CHAOS CINEMA MANIFEST: WHERE THE CINEMA IS SUBJECT

by Well Darwin and Eduardo Bonzatto

What amazes me is that in our society, art no longer has any relation to individuals or to life, but only to objects…. Could not every individual’s life itself be a work of art?” (Michel Foucault, 1979).

In 2010, right at the end of my first semester of film school, I made my first film, Gorgons. A short film that tells the saga of a woman who, in labor, begs the help of dozens of people going up and down a staircase. None of them notice her, because they are too busy on their cell phones. The suffering is interrupted by the child’s cry, but, what is the surprise of the character and the spectator? From the woman’s womb we see a cell phone coming out. After a few seconds of astonishment, the character understands the message, gets up, answers the cell phone as if it were ringing, puts on a black overcoat and gets lost in the crowd. At the time, the cell phone did not occupy half the space it does today in society and in people’s lives; at that time having a cell phone was not something inescapable.

Recently this film was harassed by an Asian streaming platform and in less than three years it already has almost two million views, but that’s not the most curious thing. Of the almost 500 comments posted on the page, almost all of them are from people from the Middle East and Asia, and about 70% of them express strangeness and/or lack of understanding about the fact that the woman gave birth to a cell phone. The expression “Uhhhhhh wheres the baby?” is quite common. There are numerous possibilities for reading this, but two seem particularly intriguing to me. People don’t understand that the cell phone occupies a prominent place and hegemony in our society and they continue to be alienated in a kind of post-modern “commodity fetishism” and, because of this, they don’t understand the criticism raised in the film? Or, in fact, the cell phone does not occupy this space and a whole discourse, this hegemonic one, makes us seem to live under the aegis of these devices and for this reason these people do not understand the criticism placed in the film? After all, will it really be that in India or China, which together account for 40% of the earth’s population, these devices occupy the same place they do in the society where the film Gorgons was made?

The fact is that in the Brazilian, and perhaps even the Western conjuncture, the cell phone seems to be an inescapable reality. Banks, government programs, medical appointments, and hundreds of other services and social benefits are migrating to cell phone applications. In São Paulo there are about 2 to 3 cell phones per inhabitant. The facilities that these devices and their intelligent apps have made available are almost infinite. On the other hand, it is undeniable the growing dependence of human beings on them, a dependence that increases as fast as the Cellular-Life-People symbiosis improves. It is impossible not to remember the movie “Terminator 3” and its Skynet that so well paved the way for a global and inexorable domination by machines. Will life imitate art? Some argue that the artist is a kind of medium who predicts the future, is he? We don’t know.

In any case I am a being of my time, with all the implications that this may mean. I am a restless filmmaker, and I am uncomfortable with the cinema practiced in this time. A cinema that “opted” for a conservative and formalist language path, holding on to the old dogmas created, formatted and developed more than a century ago by figures such as Lumiere, D.W. Griffith, Leni Riefenstahl, Abel Gance, among others, leaving aside the fantastic, magical and transgressive cinema of Melies or Buñel, to name but two.

There is a need to introduce a bit of anarchy and chaos into this story, maybe more Jokers and less Batmans or Commissars Gordon, this is where I reintroduce the Cellular subject. Nothing more powerful than introducing a formatted and framed cinema, full of rules and dogmas that exist to define what is cinema and what is not, who has talent and who doesn’t, and things like that, nothing more powerful and devastating than introducing a device that may not be sensitive to the demands, to the commandments and commands of this hegemonic cinema.

