Sunday, February 8, 2009

Decalogue and Mahabharata-11

This is the film in which for the first time, we are not able to see Theophanes from very close quarters. (Though he appears, in the end, in the form of a crippled person  who disembarks from the train in distant background; he is so far that we even fail to recognise him.) In the last film, both Tomek and Magda were intercepted by a glance of Theophanes during the moments of transformation. For Tomek, his recognition as a lover was the moment and for Magda, it was a chance of self redemption. But, in this seventh part of Decalogue series, the metaphysical touch commonly found in all earlier films is missing. In that sense, it may be the weakest film in the entire project but we can understand that Kieslowski and particularly, the members of his crew had started showing the signs of fatigue in this quite a long project.

            This film comes back to the question of patronage again as it was the question in Decalogue Two or in the fourth one. It's quite important to understand the centrality of this question in the films of Decalogue series. This is quite a recurrent theme in most of theological texts and religious narratives too. In Mahabharata, the question of patronage of Karna is the most complex riddle of the entire text. In reality, he is the son of Princess Kunti, (the mother of Pandavas) who had disowned him because he was born outside wedlock. He was not the legitimate child; hence, he was discarded but destiny had other plans for him. He was raised by a commoner but out of sheer talent, he turned out to be an excellent archer equivalent to status of the Kings. Despite being the eldest brother of Pandavas (one of two sides of the Mahabharata war), he fought on the behalf of Kauravas (the other side of the war). He is symbolic of one human being fighting against himself. The collective wisdom of that contemporary society could not handle the question of heritage in just manner thus by resulting in a serious community fault lines and human suffering. That is why the question of heritage is both biological and ethical but it is rare to find a common platform. Kieslowski is aware of this rarity but he's also aware of its necessity. If one generation has to be responsible to the coming generation, it must solve this predicament. The heart of matter is that a parent is not confined to the biological and the ethical cannot be fully served only by parenthood. The link between past and future has to be a combination of the both.

            This film is a sad commentary on the poor human management of this eternal question. The central theme of this work of art revolves around three females, Ewa, Majka and Ania belonging to three continuous generations, with Ewa being the oldest and Ania being the youngest. The fact of the matter is that they are the grandmother, mother and granddaughter in a row but this biological fact has been concealed by a falsehood. Ania was born outside wedlock when Majka was only 16 years old. She fell in love with her school teacher, Wojtek who responded back. When she turned pregnant, her mother, Ewa, also the headmistress of the same school, tried to hide this. She threatened Wojtek with the legal action (of doing sex with a non-adult girl and impregnating her). She fleeced Majka with a false promise that her child will be hers once she completes her education. Majka was not a mature person to handle the complexity of her action. She did as dictated by her mother. The little infant was raised by Ewa thus transforming her into the mother instead of Majka. So, Ewa was a parental mother and Majka was the biological mother. Ewa was not fully supported by her husband, Stefan but he was too impotent to resist her from embracing a false identity. Similarly, Wojtek could not be a strong father who could contribute towards a solution of the issue of patronage. So, it becomes a story of sustained falsehood, sustained loss of natural fulfilment and sustained deepening of hatred between the two mothers.

            This film is woven around Majka’s attempt to regain her motherhood by stealing her daughter from Ewa, the unreal mother. She hopes to realise her denied identity by this action but Ania, the young girl of six years, is too habituated with her parental mother that Majka finds it almost impossible to replace her. To her, the question of identity of motherhood is more like a question of possession. She thinks that once she takes her daughter along with her, the natural love between a mother and daughter will automatically arise. She forgets that motherhood is not a political question rather it is an organic question. It can be handled only by a combination of reproduction and nourishment. Both these human ventures need to be cultivated and pursued over a long period of time in order to realise the fruits of motherhood. It's not just a legal question and not so simple that it can be handled by stealing the child the way a property is stolen.

