Koom Asks: “If God Were A Filmmaker…?”
by Koom Kankesan
There’s two kinds of people in this world, Elvis people and Beatles people. Now, Beatles people can like Elvis. And Elvis people can like the Beatles. But nobody likes them both equally. — Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction Screenplay
In Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay, there are a number of questions that Mia Wallace asks Vince Vega – this is a Tarantinoesque shorthand for establishing character. Similarly, one can ask: do you like Rocky or Raging Bull? The Star Wars saga or Indiana Jones? I’m Raging Bull and Indiana Jones all the way.
People who like Rocky like feel good movies about underdogs who triumph over their circumstances. People who like Raging Bull like films that present humanity at its bleakest and craft at its finest. These people believe there probably isn’t a God, life is unfair, and that humans are their own worst enemies. Steven Spielberg is a feel-good director – even when he makes a movie about the Holocaust like Schindler’s List, it sort of has a feel-good ending. Schlockiness aside, I’ve always had a weak spot for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unlike its sequels, Raiders takes a very Old Testament view of God, life, and the artifacts Indy pursues. These things are ultimately unknowable and quite destructive. What exactly is the fate of The Ark as it sits amongst all the other crated and classified items in the U.S. government warehouse?
Writer Alan Moore once said this about the possibility of a deity constructing our universe: “If there were a creator to the universe, then their most likely motive, it would seem to me, would be artistic. Seen in this light, I can construe spacetime as being a kind of unimaginably complex hyper-narrative, a fifth-dimensional novel, or comic strip, or movie, presumably for the aesthetic enjoyment of its unimaginable audience.”
If our spacetime universe is indeed a work of art constructed by a creator, what kind of film is it? Is it more Rocky or Raging Bull? Is its soundtrack The Beatles, Elvis, or something else? Who greenlit this mess? The running time is long with no end in sight. Is this only a working print or is it a director’s cut? There sure seem to be a lot of extras milling around the set. And that set is admittedly gorgeous, but it’s become run down over time.
At best, we can say the plot faces typical Second Act problems. Things seem at their lowest, there are too many troubling, loose threads; the protagonists and their arcs are ill-defined. Even the genre’s unclear: we started off with a pastoral lit in glorious Eastman Kodak sunny celluloid tones and seem to have descended into a grainy, desaturated, digital CGI sci-fi thing. What is the artist’s intent – and what is the denouement?
God seems to be more of a Scorsese fan after all. Nevertheless, film is that most collaborative of disciplines. And most of us would prefer to be in a movie rather than simply watching one.