The very emergence of cinema is directly related to a technological invention, the cinematograph. Since then, some technological “advances” in the seventh art have occurred and have always promised some change or revolution in the language. The appearance of sound generated a real stir; defenders of “silent” cinema, reticent to the new tool, became fearful for the future of the language; the most radical declared the end of cinema. They were not at all wrong. Sound brought interesting elements, however, it also brought dialogues and, with them, a growing need to explain to the audience what they were seeing, in the relationship between Image and Sound, a fundamental characteristic of cinema, the Text was gradually superimposed over the Image. Color cinema, another “evolution” of the seventh art, did not represent much in the structure of the language, which continued based on the old canons. 3D arrived as the great technological innovation that promised to revolutionize everything cinema had experienced until then. Pure discourse. It was used as a perfumery and a prop for the old cinema and contributed nothing to the mutation of the language, which continued the same way it had been since the beginning. Justice be done, two films made in 3D escape this reality, PINA (Wim Wenders, 2012) and ADEUS À LINGUAGEM (Jean-Luc Godard, 2015). Both created experiences that are only possible if the films are viewed in 3D. In the case of ADEUS À LINGUAGEM, the film even loses meaning when viewed in the traditional way. 

Today we have 5D, 7D, 8D, and who knows what else, all nonsense, all a marketing tool to revitalize something that has been repeating itself and backfiring for more than a century.

It is interesting to note that in the last two or three years the camera has become the main differential announced by cell phone manufacturers, a movement that began with Apple and its powerful iPhones and that is now present in the marketing discourse of all manufacturers, where the expression “Make movie videos” is increasingly common. Some films with more or less prominence in the industry have already been made with cell phones, in all cases they were mere substitutes for the traditional professional cameras, without representing any subversion of the language, keeping their modus operandi intact. However, another approach is possible.

Since the cell phone is understood as an almost organic device, which accompanies people during their lives and is practically a body member equipped with a photocinematographic camera, can we use it as a tool to capture the sensitive reality that surrounds us and thus produce something unique and profound with the Image-Sound support? If so, it means that anyone equipped with such a device can establish a creative connection with their everyday life and have as a result a film, a cinematic experience, that they would not have if they were attached to the old form. The result is a cinema that is insurgent, unpredictable, informal, anarchic, free, etc. 

Cinema of Chaos is the name of it, namely: There is no script or art direction, no production either, photography, etc. The “script”, in general, happens after we already have the images, the way the images are connected in our heads is what gives rise to something like a script, which is never written. There are cases where the idea may come before, but it doesn’t become a script as it is traditionally known, the idea is conceived as a trigger. The “photography” is the way one decides on the spot how something will be shot, always in synergy with the space and its colors and specific conditions, the camera will be close, it will be far away, from bottom to top, from top to bottom, with movement, without movement, etc, this will be defined intuitively and in conjunction with what one is looking at, the space is coparticipant. The “art direction” is the choice of what will be filmed, since, in general, it is the visual aspect that ends up drawing attention, and it can be a scene, a situation, something strange or bizarre that impacts us, the dripping of a faucet, a car accident, a dog standing in the middle of the street, a child flying a kite, anything. Sometimes the space is manipulated to obtain this or that result, but also intuitively, since there is no previous study for such action, it is all there, in that instant, in the infinite present. The “production” is the time one is willing to take to finish all this, is to think of new images or sequences of images, new sounds, texts, lines, noises, etc., that the film, already started or not, supposedly needs, because the film is also a subject.

Life is chaos. Chaos is unpredictability. All agency is artificial and denies life. All thinking denies life. We happily accept the movements of another cognitive possibility. To do this we need to identify access to this vast network of contagion that circulates through everyday life.

Intuition is when you don’t know how you know, and knowing that you know is all you need to know. Intuition is just one of the devices for feeling to establish subtle cognitive manifestations. Through intuition, the mind is able to operate in complex ways, weaving infinite connections. Jung said that “each of us has the wisdom and knowledge we need within ourselves”. 

I add that it really is inside each one of us, but it is also circulating among the various forms of life through the sensitive vehicle of feeling, and when we are invaded by its incessant touch, we learn.

