put the lettuce on the burgers before the cheese then his entire world is altered, he begins to question. The questioning acts in certain ways in accordance with Artificially Intelligent learning, exponential growth of knowledge: The chef realises he can place lettuce before cheese, and quickly learns he could go just not make a burger at all, or even not go to work. Thus the protagonists act as agents within a linearity, both wielding the possibility to knock existent-zombies from their unconscious statis.

Chef: What’s the point bud?

David: You make hamburgers, that is the point.

Chef: It’s always the same…

David: Look, you can’t always like what you do, sometimes you just gotta do it because it’s your job, and even if you don’t like it you just gotta do it anyway.

Chef: Why?

David:…I think that you should try not to think about that anymore.

(Note: Some filler from the conversation is cut here.)

Anything authentic, which in this case is that which is not-of-this-world begins to take on actual colour, as opposed to the black-and-white 50’s TV aesthetic. These acts of complete authenticy eventually begin to, in small ways, destroy the world, causing a tree to self-combust into flame: flame, which, as something not used within the actual TV program should not…be. Leaving the firefighters in awe of flame and actually using their equipment for its use for once, in Heideggerian terms this act is for the firefighters to take that which is present-at-hand and utilize it, transform it, into the ready-to-hand. This acts leads the in-Pleasantville characters to question the ‘outside’ of Pleasantville. The books which were previously blank, begin to become filled in via the protags memory of them, thus the characters begin to read that which they never should have, they begin to shed their black and white shells and become conscious of the metaphysical colour. Many of them become, especially the older generation of extreme 50’s conservative values, become self-conscious of the colour; self-conscious of their enjoyment of the culturally transgressive, and as such, paint themselves back to black and white, to cover their new found ‘cultural-outside’.

One scene in particular, though a little romantic, is incredible in terms of a metaphor for political and cultural escape. The chef is given a book on Art to flick through, as he enjoys painting, the process of him viewing beautiful works of Art is literally euphoric. Yet, he still cannot see ‘colours’.

Chef: “Where am I gonna see colours like that. Must be awful lucky to see colours like that, I bet they don’t know how lucky they are.”

An erudite comment on existentialism and the perspective of the artist.

Among other things, the film has a reasonably transparent criticism of the patriachy, in which William H Macy’s archtypal father character, continues to ask where his dinner is when he arrives home from work. It’s not on the table, as his wife is out expressing herself, enjoying her own life outside of the linear. He explains this to his group of pals:

There was no dinner.”

“*GASPS*”

“If George here doesn’t get his dinner, anyone of us could be next.”

A questioning of values begins from the older conservative townsfolk. They believe it will just “Go away.”, yet of course those who’ve experience the colour do not want it to go away, there begins a questioning, largely from the women at first, starting with George’s wife, who realises she can do what she wants.

And so begins the films comment of black segregation in America in the 50’s. People begin to display ‘No Coloureds’ signs and talk of seperating the pleasant (black and white) from the unpleasant (coloureds), the comment itself is a little weak. And so begins violence towards ‘coloureds’, violence, which up until now has not been part of their world, they are as of yet, to see blood.

The film roughly follows the linear history of black segregation politics in American, finishing in David and Chef painting a large mural on the side of the Police Office, showing the rise of the colour and the change.

It is a film of political, cultural and existential apathy. Directing its artistic sensibilities towards the absurd nature of those who find themselves in multiple forms of stasis, towards those who are stuck.

The Big Short – Bureaucratic Horror

“I mean for instance, one of the hallmarks of mania is the rapid rise in complexity and the rates of fraud…” – Michael Burry

What’s the initial setup for your most basic horror film? An ordinary world, the world as a given, everything fine, normal and we as a viewer still have our nerves. Everything is as it should be. There may of course be a hero, a protagonist with which we will side, usually we shall take the side of those who we feel are more morally just. Then something goes wrong, a disturbing force, something mystical, strange, violent and absurd shall overthrow the narrative, we are given a clear warning of this, some eerie tone or a sense of unease and foreboding is given. The problem is usually solved, or fixed, the villain or sense of unease is killed/ended and those who’ve survived go on with their lives.

