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  • Writer's pictureRAJULA SHAH

Quarantine chronicle May 2020



Kieslowski speaks a language of colours; a myriad shades in between, the broken tones. Even his black and white is not quite B&W; as if forever hinting at the many hues the human eye is not even capable of registering, pointing at the question within the question; always seeing something hidden beneath the visible. How he wants you to watch the movements on screen, or listen to the unsaid seems to be calculated in the way the narrative opens, unfolds; the manner in which it is filmed.

Having invoked Kiarostami yesterday, today for some reason, I remember his film Certified copy. Can't really explain the connection but it is as if for mii, Juliette Binoche seems to lead herself to Certified copy.

Perhaps it is when she calls up Oliviere and asks him "Do you love me?"

When he say "yes", she asks "since when?"

We don't hear what he says. But hear her asking him to come over.

He comes. But then, somehow, nothing speaks to her anymore.

The filmmaker does not explain. You may make your own meaning, if there be any.

Blue disturbs mii at a level different from his other films. There is something that tugs at mii. Is it perhaps the beauty of the faces, eyes, smiles, tears, looks, stares? Things are at times a little too up close, silent, inevitable; impossible to talk about, own up to, confess or accept. Everyone so easily being what they are. No hiding. No psychological games. It is strange that the more he excels in saying less in words, the more one is left with the feeling of  knowing everything. At times, even that which you rather not know. It is almost as if he begins to disturb mii with his 'all knowing', ' all seeing' 'all understanding'. Everything is so well crafted, almost chiseled, as if testing mii comprehension.

Both ways, the filmmaker wins, if I get it and if I don't. There is so much left unsaid, and yet there is no ambiguity in mii mind about human nature, as regards the protagonist, or the others s/he is surrounded with. Each one in Kieslowski's world, as if condemned- to 'understand' everybody else as they are beyond reproach.

Things in a Kieslowski film are somehow, just as they are. Are they as you would like them to be?

Although one gets a strange sense sometimes, that they are however, not as they ought to be. He is curious about human nature and wants to look at it through a microscope. He has chosen the camera to do that for him. Nature, is near absent in his man made world. His camera is so penetrating, at times it even aspires to enter the gut of the person through his eyes. His looking is so sharp, that the surface often reveals the core. Or this becomes that. Doesn't he want to create relentless, haunting images? Images that don't leave you, that buzz your head, like a flash of light, a blur of colour, a strain of music, a questioning look. He wants to engulf you totally in an immersive experience, rendering it, well, almost unforgettable. He wants you to remember him, fondly. He wants to be rendered immortal in the experience he thus creates. The understanding that exists inspite of the chaos- the goodness, the compassion, the near impossible love; the life lost in living. Everything is so, perfect, like the music in this film. It is too close, and dangerously so, to the un-lived life, as if the life we seem to know, the one we want to live and cannot. Everyone is alone. To each his/her own. And yet there is no way out. As it happens, we are each other's only hope. And everything is connected to everything else.

'Secret life of Memory' I remember the film I & Arghya wanted to make long back. A love story of course. No people in it. Only things- objects, books, postcards and how the things move from his place to hers and vice versa. It is through the movement of these things that you see the love story. It was not important what happens to the people themselves. It was about what happens to the world around them, how, what changes. Whether they come together or go their separate ways in the end, doesn't really matter. What happens anyway. Who can tell?

Like the frieze moment when the other woman, the lawyer, the mistress of the Binoche's musician husband now dead in an accident, carrying his child tells his wife Julie (Binoche): "he talked a lot about you. He told mii you were good and generous. And that you wanted to be that way. He said everyone could rely on you, including mii." It is a moment that defines everyone you have seen till then in the film. And more.

I am not going to read Kieslowski on Kieslowski, yet. Sandeep called. He has been reading it, watching his works; has also sent a part from the book to mii. For now I want to stay with just may be, watching his films, with mii reading of it. I will save the filmmaker for rainier days!

Blue is the only thing she breaks in the house; (after the window pane, she breaks in the hospital) It is also the only thing she apparently takes with her from the family house she moves out of.

She believed life had lost all purpose with her husband and daughter dying. She even wanted to die herself. Was she guilty of being alive? Would she rather, her husband the genius composer, had lived...instead of her? When the other woman appears, the myth of the perfect breaks, and through the crack Julie can finally begin to find herself again. What is she like, she doesn't remember. What was she like, she tries to remember: 'was I afraid of the mice as a child?' She asks her mom. Mom has apparently forgotten she is her daughter Julie. Thinking she is her sister, she says- 'No, you weren't afraid of Mice. Julie was.'

