2014年8月18日 星期一

Field of Dogs (一個人的神曲)

If it's a film by Lech Majewski, Polish writer, poet, painter, and film director and producer, you can be pretty sure that you'll be stunned by some visually spectacular yet painterly (Rembrandt-like) cinematic images, a bit like those one finds in Bertolucci's films, yet unlike Bertolucci's, completely surrealistic, more like those one finds in Bunuel's. I know because I saw "The Mill and the Cross" (2011), in which Majewski  literally "brought to life" the characters portrayed in Pieter Breugel's panoramic 16th century painting, "The Way to Calvary" in occupied Flanders: the purity of an often ineffectual innocence amidst the poverty, the destitution, the cruelty, the violence, the injustices, the superstition, the belief in fate and the stubborn will of dumb and numbed humanity in its struggle to survive in a universe supposedly ruled by divine providence, a dark and difficult world in which we still somehow can manage to find in some obscure corners the feeble light of human goodness shimmering from some miniscule acts of kindness shown by one fellow victim to another in that indifferent universe. (See http://elzorro927.blogspot.hk/2012/03/the-mill-and-cross.html# on 31.03. 2012) The images of that film still seem so vivid in my memory after so many months.  Last night, I saw his newest work, "Field of Dogs".
The new film hasn't got much of a story. It's more like a sequence of frozen images of loss, pain, suffering, desolation and fragile fantasies of the protagonist stirring into slow motion,  linked by hymn-like music and the voice-off recitation of various passages from Dante's Divine Comedy (by Massimilino Cutrer), simultaneouly flashed across the lower left of the screen. Such images are the on-screen embodiment by Adams( a Biblical sounding name) a young Polish poet (Michal Tatarek)'s psyche after he lost his wife and his best friend in a motor accident in which only he survived.

As the film opens, we see rows of wooden pews in an imposing but deserted Gothic church. A feathered angel appears in the aisle, walking in measured paces towards the empty altar. But he is not going there. He stops. He approaches a pew at the back of the church. He spreads a wing over a female body lying peacefully on the bench, dressed in a flimsy black gown, her unrecognizable face hidden by her hair. A man appears, takes her out on to the church yard, accompanied by the "angel" walking a little distance off at the side, close to the wall of the church garden, keeping guard and making sure that nothing untoward would happen during her journey to the grave. Then we see another image. Someone is sleeping on the exact same spot in that old church. A robed priest approaches. He takes a concerned look at the young shape lying there and advises him that he must go and see a doctor if he keeps on needing naps during the day. Then we see the same young man working at a huge Cosco like supermarket check out counter, mindlessly passing the coded items through the electronic scanner machine and then excuses himself, walks around the supermarket into the storehouse at the back of the megastore, finds a huge trolley of clothes, climbs in to take another nap until rudely woken up by the godown supervisor and given a scolding. There, he had a dream, a young mother breast-feeding her baby by the side of an idyllic river bank.

We next find the young poet at home, trying to distract himself by channel surfing, mindlessly clicking the remote of his TV set, trying to find something interesting to see. All he got are news of disasters, flooding, the death of the Polish President in a plane crash while visiting Russia etc. and some advertisement exploiting the shapely form of a bikini-clad young girl. The mind of the poet also flicked in and out between images deeper in his psyche: an innocent looking girl of about 7 to 8 amidst flowers,and then going into a church, observing the throbbing heart of a Jesus, a Mary or some other Christian saint preserved in a glass encasement, a field where a chamber quartet was playing some classical music, whilst other people, probably his friends and acquaintances were standing at various parts of the field where there's are some graves, where the various characters appeared, frozen in the midst of some action or other, as if it were a painting. Eventually, the "graveyard" was flooded leaving only the crosses visible.

He's visited by his dead friend, behind an old fashioned plough, ripping through the tiled floor of the supermarket where he was working, pulled by two strong white oxen. He fancied being tempted by the girl in bikini in the TV ad but even in his fantasy, he remains unmoved. He is given some advice on how to handle his loss by his aged philosophic aunt (Elzbieta Okupska )who could quote Seneca's stoical epigram on the transience of earthly existence, the need for endurance, Heidegger's teaching on the emergence of being from nothingness, our eventual return to such nothingness and our need to wait for a "clearing" in the forest of our Being for an unforced and spontaneous salvific "enlightenment". There are also images of an enigmatic woman with a white serpent slithering around her neck, shoulders and body. When he reads, blood appears mysteriously upon the pages between the middle folds of the book. In the meantime, we find doves flapping and flipping their wings about in his home or hovering above him whatever he might be doing. The film ends with the hero leading her wife through a subterranean passage under the church deep within the bosom of the earth to what appears an underground waterway where they sail peacefully upon its calm waters and then a spectacular image of water flooding through the roof of the brilliantly lit cathedral in the opening scene,  completely obscuring its altar whilst the handful of faithfuls there continue to pray, as if nothing unusual was happening before their eyes.There were also scenes in which our hero was achieving ecstasy of bodily union with his lover: we see them literally being lifted into the air, the two naked bodies entwined and inseparable in physical union. Many of the images are deliberately off-focus, giving the scene a painting-like feel so that perhaps we may be helped not to look upon them as portraying everyday "reality". It's a film about life, death, love, loss, grief, meaning and man's relations to the higher authorities, if any.

I am quite sure that many will leave the cinema baffled and will be scratching their heads asking "what is he trying to say in this film?" If so, they will know that they have gone to watch the wrong kind of film, for them. But for me, I will continue to be haunted by Majeski's unforgettable, surreal but majestic cinematic images. They will probably stay with me, for life. The film is written, directed by Majewski.  The film credits show that Majewski also has a hand in the camera work, the design and in the music. I think I know why.