Sunday, October 02, 2011

FOUR IS...? (2011, Grisana Punpeng, A++++++++++)

What I like very much in this play, or what I think is interesting in this play, includes:

1.The structure of the play. The play is made up of short scenes which are barely connected to one another. I like this kind of structure very much, and I think this kind of structure makes it very difficult for the play creators/filmmakers to use it well. I mean if you use this kind of structure in your plays/films, it is very difficult that the end result (your play/film) will be very powerful. It is the opposite of a straightforward narrative structure in which you can build the tension/emotion gradually until it reaches its climax and resolves near the end.

Though this structure is very difficult to use, I think Grisana is successful in using it. The play is very impressive, funny, and thought-provoking.

To illustrate how difficult to use this structure, I would like to note that there are some films which attempt to use this same kind of structures, but fail to be powerful. These films include:

1.1 THE COLOUR OF HAPPINESS (2003, József Pacskovszky, Hungary, B+)

1.2 LOVE ACTUALLY (2003, Richard Curtis, C+)

1.3 MAL (1999, Alberto Seixas Santos, Portugal, A-/B+)

1.4 THREADS (2003, Hakim Belabbes, Morocco, B+)

2.I also would like to compare FOUR IS with other plays/films which use the same kind of structure and are successful. I once made a list of my favorite films/plays which use this structure here:

In my personal opinion, I like WELCOME TO NOTHING (2008, Nophand Boonyai), THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974, Luis Buñuel), and VIDEO 50 (1978, Robert Wilson) a little bit more than FOUR IS, partly because WELCOME TO NOTHING, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY and VIDEO 50 are crazier. FOUR IS seems to be governed by more logic or reason than these three works. The logic and reason make FOUR IS "more meaningful", but "less crazy", and thus, "less powerful in my point of view" than these three works.

Having said that, I want to point out that the words "less powerful" here only denote my personal taste, and I don't mean to say that FOUR IS is inferior to or less successful than these three works, because I guess that Grisana didn't intend to make a "very crazy" play in the first place. I guess he wants to say some specific things to the audience or wants the audience to think about some specific subjects, so the fact that FOUR IS still seems to be governed by some logic or reasons means that it may serve the purpose of the director very well, though this fact means that it might not satisfy my personal taste perfectly.

3.The mystery of the main theme. I'm not sure what the main theme of this play is, but I like this kind of mystery very much, because it is very thought-provoking. FOUR IS makes me think about Alexander Kluge's films, because some of his films are made up of barely connected stories. The mystery of the main theme of FOUR IS also makes me think about what Kluge said. He said that:

"Understanding a film completely is conceptual imperialism which colonizes its objects. If I have understood everything then something has been emptied out.

We must make films that thoroughly oppose such imperialism of consciousness. I encounter something in film which still surprises me and which I can perceive without devouring it. I cannot understand a puddle on which the rain is falling—I can only see it; to say that I understand the puddle is meaningless. Relaxation means that I myself become alive for a moment, allowing my senses to run wild: for once not to be on guard with the policelike intention of letting nothing escape me.”"

4. Though I'm not sure what the main theme of FOUR IS is, there are many interesting subjects in this play, including:

4.1 The unknown truth, such as the news reporting scene, in which no one knows for sure if the woman's death is the result of a brutal murder or a mercy killing; or the last scene, in which the story of a frog and an insect can be elaborated in many ways, and no one knows for sure which story is truer than others. The last scene also shows that people can easily create a fictional story to serve their political purposes. The scene in which a man and a woman tries so hard to understand some characters' motivations also emphasizes that the truth about something may be out of our reach, and we must not forget that we can only guess about it. We must not assume that our guess must be right. We must not rule out other possibilities or other explanations.

4.2 The hypocrisy of people, which is related to "the unknown truth". People like to pretend that they are good and generous. They donate money for disaster victims, because it is good for their publicity. They console their friends so that they will look good. I also like the award acceptance scene very much. In this scene, a man thanks no one and nothing in his acceptance speech. The man acts the opposite of what most people do when they accept some awards. What the man does in this scene emphasizes how hypocritical most people do in the same situation.

4.3 How we create our (false) identities on the internet or Facebook. There is also a dialogue in the play which talks about the ticker section in Facebook, which is a very recent phenomenon. I like it very much that some plays/short films respond very quickly to latest news or latest important events in our lives. This kind of quick response to latest news is hard to be found in other art forms.

4.4 The apocalypse

5.One of my most favorite scenes in FOUR IS is the scene in which Chorlada Suriyayothin talks about the expectation of a middle class life, while she is cooking some hazardous dish, using such ingredients as bathroom cleaner in her food. Her monologue in this scene reminds me of one of my most favorite scenes of all time in THE DEVIL, PROBABLY (1977, Robert Bresson), because both scenes show us how empty a middle-class life is. You can watch this scene here:

But the action in Chorlada's scene is worth to be included in THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972, Luis Buñuel).

At first, I tried to interpret every action in this scene. I tried to find the connection between what the character says and each ingredient she uses. I thought each ingredient has some symbolic meanings. I ignored what Alexander Kluge said, because he said that the audience should not " be on guard with the policelike intention of letting nothing escape me."

After a while, I gave up trying to interpret everything, and did what Alexander Kluge said. I relaxed, and allowed my senses to run wild while watching this play. It doesn't matter whether the cooking scene has many symbols in it or not. All I know is that the scene is very memorable, and that's enough for me.

In the talking session after the play, Grisana revealed that the cooking scene comes from his dream. I like this fact very much. It also reminds me of other films which originate from the dreams of the directors, such as ON THE MOON (2007, Dhan Lhaow, 6 min, animation). A scene in THE SACRIFICE (1986, Andrei Tarkovsky) also originates from the dream Tarkovsky had in 1977 or something like that.

In conclusion, I like FOUR IS very much because it partly reminds me of Alexander Kluge's films. I think Alexander Kluge likes to create films "which inspire the films in the viewers' own heads". FOUR IS is also like that for me. FOUR IS inspires me to think, imagine, and create "a play in my own head".

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