Is there a right time for anything? Well. 

2nd May


Karol says there is still love in their marriage. Wife says she doesn't love him anymore. Beside their marriage wasn't consummated. She throws him on the street; he breaks in to the house, she gets the police after him. He flees to Poland, & plans. He will show her. His will is air tight. He wills his money & property to her, she comes for his funeral, and loses the map when he appears, resurrected as if from the dead. Doesn't she love him now? He has a different name, identity, passport besides a new home in Hongkong. The film ends with her talking to herself (or is it him?) in the asylum as seen through his binoculars.

What is the film about? For once I ask, why am I watching this? It is much of what Kieslowski would do, and yet, this one seems to go too far. Doesn't he go too far in everything though? Blind chance? Camera buff? Short film about killing... About Love? A cinema of extremes, tempered with a relentless questioning of the norm reflected via resplendent faces in a seductive light? The fourth tempter of the Murder in the Cathedral is always there, hiding somewhere beneath the floor planks, listening behind walls. Everyone is vulnerable, anyone can fall pray to desire, any moment, especially those they thought they had clarity or control over. And who is watching, as they stumble? Who takes the fall? Is everything so disconnected with everything else? Who is responsible for the way people behave; the way society gazes, the way religion commands, or the state demands? Do we know who we are? Do I know what I want?

Kieslowski seems to ask the same questions over and over and over again. Each human being, including the 21 year old boy Jacek in A short film about killing would likely not want to do what he did. He'd rather wish for things to unfold in another way than they do; each one would like to be someone better than s/he appears in the eyes of the other. What is the guilt heavy on each breast? Is the director taking revenge on mii as audience? Would I feel what he feels, if I see the world as he does? And if, for instance, I begin to miss life as played out in his films, in all its subtle, humane, reflective details, would his efforts as an auteur amount to something?

A compelling storyteller like him, must make the films he makes. Perhaps his head would burst into a thousand pieces if he knows the story and does not tell. It seems, if he knows, he must tell. And that if he so chooses to, we must listen. And so on.

3rd May 2020, Morning


Suddenly, during the morning walk today, I remembered that I had almost forgotten- Reveil. The 24+ hour early morning sounds travelling around the globe on 'Dawn Chorus day'. That's what the day is designated as today 3rd May, mark in your calendar. Mii mother, bless her, if she were alive, would have gone crazy listening to this. Dawn sounds from all over the globe?!

We were in Norway when I tuned in to

Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Tanzania, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, France, Germany, Swansea, London...caught the last two and half hours. Some people were taking turns to live mix, so we could move from one streaming space to another, across cities one by one, following dawn across the globe. What an idea!

Father was amazed too. He was tired after the walk but kept going to his room to rest, and coming back to listen some more. I'd tell him we are in Swansea now, and he would be like, 'Where?! Wales? Oh that's where David lived; I went there to visit him, you know'.

It was the most amazing sound pilgrimage none of us could make in 24 hours across the globe. When humans in collaboration with each other and in an interface with technology make possible such an incredible cross-continental connect, the way it happened today, its no less than a miracle, a blessing. Humans becoming what they can be best at- coming together to become a conduit for something larger than themselves. Bless Sukanto, the sound artist/recordist for leading mii into it today. I wouldn't have known.

Sometimes, for a brief while it feels worth-the-while; that we as Homo-whatever -Sapiens have come thus far. In a long long time, an intention, an act, sounded like human progress, to mii. Such a magical opportunity for logging into the universe for a while. Being quietly attentive. Being listener.

To connect without agenda, vested interest, away from the unabated din of the fish market. A shining example of vgsrqd izse, as we'd say in Sanskrit. It would be approximately translated as self-less, motive-less, free love amongst all.  The essential connect as if, as the sounds from around the ponds, gardens, backyards, city squares, rooftops and jungles travel resounding through mii little room here in a town of central India.

What an elegant way to feel alive, as humans, for once, not talking, giving opinions, but invisible, hidden quietly behind the microphone. Listening to world. Looking at the sounds!

Robert Bresson, the astute film master from France famously said: Every sound evokes an image; every image does not necessarily evoke its sound. This enters the filmmaker's diary because it created an experience of having been somewhere, having 'seen' something, much freer and freeing than any manmade experience, even of art, poetry or film. Was liberating to be free from the tyranny of the screen, fixing eyes on changing images, moving objects, the intercutting shots, juggling between reading subtitles and looking at the story or worse still, those adverts popping up mechanically or crawling creepily into the frame. Phew! None of that. There were people from all over in the room sound theatre today, quitely talking in the super chat window, spelling sometimes the name of the birdie calling there- 'geese' 'doves' 'gulls' 'wren' 'wood pigeon'... at times just a flutter of bird wings standing out; at other times, just a note of gratitude for all the silent collaborators making the event possible... Everyone- together & apart, at the same time. The event was something that would have been as astounding even without the lockdown, but was especially so, in the middle of it. And more.

