Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Decalogue and Mahabharata-14

"None of these films is a simple demonstration of black and white moral issues....These are not characters involved in the simpleminded struggles of Hollywood plots. They are adults, for the most part outside organized religion, faced with situations in their own lives that require them to make moral choices. You shouldn't watch the films all at once, but one at a time. Then if you are lucky and have someone to talk with, you discuss them, and learn about yourself. Or, if you are alone, you discuss them with yourself, as so many of Kieslowski's characters do."

-RogerEbert,Chicago Sun-Times

This is the last film in Decalogue series. It is the only comic film of the entire series. Watching it is undergoing an experience of relief and faith in life. When this film ends, it ends with two brothers laughing over their own foolish misunderstandings about each other. They realise the fallibility of human thinking and a decision based upon it. It made me think immediately that it was a sheer chance for them to discover the real truth otherwise they would have stayed on a course of mutual rivalry throughout their lives, a course which is a course of destruction in entire Mahabharata. Had Dhritrashtra not been blind or his younger brother, Pandu not have died, the things would have been very different. There's no point in questioning why the story happened the way it is now rather what needs to be understood is that they are built upon a series of fallible reactions before certain situations of life. In Decalogue Ten, the mutual laughing of brothers is creating a non-possibility of a story of animosity like that of Mahabharata. The bitter seeds of mistrust which they had created just some moments back were eliminated through the confession and mutual sharing.

Kieslowski wanted to communicate that human actions shall always be limited in their response but it depends upon the human beings themselves to transform that thing into a virtue or vice. In this film, the centre of dispute was the property (in the form of expensive and real stamps) not unlike Mahabharata where property (the kingdom of Hastinapur) is also the centre of dispute. The misunderstanding between the brothers in the film remained for a short period but the misunderstanding between the brothers in Mahabharata remained for a long period. All human crises emerge from a lack of mutual trust. The site of the origin of a problem is always very minute; the magnitude of crisis is only a projection of the existence of crisis. That's why Kieslowski is not interested always in the size of the crisis rather he is focused upon the origin of the crisis. When we explore the origin, we explore the human fallibility. We may not control it, but we can definitely resolve it if we are able to understand the integrated nature of spaces, both human as well as nonhuman. When Theophanes enters a story, he is actually the symbol of nonhuman entry. When a computer starts blinking, a glove box suddenly opens or phone bell rings, it is again the symbol of nonhuman presence. When one character of a story surfaces in the other story, it is again the symbol of mutually inclusive spaces. The point of focus is that humanity is embedded in an ecosystem occupied by something more than the human determinism. Man is not a control machine and he cannot be; if it tries to do that, it will only destroy the balance of ecosystem. Kieslowski is not interested in configuring that ecosystem because he wants to keep it in the realm of invisible knowledge which he calls “not knowing”.

This film is built around the two sons of the stamp collector shown in Decalogue Eight. Both of them have come together after a very long time on the funeral of their own father. Their elder son is Jerzy who works in an office and the younger son is Artur, a rock singer in a band called ‘The City Death’. Both of them have been away from their father too. Their father was a lonely person who had only one passion of stamp collection. In the philately community, he was called the “root”. He had won a lot of prizes in international competitions and had earned a lot of professional reputation in philately circles. But he was a poor father and a poor husband who could not find enough time and resources for his family. His death has left the question of his property or his heritage an open question. Both the sons are trying to solve this question out of different needs. During the entire film, we almost fail to understand whether they are selfish and want to make a fortune out of selling stamps of their father's collection or they're trying to connect at an emotional level with their father by developing an interest in what he has left. Kieslowski, as usual, does not portray his characters in black and white. Many a time, it seems that they have nothing to do with stamps or their father but there is something compelling which keeps them attached to stamps. Jerzy’s son happens to lose the Zeppelin series but to recover that, Jerzy takes all risk and finally traces the person who has them. But, he's a really talented gangster and he dodges Jerzy but Artur is a smart person; he plays a trick, blackmails him and finally recovers the Zeppelin series. Had it been only the motive of money, things would never have gone to such dramatic levels for them?

The film is clearer in the terms of atmosphere. This is an atmosphere of fraternal relationships. It is mixed with both the questions of family property and family identity. When the film begins, Artur is singing on the stage a song full of hedonistic impulses. The power of song is the power of the culture of materialism built around us. It's a culture that moves the people towards alienation in the name of identification. It's a culture where the fundamental institutions of the society start losing their value and relevance. Both the brothers have struggled through this atmosphere. They don't seem to be much uncomfortable with that but the death of their father awakens in them the need to connect with something and somebody. Though the initial motivation is greed but as the film proceeds, they happen to find other meanings too and the most important is the value of brotherly trust and the institution of family. Artur is a better gifted in terms of sixth sense than his brother. When Jerzy tells him about his father's collection, he says in wonder, “Where does it come from? The urge to have something”. He is also a good initiator in terms of taking decisions. When they are short of money, they think of selling the stamps but Artur expresses that ““I don’t know why but for the moment, I don’t want to touch them.”

Gradually, out of a mixed desire to save the stamps from getting stolen, they start becoming protective of them. In the process, they discover the joy of stamp collection and also the depth of effort which their father must have put in creating such a vast treasure of knowledge. During that, they find a very rare and expensive stamp of Austrian Mercury series missing. Their father had tried to fill that gap for long but he could not. The gangster from whom Artur had procured Zeppelin series, offers them the missing link, the Austrian Rose Mercury. Both of them feel an urgent need to fill that gap but he has a condition. He needs something expensive in return. For him, it's not a question of money rather he wants a kidney for his 16-year old girl. After a lot of agitation, Jerzy agrees to donate one of his because only he has the matching blood group. During the operation, Artur waits outside and flirts with a nurse but this is a moment of serious loss. While they are in the hospital, somebody breaks into their house and steals the entire collection. They do acquire the Austrian Rose Mercury but they have lost the entire series.

The police is informed but nobody is caught. Both the brothers get doubtful of each other and separately inform the police about the possible complicity of the other. But, very soon, they discover that the robbery was done by a group of people who knew about the collection and the fact of their absence from the home. The film ends with a laughing scene both the brothers find themselves having purchased the same series of stamps. It shows that they have discovered their father a bit within themselves. They might have lost the property of their father but they have saved the heritage of their father. The property was a collection of stamps but the heritage is the spirit of kinship and the urge to have something.


ravivarma said...
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Amrit pal singh said...

Thanks for such a beautiful work u have posted. everytime i read u, u r always different, always seem to me new. i dont know whether to ask it or not, but i will say, this is the quality which make u very interesting person. i have listened u pouring out ur views about decalogue but this post is really embellished one.the way u have presented this tremendous thought just have infused fire in me. it make me to reconsider about the concepts of these parts.
with a lot of respect. i thank u

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