In this case The Big Short begins entirely in the ordinary world, we are told of Lewis Ranieri the father of mortgage-backed securities in the 70’s, we don’t know who he is, but he changed our lives, which already pushes a sense of unease, someone changed all our lives and we never knew, this is nothing unique of course, except it comes apparent later on as to why it’s a malicious global economic change. The ordinary world is short lived, we are given images from the 2008 housing crisis, people being evicted from their homes, poverty, strife, anger, worry and fear all crammed into roughly 2 minutes of news real footage. There isn’t necessarily a singular hero in this case, prior to beginning the film the audience understands that it’s about the 08’s housing crisis, so, who does one support? Who are we backing here? Who’s out hero? Potentially you could argue our ‘hero’ of sorts is the likes of Michael Burry who foresees the crisis, however, much like the rest of the films ensemble he merely uses his knowledge to profit from the crisis. Not that he, or any of the other protagonists could have done anything about it of course, to step in the way of big business is to commit career suicide, so you take what you can and leave, I guess. Perhaps the future economy is our hero? What we want to survive in an underlying sense of security in those who hold our money and safety, though the film’s general premise doesn’t bode well for this idea i.e. This has happened twice now, within a 70 year time frame. So, what kind of horror is this? A bureacratical one, constantly fluctuating with a sense of kafkaesque frustration.

Wall Street loves to use confusing terms to make you think only they can do what they do.”

Of course, this is nothing new. Look at any system in which there’s something at stake which those who know don’t want spoiled, or to have the wealth spread out amongst even more people: Bitcoin, stock markets, morgages, taxes, forex, etc. these systems are made implicitly to push people away. So already the viewer is given a new world in which the narrative is to make transparent was has for so long seemed like complete gibberish, techo-jargon explained to the layman, so we can see it for what it is, simple exploitation. We are given a world in which we’re the fish, yet the problem being, the time has passed, 2008 has passed, so we are just relieving the intricacies and underlying structure of a collective nightmare.

“You have no idea the crap people are pulling and the average person just walks around like they’re in a goddamn Enya video. They’re all getting screwed…Credit cards, pay day lenders, car financing, fees, fees, and more fees. And what do they care about? The ball game or which actress went into rehab?” – Mark Baum

 

As witty and humourous as Baum’s statement is, it’s true, it’s always been true and will forever be true, as long as we stay within the capitalist realist state we are currently within. The interesting feeling the film emanates here is that of nausea, an uncanny situation in which the horror is unfolding from both sides inwards, there’s no hero to save us, any possibility of salvation has been buried in time under stacks and stacks of paper work, maybe not, that could just be conjecture. However, the viewer now understands they are in there’s no out as this has happened, so they are just to sit and watch the horror unfold, slowly watch as the scaffolding is poked and prodded until collapse.

 

Who bets against housing?”

 

That’s the problem, complete in 4 words. Who, as in, it will never fail because everyone knows it wont. Bets, it’s a dumb gamble. Against, it’s secure. Housing, it’s housing, it’s always fine, I mean it’s housing for christ’s sake: we live in them. Everyone does it so no one questions it, The Big Short tells the story of when the mad man on the street is finally vindicated, those shouting “The End (of the economy) is Nigh!” of course no one listens, and no one will care afterwards becuase they’re too busy trying to find a new home or work out what the hell happened. Most horror movies at this point either have a clear villain win or loss: the villain either kills the victims or vice versa, that doesn’t happen here, everyone is left to deal with the remains, as if a big economic villain came in ravaged 99% of the parties involved and left without any damage to itself because it never existed in the first place. The viewer, left empty, just continues on, I don’t know how to finish this because the movie itself can only leave you with a distinct sense of dread that the walls that surround you aren’t financially secure, nothing is, it could all crumble…well, we already knew this though didn’t we.

Ivan’s Childhood

“War is no place for children.”

 

Ivan’s Childhood sits as a blueprint for Tarkovsky’s career, with an idea towards accessible spirituality and metaphysics, towards the il y a and dread of existence. One strikes one foremost, as with any Tarkosky film is the imagery, a sublime mixture of intensly humane images, contrasted with striking, quasi-abstract death-imagery.

Ivan, a 12 year old Russian boy, whose family, we learn, has been killed. He had joined a partisan group and had attempted to cross the front line into Soviet territory. He is captured by the Soviets and installed into the war effort, his small physique and swiftness his beneficial attributes. A stoic and contrarian boy, a boy pushed temporally into the realm of man prematurely, allowed access into a chaotic masculine space before one should be. His attitude allows him to fit in.