In this sense, contemplation is an extraordinary passive movement for the reception of the feelings that transit among the infinite forms of life. Contemplation is a state of calm and diminishment of the activity of thought, that frame of discomfort that keeps the mind imprisoned by the organizing rationality of the structures of power and domination.

Fruition, whose meaning is to have pleasure, to enjoy a situation, to enjoy without anxiety, is that state in which the feeling invades the organism and expands the intuition.

The gaze of contemplation is passive, attentive, welcoming, and non-judgmental. With the habit of contemplation, the complexity of life comes to be perceived without effort or harshness. 

The implications of this apparently passive attitude toward life are innumerable. The first one refers to the political forms it requires. Every political form becomes subjective, that is, it triggers intersubjectivity to express its actions. Objectivity is completely discarded and nothing that is not close can be considered as real.

Theories disappear and with them go into the dark hole of hope every intention. Life, the world, simply is, is, and interacts with us in its most comprehensive dimension. The one that invades us and touches us intimately. Denial disappears and acceptance is the form in which life manifests itself henceforth. Unconditional acceptance of everything and everyone.

This interaction with all kinds of life that come close, without the barriers of prejudice, makes presence a permanent way of existing. And with it, the present, the time of occurrences takes on an absolute privilege. Counted time no longer exists, only the eternal time of the moment remains.

Now, the eternal time of the present immediately implies the end of social relations, insofar as these are hierarchical relations imposed by thought. Feeling operates exclusively through connections, on the physical, perceptual, and spiritual levels. Then we open ourselves to the shocks, the bumps, the encounters, be they with humans, animals, vegetables, or with the spirits that dance around life lived in each passing instant, leaving their scent traces.

This politics of affections that continually invites us to dance is the politics I call presential, which goes from watering a plant, meeting the gazes of a dog on the street, hugging family members, or meeting and bumping into the differences that at every moment carelessly appear before us.

And in each encounter, the unpredictability and the unknown, the infinite probabilities and possibilities if we open ourselves to the bounty of life that flows through feeling and activates a cognitive system in us that we don’t yet suspect exists.

We learn all the time from this availability and from this effective and affective vital emotion.

The restricted universe of objectivity loses meaning to subjective sensations without judgments or apriorisms. Acceptance is the only possibility to perceive chaos and feel the expansion of the present infinite.

Such mechanisms of affectation can be applied to everything in life, and here I will express how it can invade a cinema of chaos and how the links of the living web emerge unexpectedly on the screen if the capture is one of acceptance.

The cinema of chaos is that of sensations and presentiments, because sensations move the body before it organizes itself for action, and only after capturing the instant can we reveal what was unexpected in the capture. Understanding the instilled movement is irrelevant. In the distillation that reveals more than the caricature, for the face of the present could never exist before the capture.

To instill is a verb that is bitransitive and translates approximations with the cinema of chaos, for it supposes a slow, penetrating process, pouring drop by drop until the realization of the mixture and of the mystery. This drop by drop is the instant that flows fast for all those who hurry towards the future, but which is torrential for those who contemplate and flow in an infinite present.

What moves the hand with the ocular device of capture? Passive contemplation moves the hand.

What triggers the shutter? The heart, in the sense that the feeling resides there, or as in other cultures, the stomach.

What moves and directs the whole to make the connection? The expansive egregore that has long welcomed your server.

The status that allows one to imagine the whole is permanently circulated by inviting energies. There are, then, no days of work or rest, because like life, everything happens all the time.

But also like life, the succession of fragments composes surprising musicalities, and we need to open the flow to the partial compositions that will be taken out of the flow with impunity.

Here art has a greater meaning: we must serve the human earth, not serve power. And the human earth is all life, for everything that lives is your neighbor. Speciesism disappears and everything becomes flow, as it is. And flow is manifest, or can be manifest the instant it is withdrawn into a catalog of vertigo and suspicion to fulfill protocols of chaos.

And all technology is just part of the magic for instant inventory.

São Paulo, October 2, 2021