Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reverse Visuals

While watching movies I have always tried to get out of the influences of narrative sequencing of stories. For this reason, I have always loved those visual presentations which go out of the framework of narrative story telling. We have witnessed many attempts in films along this direction. Abbas Kiarostami's earthquake trilogy as well as his 'Close-UP', for example, has tried to intertwine the cinematic world with the real world (I like to call the latter as 'a world without a camera'). There are other movie experiments too, where we see the visuality of the characters transforming itself to the visuality of the film audience at the expense of losing their own perceiving subject somewhere between the camera and their eyes [eg. Kazhcha (a malayalam movie of 2004; kazhcha means vision)]. All these are human experiences which are beautifully transformed to the screen and which finally made us say that visuals are not merely our objects of perception but our perceiving mechanism itself.

Watching 'Vismayathumbathu' (Meaning: on the edge of astonishment) I am exalted by a different possibility for visuals. The film not only has the potential to challenge the usual patterning of our thoughts vis-a-vis narrative story telling but it shows how visuality has occupied a domain of its own independent of our perceptional sequencing. The film is about spirits, extra sensory perception and enigmatic happenings. But the novelty is that the characters seem to be bewildered by the enigma of the visuals rather than by the incomprehensible powers of human spirit. For anyone who tries to view this movie in terms of the psychological processes which function as the backbone of the story, the film is just a story with a beginning and an end. It's true that unexplained psychological processes are the ones that have given the story its thread. But it would be rather idiotic to learn about ESP through a popular film than from expert practitioners.

Having prepared to give up the 'psychological' of visuality we are indeed faced with the question of 'sense.' Sense is something solid in narrative cinema which makes it mandatory for the events in a film to follow a chronological sequence. Language supplements the visuals by always appearing after them as a commentary to the cinematic time that has elapsed. In short, the possibility of a reverse visual is always forgotten to the extent that sense is considered to rest on the forward
succession, the pointing forward, of language. It is the potential of this reverse visual which is properly utilized by Vismayathumbathu. The spirit of a human who has been in a coma for a long time tries to recall the past events that have led her to this fate. The spirit cannot however recollect whether the person It represents is dead or alive. The characters who mediates this spirit with the outside world
finally summarize that the events have led to her death. For the audience, this is the story sketched by language. Actor Mukesh announcing to the world, "Reetha is murdered. The investigative column (about the disappearance of the former and published by a daily) ends here."

At this point reverse visuals come to the fore and lead the characters. These visuals follow a path of their own which is neither accessible to memory nor to the good sense in language. The usual sequencing and teleos of visuals are questioned by the reverse visuals. They are able to show death first and the actual process of dying the next, not as flashback but as a major reverse in our sense. One may ask what is the effect of all this. But don't you feel that the (a)cumulation of good
sense in language has a lot to do with the sequencing of cause and effect?

Click here or here for synopsis and review of the film.