The way one experienced Time was the most incredible part. Real, continuous, flowing, as it is. And as we never actually experience it.

There is something about the way it calmed the sound and fury and voices in the head; drowned the anxiety in the body; lifted the heaviness off the heart. Trusted Ear- the precision instrument slowing it down to mii origin-ary impulse, the primary rhythm, the heartbeat.

Whether one is aware or not, one welcomes always, the cessation of thought as it happens in the process of such active listening. No story, plot, music, dialogue; no words, no meanings. Sound as meaning. Unedited Nature streaming into the concrete room, almost unimpeded, immersive. A rare instance in mii memory of Sound creating silence, becoming Silence.

No wonder, a rare experience in the human world, when we are increasingly forgetting to listen, to the unsaid, between each other and everyone else out there. What with humans taking up all the space there is, playing it up and louder and louder still to get all the attention we can hog.

I have nothing but gratitude for whoever thought of doing this, all those who pitched in, the ones conducting us through the movements across the dots on the map, all who listened.

3rd May evening


'I want to be in Kieslowski's world' is how I find telling miiself as the film gets over and the credits roll. It seems I have always belonged there, even when I didn't know it existed. A girl lost to the world as if; invisibly there- ageless, timeless-ly alive. Ever since. It feels so long back when one was a child. Yet not so long ago after all when The idea of waiting for the mii hair to turn silver hair first began ! So one day I'd be able to wear them salt & peppered just like an aunt I loved then. What happened to the time in between though?

The old man in 3 colours Red; I seem to know him, along with this girl Valentine. She is the one who also plays in K.'s Double life of Veronique. I seem to know all his characters, including the voyeurs, murderers, spies, judges, convicts, prostitutes, models, lovers, wives, husbands, neighbours, mothers, fathers, brothers, friends, bosses, strangers. How could I not? I have been one. I have been many. I have been all, one by one. I have met them all, before I met them in K.'s world. I understand the signs and symbols, the language, their look, the silences, their jealousy, their anger, the unexplained human camaraderie. or is it... fraternity?

It could be that the director, Kieslowski makes mii think that way. He does seem to read mii thoughts before I  know them. Every thing, face, object, place is seen in his film, just as it ought to be. The light is how it ought to be. Things are repeated just as many times as they ought even. And somethings are never repeated just as well, while some other recur across films, like the old woman standing on tiptoe with difficulty trying to drop an empty bottle in a garbage crusher.

It is possible to begin to see the Matrix as you watch; how everything is connected to everything else. What happens that though one moment ago nothing really seemed to matter, the next moment, every little thing begins to matter, begins to affect you even, inspite of everything standing apparently in its way. What-ever happens that the man who wanted to die a moment earlier, wants to go on living. A man who has never loved after the woman he loved betrayed him, who sat in his chair, turning his back to the world (albeit with the door always open) pretending to care nothing for his intelligent dog, begins to...well, dream.

It's the stuff of dreams. Cinema. Not a verisimilitude. No representation. The oldest & the youngest art, at the same time; before all arts and yet the last. An art as old as dreaming? If you can slowly work your way up to dreaming the dream you want to dream. Not a dreamworld tied to wires and gadgets as in a Nolan film. The best film possible, that everyone has watched closed eyes, even when inside the belly womb cave of the mother, or open eyed, through a yet blurry vision, with the focus not quite yet there. Just colours, contours, sounds, forms. And you could watch it for hours on end, clinging yet, to nothing. As if with new born eyes.

4th MAY 2020 morning

Yesterday, dissonant like the night before. An unfinished, halfway conversation with a friend. Couldn't sleep all night. A strangely disturbing dream continued like a series of retakes through the bits of sleep I could get. The midshot of a man sitting in front of computer, staring blankly into it, kind of sad; every retake brought him, in the same position, magnification, with the same sad expression; only the shirts he wore however kept changing. So the days changed, yet everything remained unchanged. In the dream, a part of mii seemed to know him, yet can't quite connect. None of the shirts he wore, had I seen before. Actually they do not belong to anyone I know. The man looked sad in the dream.

Outside the dream, sadness clambered on to mii, like I were a ladder. Woke up more tired than ever.

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