Ivan’s dreams are interspersed througout the film, the viewers gut directed towards near overdrive as one forgets Ivan’s childhood, accepting the film’s plot as truth-of-the-matter, normality forgotten, for peace cannot exist in wartime as such neither can the innocence of childhood. For a directorial debut one quickly realises Tarkosky is working from a different plane, one where the hidden, the shadowed and the mist no longer exist as a limitrophe, but are brought to the fore and Ivan’s present emotions are laid bare; amongst the half-lit swamp, the suffocation underground and the rumble of flares overhead. Which each glowing terror a moment in Ivan’s future is destroyed, physically, metaphorically and metaphysically, which each act of violent-self a piece of childhood cannot happen.

Ivan attempts to cross the river, back from where he came, an attempt at the impossible, attempt to become what one was, to erase the past. As such Ivan becomes lost in the swamp, in the mist, in the gases and gunfire. We are to find out about his fate in the final scenes of the film. As the Third Reich is overthrown, papers on the floor of an ex-Nazi government building show that Ivan was hanged. We are shown the room of execution. And then cut to a dream, Ivan playing a child’s game on a tranquil beach, all the while a dead tree sits waiting, amongst the frollics and fun there lies the metaphysicl truth of the matter, the childhood lost, tainted and never returned.

Tarkovsky seems me a director one should begin at the beginning with, one shouldn’t start with his magnum opus’ as I feel the emotion and imagery may in fact be too much, it may seem kitsch almost, when in reality it is the utmost calculated spirit and mystery. All Ivan knows is war, without hope of a childhood, born into war and his life is of war. Violence, horror and survival is all he knows and in certain respects all he will (now) ever know, a life scolded by the war. A tension between a sweet yet dangerous nostalgia – that of what is childhood is meant to be – and the reality he is within. Nostalgic dreams become nightmares; the impossibility of normality is true horror. Ivan’s loss is pure, dead loss, a side may have won, but no -ism, -opia or -ology can redeem the death of a child. A vacuum of meaning where there should be enjoyment exists in the total now, it has happened and as such the celebrations at the end of the film fall flat; Somebody won, it has ended, he is dead, hate is no-more…but what of our Ivan? What of a child? This can seem to be empty sentiment, the typical “Think of the children!”, but Tarkosky’s presentation of such a statement retrieves it from its mutation as something used. No longer are we to think of the children as a thought to get us to act, we are presented with the children, the innocence, but we are presented with a narrative complete, as such we are simply to witness what has been and attempt to learn. Ivan was gone as soon as he heard the first bomb fall.

Ivan is mad, that is a monster; that is a little hero; in reality, he is the most innocent and touching victim of the war: this boy, whom one cannot stop loving, has been forged by the violence he has internalised.” – Jean Paul Sartre (http://people.ucalgary.ca/~tstronds/nostalghia.com/TheTopics/Sartre.html)

Arrival – Heidegger, Levinas and Fatalism.

Arrival  – Dir, Denis Villeneuve. 2016.

 

I used to think this was the beginning of your story. Memory is a strange thing, it doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order.” – Louise Banks

 

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is as gentle as a Kubrickian film is ever going to get. Overbearing stoicism, captured in wide shots and a general sense of seclusion and alienation, one is not so worried about the aliens as a potential for hostility, but if this will actually change anything, one feels for the earth. Whatever this is, it is already above the idea of humans vs aliens, it is beyond the horizon, into a dark unknown, an unknown even those who travel through space and (potentially) time cannot enter.

Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks, who we see from the beginning has lost a daughter to cancer, in a flashback overcast with the idea of a dream made, then destroyed. The news comes in, as it always does and always will, aliens have landed…finally? It seems this way to Banks, who is nonchalant to the news, it’s clear to the viewer nothing could overthrow the hand life gave her, she cares not for the one dealt to the world. She’s asked by the government to use her skills as a linguist to communicate with the aliens. At the army camp, situated next to the ‘landed’ ship, she meets Ian Banks, a physicist, whom she has a relevant love interest with. I feel in the case the word ‘alien’ cheapens the detail and nuance applied to this film’s extraterrestrial, who I feel are at opposition to hostility, one has a sense of fright and worry, the extraterrestrials understand they are the strangers. Which at once gives the viewer the feeling of unease, who here is the authorative ‘species’ or genus, the hierarchy has been dissembled, we are at threat together.

The aliens or ‘heptapods’ landed in an oval pebble type ship, as high a skyscraper, yet gentle on the landscape, not too authoritative, not cold nor warm, there, still and settled.

