Sunday, April 22, 2012

CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi, 62 min, A+++++)

Things I find interesting in this film include:

1. I couldn't quite attune my wavelength to this film in my first viewing. I found it a little bit more difficult to watch than the first six feature films of Rashidi. There are many long static scenes in this film, and these scenes  are not as beautiful as the sceneries in BIPEDALITY, not as haunting as the scenes in REMINISCENCES OF YEARNING, not as friendly, breezy, or sublime as the ones in ZOETROPE, and not relying on monologue as the one in CLOSURE OF CATHARSIS. Because of that, scenes in CREMATION OF IDEOLOGY become more challenging than other films mentioned.

However, I found it much easier to watch when I watch it for the second time. I think it is partly because now I know what to expect from this film. My frustration that I had in my first viewing of the film may stem from my "not knowing". I got frustrated at first because I didn't know what happens in the film, where I should pay attention to, how long this scene will last, what the meaning of this scene is, what is really important in this scene, etc.

In most mainstream films, you won't get frustrated like this. You understand the story. You know what is happening in a scene. You know that a scene will end when there's nothing important to tell you any more, etc. Watching a mainstream film is like walking in a narrow path. You know that you must walk in that narrow path because there's no other paths to choose from.

But watching CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY for the first time made me feel like walking in a dark labyrinth. I didn't know where to go next. I didn't know which way to choose. I didn't know if I had chosen the right way or not. I didn't know if I had overlooked something important or not. I couldn't connect the scenes in the film together. I felt quite lost, like in a labyrinth.

There's no frustration like this when I watched it for the second time. It's like entering the same labyrinth for the second time, and now knowing that this labyrinth will not kill you. I felt much more relaxed watching it. Maybe I tried to use my brain too much when I watched it for the first time. Maybe I tried to "interpret" the scenes too much in my first viewing. In my second viewing, I can watch a woman asleep for a long time with relaxed mind, because now I know how long this scene will be, because now I know I don't have to pay attention to every second in this scene or to every minute detail in this scene, because now I know I don't have to decode this scene or explain the symbols in this scene or something like that.

2. CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY makes me feel as if I am watching and I am being watched at the same time. This film contains some scenes in which people stare at the camera, thus these characters make the impression as if they are looking at the audience. This is one of very few films in this world that let me "watch people watching".

CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY may be one of very few films in this world that is a little bit more fit to be watched on a computer notebook than in a big theatre, because I watched this film on a computer notebook, and it gives me the illusion that some characters are watching me via their webcams at the same time. However, I haven't seen this film on a big screen, so I cannot say for sure that watching it on a notebook is "better". I think I should just say that watching this film on a notebook can give the viewers some uncanny feelings that they won't have by watching it on a big screen.

This film also makes me feel as if I am a secret agent or a hacker who can hack into other people's computers and secretly use the webcam to look at the faces of the computer users.

However, I'm not sure if the effects above is what Rashidi intends for this film or not. I think he might not intend to make the viewers of this film feel as if they are really skyping with the characters in the film, because if he had really emphasized on this effect, he would not have made this film in black-and-white and would not have made the pictures in this film look grainy and gloomy like this. He would have made the pictures in this film look more realistic. Whatever his intention is, I still like it very much that the characters in this film stare at the audience.

3.So what is happening in this film? I'm not sure. I think the film is about daily activities of a couple and their webcam communications with other people. The man wakes up before his wife in the morning. He takes a bath. His wife puts on some makeup. They are communicating with their friends and family via webcam. They go to bed at night. The scenes of the couple's daily activities are superimposed or interrupted by the scenes showing what their friends do in front of the webcams. Some friends dance in front of the webcam. Some play a prank. There are also some enigmatic scenes in this film, such as the penultimate scene in which a ghost apparition appears at a stair or something like that. There are also many scenes showing building rooftops.

4.Though I almost never use webcam before, CREMATION OF AN IDEOLOGY somehow makes me think about the role of internet in my daily life. The second scene in this film shows the man opening a window. I don't know what this scene means, but it makes me think about the internet as another window in my room, a window which allows me to look at the whole wide world or communicate with the whole wide world. Like the couple in this film, it is easy for me now to chat with a friend who lives in other countries and enjoy some funny activities together. Internet has become an essential part of my daily life and my life. I could not connect with friends in other countries like this fifteen years ago.

But am I happier now than fifteen years ago? I'm not sure. In this film, we know that the couple enjoy using the webcam, but we don't know if the husband and wife are happy together or not. At the end of the film, the man opens a curtain in a classroom and shuts down the webcam at the back of a classroom. I don't know what this scene means. But I know that I have been using computer too much lately and intend to use it less in the future.

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