Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Primer on Myself and Humanity: Part I

(The Dance of the Dead from "The Seventh Seal")

Not too long ago, I watched "The Seventh Seal" by Ingmar Bergman for the first time. I've never seen a Bergman film before, but I was glad to finally know what all of the adulation was about. It tells the story of Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), a knight who has come back to his disease-plagued homeland after years of fighting and challenges Death (Bengt Ekerot) to a chess game for his life. During which time the knight wanders his homeland in search of answers for what will await him in the afterlife.

What I've heard characterized about Bergman films is how God is silent. His characters, including Antonius, continually seek out answers to questions that cannot possibly answered by another human being. It kind of makes sense to me as we were severed from our true communication from God after we were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Ever since then, humanity has had this eternal desire to try and get that counsel back, but we can't. So you have various religions trying to make heads or tails of what could happen. Some commit to praise, some commit to manipulation, some commit to submission (as seen by the occult in the film), some commit to violence (like the current insurgents of any religion) and some commit to the ultimate evil (as seen by the condemned to death "witch" in the film).

I've always felt that religion is a flawed concept, like any ideal belief. It can be twisted and arranged for personal gain, whether it be for one person or an entire country. I don't doubt that God exists, but what upsets me is how people can use their own moral compass and knowledge to cause pain and sadness all over the world. All because God "told them so..."

In the end, Antonius is just scared, just like we all are. We are scared because we don't know. We don't know what even life holds for us. Does that make me scared about what awaits my future? You bet it does. I prefer living in the moment and put off thinking about it as much as possible. It's not that I'm existential or nihilistic, I just get very scared thinking about what's ahead of me. Normally, I like having a steady mental ground under me and when life shifts sharply and unexpectedly, I start feeling like my world is coming down on me and become more and more overwhelmed. Strong change without warning reduces me to a frightened child. So it helps when changes are talked out and understood by me beforehand. They make transitions much easier.


I also had the pleasure of watching "Blade Runner" for the first time as well. The Final Cut mind you, which I personally waited for. The movie does not display the smooth talking, nicely suited and elegant world of noir. Instead we get a moody, atmospheric, dank and bleak world of future Los Angeles, 2019. In this world, replicants (human-like machines) are being hunted down and killed by blade runners, notably Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), to prevent revolts and murders.

Although you could debate forever on the state of Deckard's mind and whether he's a replicant or not (I believe he isn't), the most intriguing element of the film came from the lead female, Rachel (Sean Young; pictured left). I have no doubt in my mind that she's a replicant, but I'm fascinated by the idea of these machines being "more human than human." If that's the case, I was absorbed by how reserved and emotionally introverted she was. Beneath her mechanics beats the heart of a broken woman. She is a representation of suppressed and unfelt emotion.

Why is that? As a person who usually expresses what he feels openly, it strikes me somewhat unusually that so many people live as if they never feel anything at all. Sure, there's a lot of hardships that we must endure, but should that stop us from expressing the wonder of being alive. I mean, I even just get a kick out of listening to a great song on my iPod. It makes me dance, play air instruments, sing and roleplay. Living in the moment, even if it's in your imagination, is what life's about, son.

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