Limitless Cinema in Broken English

July 19, 2008

POLL 27: SEARCHING FOR HAPPINESS

Filed under: Uncategorized — celinejulie @ 12:51 am

 

This is about a poll in my bilingual blog at http://celinejulie.blogspot.com

 

 

My poll 27 is inspired by two new Thai short films I love – FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND (GLIN SAI LOM) (2007, Chaiwat Wiansantai) and TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA (2008, Natchanon Jitweerapat + Issara Kollum). There are many things I like about these two entirely different films, and one thing I like about them is that they make me think about my own happiness and how to search for it.

What I like the most in FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND is that I think it shares the same wavelength with me. At first this film looks like a very simple experimental, or non-narrative film to me. It opens with a black-and-white shot of a city street in rewinding mode. We see cars moving backward and we hear some cliché songs of the Beatles, such as YESTERDAY. Then we see rural scenes in color. We see the clear beautiful sky. We see leaves swaying in the wind. We see some rural people and their activities. After a while, we move back to the city and the color images fade into black-and-white.

There seems to be nothing new in this film. Nothing exciting. No new idea. But I just felt so great watching it. The film seems to let me feel the warm sunlight, breathe the fresh air, feel the wind blow, and all of that lead to a peace of mind. I don’t know how Chaiwat Wiansantai shot the images in this film. The rural images in this film have nothing special about it, but they are just right, just appropriate for me. They are not too beautiful, not as beautiful as postcard images. They are a bit more realistic than postcard images, but not as starkly realistic as in documentary films. The purpose of these images may be to convey the atmosphere, not the messages. And they truly succeed in conveying the pleasant rural atmosphere to me, who spend 99 % of my life in Bangkok. Some images in this film look like images in other Thai short films, but when I see the nearly similar images in other Thai short films, I feel bored. I don’t know why nearly similar images can cause such different feelings in me. So I guess it must be the wavelength. Chaiwat Wiansantai can make his rural scenes truly connect with me (who knows nothing about rural areas), while other Thai filmmakers cannot do it.

Since FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND doesn’t seem to tell a story and doesn’t show us a character, the film inspires me to imagine some stories or some characters by myself. Watching FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND inspires me to imagine a character a little bit similar to the one in YELLA (2007, Christian Petzold, Germany, A+++++). It makes me think about a rural boy who can’t live in his rural hometown for whatever reason. He must go to work in a city. He is sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy with the life in the city. When he feels unhappy with the life in the city, he yearns for the warm shadow of the trees in his rural hometown. But he is not truly happy in his hometown, either. Thus, he doesn’t want to settle in his hometown. Both the city and his hometown make him happy and unhappy in different ways, so he doesn’t want to stay in only one of them forever. He wants to alternately stay in both of them. His soul is torn. He is physically living, but his mind is sometimes restless and becomes a wandering ghost, like Yella.

FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND also makes me think about my own kinds of happiness. To see the beautiful sky, to see trees swaying in the wind, to see clouds passing by, like in this film, is one kind of my happiness. I also enjoy going upcountry from time to time, like the unseen traveler in this film. And sometimes when I feel bad about some troubles in the present time, I try to make myself happy again by thinking about the good old days, especially thinking about my high school friends. Thus, I like the use of the song YESTERDAY in this film, though I’m not a fan of the Beatles at all. Many elements in FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND can connect to my way of finding temporary happiness.

But does one NEED to travel upcountry to breathe the fresh air to find TRUE happiness? The protagonist in the first story in TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA doesn’t think so, and I have to agree with him. The first story in TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA corresponds to my own thinking that, in order to find a peace of mind, I don’t need to go anywhere at all. I don’t need to go upcountry, go to a forest, or go to a beautiful park. I can have a real peace of mind just by sitting in my own room and clearing my thought. To be truly happy, to find heaven in one’s own heart, I just don’t have to go anywhere. I only have to control my mind, like the character in TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA. Where we live is not the real cause of heaven. Heaven must be caused by our minds, no matter where we stay. We can have a real peace of mind, if we have just a little room of our own, though we stay in an ugly crowded city like Bangkok.

What is great about TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA is that the film doesn’t preach us or tell us the message in a straightforward, boring way. The film is very funny, and it also shows us how we can go wrong if we do anything in an extreme way, not in the middle way. The character in TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA can control his mind and be truly happy in his own room, but it seems he becomes too attached to that state of heavenly, calm mind. He is so attached to that calm state that he cannot bring himself to work or earn his living any more. That’s a good warning from this film, I think. One must try to control his mind, so that one can be happy, but one must not get so attached to one’s happy mind that one forgets or can’t accept other facts in life.

Inspired by these two Thai films, I think I should make a list of films or things which make me think or re-think about my own kind of happiness or the search for happiness. I think most films are about its characters’ searching for happiness in one way or another. But there are only some films which resonate with my own thinking in this issue.

THESE FILMS/THINGS MAKE ME THINK OR RE-THINK ABOUT THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS. WHICH ONES DO YOU LIKE?

1.BEYOND… (2008, Kamin Lertchaiprasert, Thai paintings)

Each painting in this exhibition has two sides. Some of the paintings remind me that my suffering may be caused by the fact that I want too many things in my life. If I just don’t want them any more, I will not suffer unnecessarily like this.
http://www.100tonsongallery.com/exhibitionsAndActivitiesDetail.asp?exhibitionID=45

2.BIRCHES (Robert Frost, poem)

FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND reminds me of this poem. It is about someone who needs to escape from his present problem for a while.

3.FIELD OF DREAMS (1989, Phil Alden Robinson, USA)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097351/

4.FOR SALE (1998, Laetitia Masson, France)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126735/

5.FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND (2007, Chaiwat Wiansantai, Thailand)

6.GILLES’ WIFE (2004, Frederic Fonteyne, Belgium)

The wife in this film thinks that if her husband stops having an affair, she will be truly happy. But is her thinking right? Is being loved by a husband a true happiness?

7.THE GREEN RAY (1986, Eric Rohmer, France)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091830/

8.I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVEN’T GOT (Sinead O’Connor, song lyrics)

9.THE LAST TIME I COMMITTED SUICIDE (1997, Stephen T. Kay, USA)


10.THE LEFT-HANDED WOMAN (1978, Peter Handke, West Germany)

11.MISS FIRECRACKER (1989, Thomas Schlamme, USA)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097892/

12.NEW YEAR AGAIN (2008, Winai Kitcharoen, Thailand)

FRAGRANCE OF THE WIND also reminds me of this short film. It is about a woman who seems to suffer from working, and can be happy temporarily only during holidays.

13.THE RAPTURE (1991, Michael Tolkin, USA)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102757/

14.SHE IS READING NEWSPAPER (2005, Tossapol Boonsinsukh, Thailand)

The characters in this film are happy just by watching other people. I also feel like that when I watch handsome foreigners in the streets.

15.SHIRLEY VALENTINE (1989, Lewis Gilbert, UK)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098319/

16.SOLITUDE (Alexander Pope, poem)

17.SUPPOSE THAT HE LOVE ME (1976, Krissana Asokesin, Thai novel)

18.TWO STORIES ABOUT DHAMMA (2008, Natchanon Jitweerapat + Issara Kollum, Thailand)

19.VALERIE FLAKE (1999, John Putch, USA)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0163889/

20.WHERE’S THE HAPPINESS (2007, Janejira Thanasinlapakul, Thailand)

You can cast multiple votes.

–This is BIRCHES:

“When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows–
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

–This is SOLITUDE:

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield shade,
In winter, fire.

Blest, who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years, slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day.

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixed; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

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