            Majka refuses to understand the complexity of the question. She is obsessed with her own denial. Her sense of frustration provokes her to build imaginary theories directed against her mother. She regards her as a negative woman who has snatched her baby. As she was unable to have a second baby after Majka, she used the opportunity of Majka’s pregnancy in order to usurp her daughter's motherhood. During the film, we don't sympathise with Ewa either because she comes before us as a rigid and a bit selfish person. The child is torn between the two competing mothers who instead of nourishing her, keep on fighting and cursing each other. The beginning of this film is a sad visual of the girl’s screaming which is such a recurrent phenomena in her life that her innocence is silently suffering in her dream world. Kieslowski is quite brilliant in such a choice. The girl is too young to voice her anguish over her mothers in the state of awakening but her subconscious self is aware of this turmoil. That's why when she is really awake to that crisis during her dreams, she screams out of fear. Nobody around her is trying to understand the serious flaw behind her screaming nor is anybody questioning that.

            When Majka steals Ania from the theatre, she takes her to her ex-boyfriend and the girl's father, Wojtek who has left teaching and turned into a teddy bear maker. He is also an aspiring screenwriter without any success. He doesn't want to welcome Majka because he is aware of her immaturity and weakness but he doesn't deny them a stay. The hidden father in him is still alive but he doesn't find himself in a position to carry the burden of the same. He also mistrusts Majka. Initially, when he is not fully aware of Majka's long-term plans, he seems to be cooperative with her but later on, he suggests her to change plans as they are too drastic. He doesn't want the young girl to be harmed by her irresponsible mother. The moment he goes out for bringing a van to escort them back to their parents, Majka runs away with Ania from there.  When Wojtek comes back, he finds both missing. He immediately loses any sympathy for Majka. He cares more for Ania and informs her grandparents about her. From the one side, Majka’s parents come looking for her and from the other side, Wojtek goes looking for her. Majka tries a lot but she has a remote chance of escaping. There is only one train that shall take her out of her current station. This is also symbolic of her thinking that she thinks in terms of only either-or. As a result, there is only one way either forward or backward. Even Joseph Kickasola mentions, “If there has been a single theme throughout the series, it has been the complexity and difficulty of moral decisions. Majka’s black or white attitude is not clarity of moral vision but its obfuscation. Her dichotomous vision also tilts her toward biological determinism in Ania's case: Majka is the biological mother, and therefore all will be well when they are together. The truth, of course, is that Ania is as socially conditioned as any other human being, and she misses the “mother” who raised her. Though she is affectionate towards Majka but she will not call her mother despite Majka’s repeated and disparate requests. Likewise, Majka lacks any real power to comfort the girl.” Kieslowski is of the view that organic choices can't be fit into the instrumentalist categories of rationality. If we try that, there are only remote chances of escape. The railway station in this case as the only choice is what Majka is behaving from inside.

            Her mother, Ewa, on the other side is not much different from her. Her attitude towards Ania is like that of an addictive and possessive person. She's not ready to leave her at any cost before death. When she is negotiating with Majka over the custody of Ania, she is talking as if trying out a contractual deal. (Ania will be mine and yours. When I die, she will be all yours). Majka’s reverse condition that ‘she gives written permission for the child to go to Canada or she will ever see Ania again’ is a difficult one but suits her. Majka gives Ewa to count of five. She rushes through count and immediately hangs up. The connection snaps immediately before Ewa says, “Yes”. Also, there are gaps in Ewa’s character. We almost fail to understand why Majka has been continuously kept away from her daughter even after she has turned into an adult. Why she has been sent repeatedly to camps far away from home? Ewa is not an open person before us; we can only depend upon theories about her as presented by Majka. The heart of the matter is that the grandmother has stolen the motherhood of her daughter as if it was a right which she deserved more than that of her daughter. It is quite ironic that she is doing it to her own daughter. They are less of mothers and more of claimants. Kieslowski is brutally direct with eventual results of such choices.

            Majka takes shelter at the train station with a little help from a lady manager of the station. Interestingly, she's reading Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, a story of a woman with similar and unrealistic ideas of love and happiness. Perhaps,     she is symbolic of the tragic end going to happen to Majka. Her parents reach the station just before the train and they finally trace the kid and Majka. The girl runs to her “mother” but Majka runs to the train. She leaves everything with a hollow glance over her daughter who runs after her but nothing happens. The way Majka had lost her selfish mother symbolically, her daughter Ania loses her mother also. The seventh commandment aims to assert that the relations built on the foundation of selfishness and falsehood shall always breed permanent forms of isolation and alienation.


anilpandey said...

sir after many days, i am visiting on your blog and also read the pratikar.continously i will try to study of pratikar. it is realy good journal for the hindi reader.

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