Friday, July 29, 2011
© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
We once read an article suggesting that despite his technical brilliance, director Martin Scorsese never achieved the full recognition he could have (from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) because his films always had an edge. The author suggested that what gets to the Academy each year is a film which explores the depth of the human condition in a universal way.
We saw a film yesterday which took us to a whole new place in terms of appreciating this issue, and reminded us of the importance of personal responsibility in our dealings with our fellow human beings. Imagine a film with the power to potentially unite people. (We also appreciate the potential of images to divide.)
The film is The Band’s Visit, an Israeli film. It is the story of an 8 member, police, ceremonial orchestra from Alexandria, Egypt, which has been invited by an Arab cultural league to play at an event. Upon their arrival in Israel, they promptly get lost, and end up in some out-of-the-way locale in the desert, far, far from their intended destination. Dressed in their formal, Carolina blue uniforms with gold spaghetti on their band hat brims and epaulettes, they drag their instruments and suitcases on wheels across the desert. They encounter a woman who runs a diner, and who confirms that the area is removed from civilization.
Realizing that they will not be able to return that evening, the band members allow the restaurateur to make arrangements for them to spend the night in her apartment, the apartment of a friend, and the restaurant itself. It’s during the time spent together that evening that the film takes us on a truly fascinating, human journey.
There are lengthy periods of silence, where the participants cannot communicate with one another due to language difficulties. They periodically exchange furtive glances accompanied by distrust and discomfort. However, they all gradually connect in simplistic, human ways – enjoying a familiar song, asking about family, seeing a new-born, and by just sharing "stuff." In fact, stuff gets so basic that you almost think that the forty-something restaurateur and the reticent, formal, tightly wound sixtyish leader of the band (whose wife died 3 years earlier) are going to end up in the sack together.
The next morning, they realize that they all have become the richer for the experience, and quietly question the tension which has existed for so long between Arabs and Jews.
In thinking about the film, we wondered whether nations and their political and military leaders really drive wars and tension, while ordinary citizens stand on the sidelines. It made us examine whether we ordinary citizens are really in control of our lives, and our nation’s destiny. For many years, the citizens of our nation have questioned whether our leaders have our best interests at heart, and whether we are headed in the right direction.
Over the past several months, we have noted an increasing pessimism on the part of our readers, and an air of resignation. With the budget and debt ceiling impasse currently enveloping Washington, ordinary citizens seem to be watching a new form of sport on ESPN, while our leadership plays strip poker.
Somehow and somewhere on the continuum, individual, personal responsibility ultimately translates into collective responsibility as a nation of people. Somehow we have to do more as ordinary citizens to figure out those commonalities of interest which bind us, and set aside those issues which divide us. Because our leaders apparently have not done so.
There is one other point which we should make – music plays an important role in the movie. In several instances, it is a song which the minstrels and the desert dwellers share which exposes their bonds.
Back in 2005, while “cruising for chicks” in a soon-to-be defunct Border’s Bookstore, we ran across a copy of Einstein’s Violin. Upon opening the work of the Conductor of the United Nations Philharmonic, we discovered that the Father of the Theory of Relativity was a fairly accomplished violinist. The author goes on to discuss how the physical attributes of music have the ability to affect the social interaction of humans. After all, we are all just a mix of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
Next to Einstein’s Violin was a copy of Classical Music for Dummies. We once again saw references to the universality of music and how it had bridged divides in many instances over human history.
You all should go out and rent this one, or figure out how to download it. It is film making at its very best. Check out any of the reviews and what they have to say.
Perhaps if we all contacted our elected representatives in Washington and asked them to view the film, we might get an agreement on the debt ceiling issue.
But that’s not science – that’s science fiction.
Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"
This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.