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"Spirituality" = Euphemism or Actuality? Cinema's great responsibility


I have recently taken to noticing the prevalent use of such terms as "grace," "spiritual," "ethereal," "meditative" etc. in film writing, particularly in regards to Robert Bresson. I have watched Bresson, read about Bresson and generally studied Bresson in depth and in all honesty, I don't find there to be anything "spiritual" about his films. In fact, I believe he tried as best he could to not try to enforce any kind of spiritual suggestion in his work, whether narratively or visually. His extreme literalism is what opens the door for unpretentious, straight-forward looks into what makes the world tick.

By way of these thoughts I was also considering what faith meant in general. So many people I know use the term spiritual far too casually, as if the existence of spirit, God, Heaven, etc. was simply a given. My experience of life suggests to me hints of a higher plan/purpose/design, but nothing so explicit as a defined Spirit within me or in anyone else. I therefore want to get some input from people such as yourselves as to how you make literal your belief (if you have one) in deities such as Jesus. Do you believe in an actual, perceivable transcendent realm? If so, how does one convey this in a film without relying on trite techniques like long-takes, abstractions and whatnot simply because by virtue of their esotericism lead people to label them "spiritual"? I'd like to know some of your thoughts then on the ability to depict, believe in, enact or create the Spiritual. I think that the visual arts in general needs to reconsider their reliance on vagueness, euphemism and new-age jargon in order to begin imaging new languages with which to convey the spiritual, if there is such a thing. Hope to hear from you soon.

Last edited by DavidWishard, 5/3/2006, 8:36 am
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Re: "Spirituality" = Euphemism or Actuality? Cinema's great responsibility


David

I think you are right: very often people assume the existence of God as something given, something obvious. We all live in the same world and we know that this is not true. On the other hand, humans are the only creatures in the world who have the ability to believe. Faith is something personal and intimate. Some people have it, others don't or rather have it on an unconscious level. It is possible to prove the existence of the neutrino, but it is impossible to prove the existence of God. God is not an object. This is what the mystics have always failed to understand. One cannot prove the existence of God. One can only testify to the Glory with thoughts, words and actions. This is what many artists, including film directos, and philosophers have been trying to do. You have mentioned the 'long takes'. When I watch Tarkovsy, etc., the takes do not seem to me long at all. Believe me, these people knew what they were doing. One could say the same about Beethoven's 9th symphony. And yet there are people who love and appreciate it. I think, the ability to feel and relive a film comes with age.

Your criticism of Christianity seems to me a bit unfair. If you don't like it, just go to pub, watch football and have fun, why do you care? (Sorry, I don't mean to hurt you). In fact, there is very little mysticism in Christianity compared to other religions. For, example the fantastic idea of reincarnation comes from Buddhism. There is no God in Buddhism because the concepts of God (not gods) and reincarnation are mutually exclusive. People who lived thousands of years ago understood this very well. Believe me, they were not fools. So you should be more specific: what do you mean by saying God? Is it the God of Bush & Blair, is it the God of the Muslim fundamentalists, is it the God of Abd-ru-shin, is it Buddha, is it the Christian God? This word has been abused by so many people, that it has lost its meaning long ago. However, I believe that true faith will exist as long as there is humanity. Regarding the terminology, I find the articles of Maria and Gregory very interesting and informative, although I disagree with some of their statements. This is one of the very few websites which contains information about my favourite directors.


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Re: "Spirituality" = Euphemism or Actuality? Cinema's great responsibility


I should certanly explain myself. Tarkovsky is without question my favorite director. No one has every mastered to long take to the extent he has. Period. I suppose I am referring to directors like Sokurov (whom I also like but think is less talented) or Bruno Dumont who seem to rely on the length of their takes to convey some type of meditative gaze. To me, this seems to be an affect, a kind of vague reliance on the cliche that stillness=spiritual.

Also, what criticism of Christianity did I make? My criticism is, as you understood I think, related to the trans-religious, trans-cultural banality of the term spiritual. Therefore, I am seeking the responses of people who truly do believe they have had SOME kind of actual, spiritual experience. Any and all religions welcome.

As for me, the closest thing I can surmise as to an idea of transcendence is this concept of sythesis. When I watch Nostalghia, for example, the overwhelming sythesis of the film's components evokes in me a sense of true wonder at Tarkovsky's creation of such a vibrant and deep organism of cinema. It's like something was created out of think air that did not exist before. I am left with lots of questions but not answers. This bafflement and wonder on my part makes me ask myself whence came the ability to create things such as these.
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Re: "Spirituality" = Euphemism or Actuality? Cinema's great responsibility


Those, who think that the concepts of God and reincarnation are mutually exclusive, should read the following chapters from Stephen Lampe's book "The Christian and Reincarnation":

"Bible Accounts That Suggest Reincarnation" [sign in to see URL]
"The Laws Governing Creation and Reincarnation" [sign in to see URL]

They can then make up their own minds on this matter. Providing an opportunity to consider, reconsider and then reconsider once again their position on the all-important issues before making their final decision (a decision that will affect the rest of their existence) is what this website is all about.
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Re: "Spirituality" = Euphemism or Actuality? Cinema's great responsibility


quote:

DavidWishard wrote:
I have watched Bresson, read about Bresson and generally studied Bresson in depth and in all honesty, I don't find there to be anything "spiritual" about his films. In His extreme literalism is what opens the door for unpretentious, straight-forward looks into what makes the world tick.

 Do you believe in an actual, perceivable transcendent realm? If so, how does one convey this in a film without relying on trite techniques like long-takes, abstractions and whatnot simply because by virtue of their esotericism lead people to label them "spiritual"? I'd like to know some of your thoughts then on the ability to depict, believe in, enact or create the Spiritual. I think that the visual arts in general needs to reconsider their reliance on vagueness, euphemism and new-age jargon in order to begin imaging new languages with which to convey the spiritual, if there is such a thing. Hope to hear from you soon.



I think it is a bit of a utilitarian perspective of art to hold Bresson up as the wonder director because he showed 'what makes the world tick.' This is the same problem with Soviet realism or the British 'Kitchen Sink' drama, they may reflect reality for many people, but there is no wonder or play in them. I think Bresson is unique because he manages to transcend the dullness of normal realist output. Similarly the Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Son, The child) I think transcend the realist genre they are ascribed to. I can't see how the long take is considered trite any more than a short take can be trite. It is the content of the take which is significant, if the long take conveys some greater awareness that only contemplation on the viewers' part can allow, then it can be a very powerful tool in the filmmakers arsenal.

I don't think Tarkovsky's films are about abstractions or even 'perceivable transcendent realms' There is an article by Slavoj Zizek about Tarkovsky and he says that Tarkovsky locates his spirituality in a puddle at the edge of a forest. This is the opposite of the camp, fairyland spirituality that modern US Christian movements subscribe to. It is a dark, ambiguous place, the slowness of the shots and melancholy of the landscape touch something inside of all of us - that uneasy sense that we live in an illusory social world that has become disconnected from nature and silence. I think all spirituality has refer to mans removal from nature and the profoundest of human emotions such as love, hate and regret. This is not new age babble but psychological truth. The covalence of nature with human emotional landscape for me is a materialist, humanist alternative to Christianity which instead relies upon the transcendent realm and transcendent figure of God.
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Re: "Spirituality" = Euphemism or Actuality? Cinema's great responsibility


The problem of spirituality in modern cinema (especially in Tarkovsky's films) is addressed in the intersting article 'Theology and Film' [sign in to see URL]
(Type in the exact address)

Last edited by Narek, 5/22/2006, 5:35 pm
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