The following are my musings on two diverse works of cinematic art that find effective ways to address crucial truths while sinking into the abyss of institutionalized racism (GET OUT) and the myths and realities of our future reckonings plastered in the present (MARJORIE PRIME)
Here they are.
GET OUT (2017)
WELCOME TO THE SUNKEN PLACE. An immersive experience is occasioned by the two last words that emerge prominently in this cinematic instance. As a man of a certain colour, I know how prejudiced certain sections of the world can be to my presence. This film’s topicality hence is specific to America but is overwhelmingly general to the rest of the globe. It digs deep and we sink into the abyss of our current social dystopia, channelized upstream through a generic past where truth was mandated by a few. It persists in our misshapen present.
While watching a provocative work like GET OUT that is celebral and seemingly outrageous in its plotting, we ask ourselves if in its transportation of reality to the all pervading big screen , the conversations, atmospherics and social commentary ever breach a point of believability. In other words, logic and reason are the ultimate saving graces to render its timely concerns about institutionalized, generational, cyclic racism a gravitas beyond an easily dissipating ‘exploitative’ label. Jordan Peele’s Oscar winning original screenplay is acutely aware of the lack of logic that racism disseminates, in the name of dog eared superiority. The answer in this case is that even the farcical seeming situations are all straight out of real life. Truth is stranger than fiction and I’m sure we have often realized face to face conversations are lethal and unforgivably graceless to begin with. Add to that politics of race and colour and a hornet’s nest is stirred.
Here the experiences of one man ( Daniel Kaluuya) spending a weekend in his ‘white’ paramour’s(Alison Williams) country estate takes the shape of one of those unruly events akin to being strapped alive in a neo Nazi bunker or serial killing backwoods. Anti social elements live amongst us as regular shootings and racial profilings document a suffocating death for inclusion and the suburban idyll is again inverted here to punctuate a slow boil revelation for our protagonist, who is from the African American community. In that sense, it evaluates a true understanding of horror where isolationist propagandas, dread, many contoured fear are indistinguishable from each other. Like Catherine Keener’s part as a psychoanalyst, the hypnotic swirl draws us in until racism’s true face emerges.
GET OUT thrives on the idea of words, spurious words that shatter all concepts of liberalism and civility. The evil in conversational nonchalance is where the inner characteristics of all come out and by all, I mean those who have a majoritarian sway. This cultural conditioning is justifiably traced to the gathering of an older populace in the film which doles out nothing verging on wisdom but projects an established order of things as they have always been. The racist rhetoric is a distillation of the way people are, as it is in the current political discourse and how they react to minorities. It directs an eye on our own larger viewpoints of democratic thinking. Moreover, I feel it subsumes the whole backlog of the Ku Klux Klan, mind control and science fiction tropes.
Daniel Kaluuya is excellent, especially in two individual scenes where his eyes hold the power of conveyance. The image of a dead deer, its dying eye contact with the protagonist and a headpiece of the animal in the affluent home of his girlfriend, in the room where he later finds out a harrowing fact, establishes equivalence with the long held prototypes of those with darker skin as ‘beasts’ . The performances by supporting actors BETTY GABRIEL, MARCUS HENDERSON, STEPHEN ROOT, BRADLEY WHITFORD and CALEB LANDRY JONES are spot on. The real scene stealers are LIL REL HOWERY and LAKEITH STANFIELD.
Despite the very conventional climax, the point of submission to the dark passages of reality are fully earned in GET OUT . It’s a gut punch of a statement, on a boil and stir before launching a full assault on our internalized histories.
MARJORIE PRIME (2017)
MARJORIE PRIME, from Netflix’s inimitable stable of originality, is one of my current favourites because it dares to look at old age, its attendant highs and lows while giving its veteran star Lois Smith, a consummate performer, her solo spotlight. This was the case for the other marvelous Netflix original OUR SOULS AT NIGHT(also from 2017) too, reuniting JANE FONDA and ROBERT REDFORD for a magical one and a half hour sojourn to the interiors of an ageless heart, as it celebrated life in sun dappled hues. Both especially do not deflect from the challenges of dotage. To me, they are about individual pursuits where age is not the only factor.
In MARJORIE PRIME, the pertinent question asked, according to this writer, is, ‘can technology alleviate pain?’ For a millennial generation, that can come with a mass supply of hands ups. But there are those bemoaning a real connection, a face to face surplus of interaction that has gone away with the wind. Shorter attention spans and technological felicity of communication are perhaps fueling the subconscious debate in the viewer watching this still underrated gem. It practically opens up its universally extant concerns so that the futuristic tendencies align with our immediate needs. The present ultimately carves the future, as I see it.
On a storytelling front, the interactions, lifestyles and affinity to kindred is maintained here and nothing is heightened for the sake of making a statement . The underlying message is that humans will continue following an established personal order of things, only there will be alternatives to settle some irreversible mortal forms ;this intimacy makes a cinematic adaptation of Jordan Harrison’s play hugely accessible.
In this script, directed and written by Michael Almereyda, technology has made it possible to replace deceased loved ones with doppelgangers, in short the gripping presence of artificial intelligence conquers a bleak landscape of urban rootlessness. Spielberg made a fantastic picture on the phenomenon years ago. Today, Sophia the Robot / humanoid walks among us as a star attraction, in the real world . Also now that I’ve seen GET OUT, the all white ensemble of four in MARJORIE PRIME sheds light on how these advancements are accessible to the majoritarian representatives and hence the established order of things while Stephanie Andiyar as the maybe Mexican housekeeper posits the perpetual othering of the minority member of an unit , relegated to being a helping hand while at the receiving end of Marjorie’s cranky huffs and puffs. This class consciousness is a silent motif.
In MARJORIE’s( Lois Smith) many on and off, structured interactions with the A. I Prime (Jon Hamm) , a younger replica of her husband, companionship, attaining self fulfillment come into the picture. These tranquil portions are designed like a therapy session, establishing the distance, clinical detachment and formality of the process while stoking the old lady’s memory that is falling on hard days owing to advancing tides of time. With the equal focus on her daughter (Oscar winner Geena Davis) and son in law (Tim Robbins), issues of a genealogy enduring beyond matters of life and death and the common sense of inheritance poignantly capture a capsule of familial continuity. Here, the doppelgangers and flesh and blood figures converge on a fertile emotional plain. It’s far from a nightmare scenario and is, instead, stripped back to reveal resonant layers. I particularly found the younger members’ fierce commitment to Marjorie’s well being a beautiful point, in an age where the populace would abandon its elders. The daughter and her husband have themselves reeled from a tragedy involving a child and are middle aged, having hit their fifties. So the cycle of care and consideration churns.
At one point of time, the idea of Skyping, instant messaging seemed like an alien aberration from normalcy, akin to some magical sleight of hand. Today technology has created a contemporary time capsule subject to swift changes. In MARJORIE PRIME, the thrust on human loneliness dignifies hope for a future of interdependence. Mica Levi’s music and Sean Price Williams’ camerawork capture its light of life.