The heptapods reside in there ship, within a lit room filled with what seems to be steam or smoke, separating them and the humans is, I guess, the heptapod equivalent to glass, the humans the other side, in their own large room…which is only illuminated with light from the heptapod side, and their own feeble technology (Glow sticks, lights etc.)

The heptapods bring a new illumination, one humans are only just becoming aware of, a world anew; and so the task begins of how to communicate. The illumination in a sense is post-Platonic, our minds are no longer the only source. Illumination of the Other? Or has the horizon simply ‘moved’. The Levinasian illumination (Existence and Existents) is inverted, the possibility and potentiality of hostility from light, a physical manifestation of uncanny-sense. We supplied the light to our own world for so long, and now an-Other supplies a new light, one that can go beyond our ‘known’ horizons, through time and temporality.

And so the task begins of how to communicate. The heptapods communicate via what seems to be 3-dimensional rings of smoke, the meaning of which change via the subtleties of the shape. Banks begins to understand the language as something which addresses time, addresses temporality, eventually leading her to understand that it can help one understand and view their individual history and future directly, a language that can take one within their history, within their future, within their time. A language in-keeping with Martin Heidegger’s theory of historicality:

[Death] is only the ‘end’ of Dasein; and, taken formally, it is just one of the ends by which Dasein’s totality is closed round. The other ‘end’, however, is the ‘beginning’, the ‘birth’. Only that entity which is ‘between’ birth and death presents the whole which we have been seeking… Dasein has [so far] been our theme only in the way in which it exists ‘facing forward’, as it were, leaving ‘behind’ all that has been. Not only has Being-towards-the-beginning remained unnoticed; but so too, and above all, has the way in which Dasein stretches along between birth and death. (Being and Time 72: 425).

Thus, Dasein, a being such as a human, one which can interrogate its own being is at all times behind its past, and ahead of its future. We are pushing our past, correcting and changing our experience with knowledge of our past, and attending to our past with direction towards possibilities of the future. So the language of the heptapods is a practical manifestation of Heideggerian historicality, praxis-language.

The film doesn’t however, extrapolate on whether the language is in favour of will, or is in fact fatalistic. The ending allows the viewer the knowledge that Louise Banks has seen her future, and that in fact the flashback at the beginning was a flashforward, and at ‘current’ she is witnessing her future, the one she will have with Ian, whom she met whilst working with the heptapods, they will marry, have a child, divorce, and the child shall die of an incurable disease. She decides to stay with Ian despite knowledge of her future, thus can she now – via heptapod language usage – change her future? Improve her relationship with Ian, have the child at a different time so it may potentially avoid the disease. It’s unclear whether at the beginning she (potentially) subconsciously knows of her future – this would be a possibility within the logic of the film.

These questions are classic philosophical questions, those of freewill, free-choice, determinism and fatalism, are our actions our own? Yet the questions are asked via a Heideggerian framework, one in which language is employed as spatio-temporally free-floating, existing outside of physics. A pure metaphysical language. A Heideggerian language of historicality, applied via a Levinasian ‘extraction’:

Moreover, the very fact that a painting extracts and sets aside a piece of the universe and brings about, in an inwardness, the coexistence of worlds that are mutually alien and impenetrable, has already a positive esthetic function.” (Existence & Existents, Emmanuel Levinas, p48)

Usually it is only that of a physical ‘spatio-temporal’ object that can extract from culture, physically that is, an idea etc, an object such as a painting or poem or film carries with it a sense of time, an individual-time. The language of Arrival and that of the heptapods is the extraction of time from a fixed linearity, it is a language to remove the shackles, the individual’s time becomes economic, theirs. Though if the language is, as the film’s linearity would have us believe, fatalistic, then the language is but a curse, we can view our future and do nothing about it? A world learning of their unchangeable futures is a paradox in itself. To teach a class of students how to utilize heptapod language to view their future, would be to teach a class of linguistics students their future’s look very bleak, many of them will die and suffer loss, and will want to change their future, as such, the language only be a tool, a gift, a means to alter one’s future.

The heptapods act as the symbolic manifestation of a transcendental understanding of Heideggerian thought, an understanding in which one can transcend human limitations, break free of deterministic shackles.

Afterword: There is of course the argument that the heptapod language would be part of one’s ‘preset’ path, as such determinism still stands outright, the language may only act as the ability for larger states of flux within a preset horizon.