The Movie Baraka as Evidence of a Human Cultural Legacy

The movie Baraka shows us that humans are not extremely different, but rather that all humans are and must be thought of as interrelated. The movie explores the many ways that human societies adapt to their surroundings, and in doing so, it also shows us that all human societies adapt in similar ways. Although humans themselves are diverse, their diversity pales in comparison to the diversity of the earth itself. The Earth itself has achieved far more diversity than anything a human can imagine ” even aliens in science fiction are based on animals, insects and fish. The human cultural legacy is minute and our existence is naught but a blink in time. That being said, as we are a creation of the earth we do not owe it anything; because, as its creation, we cannot harm it. Of course humans are capable of destroying all life on the planet, but it would recover eventually, and in doing so continue to create new life. Continue reading »

“Cinema Paradiso” as a Example of Art, Culture and Community

“Cinema Paradiso” shows just how important art, culture and community is in human lives. For many people in western societies art is something that hangs around the peripheral of their lives never fully entering or leaving. But for Salvatore art was the focus of his life through his youth and adult hood; art and movies were the common threads that connected his entire life together. For the townspeople art was also important to them but not as all consuming as it was for Salvatore.

The Cinema Paradiso itself was the figurative and literal center of the town in the early and mid years it was in operation. Eventually, as the community was able to connect to the outside world more and more the Paridiso was slowly forgotten, until it was finally sold and demolished. During it’s early years of operation the Paridiso was for many people was the only way for them to escape the pressures of living in Sicily after the Second World War, large numbers of soldiers died leaving families broken, the land was poor and work hard to find. As with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” the people gravitated to a single area to try to find some semblance of happiness in their lives.

Secondly, but some may argue most importantly, “Cinema Paradiso” shows just how art can effect the human condition. The Cinema Paradiso is not just the community’s center in the movie, but it is also the artistic center. Although to someone living in America the movies were considered normal nothing overly special to the people that went to the Cinema Paradiso the movies were a way of keeping in contact with the outside world and the only source of art in the town. To the townspeople as Alfredo said, “[they] think it’s the center of the world [but once you leave you realize it is not.]” In the context of the movie this idea is what lead Alfredo to push Salvatore out of town, he knew that the only way for Salvatore to grow artistically and make movies is by leaving the “backwater” town and force him to connect with the world. This is happening even today as certain types of people move across the country to other areas where more artistic is encouraged.

A minor theme in the movie is that of censor ship in artistic expression. It points out what some people consider art (such as kissing) other consider pornography and that censorship like all things is best left to the majority to decide. Censorship has a huge impact on the lives of people in a community, one can argue that censorship could be the major reason for the stagnation that effected the community and convinced Alfredo to send Salvatore away. Censorship as it pertained to the Cinema Paradiso evolved over the life of the theater from the beginnings when all kissing/romance scenes were edited out to the middle when romance/sexuality was allowed to the end when the theme of the films were specifically as evidenced by the movie posters) adult in nature. But the question is “Does censorship follow desire or desire follow censor ship?” Thats is did the censorship in the movie lessen because there was no public support for it, or was the desire for censored materials increased because they were censored? In Cinema Paradiso specifically it was the former rather than the latter because all the townspeople celebrated the first uncut movie. However in the “real” world it depends on the situation, for example in democratic societies it is frequently the former, that is people no longer want to be told what they can not do, yet in totalitarian societies it is often the latter. Censorship is a risky business in all matters not just art , the goal is to censor enough that society does not rampage and gut itself from the inside out in pursuit of pleasures, but not so much as to cause a stagnation of thought inside a community.

Art may be at peripheral of our lives but it is all around us, just look at any building for a moment, everything from the painting on the walls, to the carpeting, to the design of the grounds is art. Although the carpets are quite often ugly, they are still art, although most people just see the lanes of concrete surrounded by grass as a walkway they were designed by an artist. Even English courses are not an English course it is a course on art, the art of writing, real English courses deal with nouns, verbs and past-present participles, yet even still it is not considered an art course. Instead it is considered to be a course that teaches you how to use and understand English appropriately. Art is extremely important to very few people because frankly it doesn’t pay the bills. Unfortunately because of this art’s impact on our daily lives is very low for the majority, however what art does do is help to shape our thoughts and feelings without a conscious effort in ways that other things cannot.

“Cinema Paradiso” Lifes constant flow without our knowledge.

The role that art plays in human lives is not the only theme of the movie, it also speaks of how life conspires without ones knowledge and leads people to where they end up. Life is like a giant puzzle for each person, events have conspired since the beginning of the universe to lead to their lives. This is not to say that human lives are predefined or that destiny controls the way people end up but more like that the people and events that came before each person effect our lives, just as the people and events around oneself does. For example if someones great great etc etc grandparent died and didn’t have a child they would never have been born nor would one of their parents etc obviously. But even in the most simplistic parts of daily lives everything from the school people go to, to the last horrible blind date are affected by outside events that most people never find out about.

Although eventually in “Cinema Paridiso” Salvatore learned how Alfredo “chased” away Elena, most people never get the chance to realize these background maneuvers. Without Alfredo’s meddling Salvatore may have have his own personal “Happy Ending”, however he may have just ended up realizing that the romance he had with Elena was not what he wanted out of his life too late and ended up unhappy anyway but in this case never to realize his dreams. Although many people are quick to pas judgment on Alfredo saying what he did was right or wrong, no one can know if that was the best choice. Instead all we can say for sure is that Alfredo did what he thought was best and in the end that is the best that anyone can do.

As for Alfredo telling Salvatore to never come back, I believe this was to protect Salvatore from the nostalgic sentimentality that would give him cause to regret his decision. It would also force Salvatore to make his mark on the world without thinking of home as an obligation, something he would have to return to eventually just to keep up appearances. By forcing Salvatore to leave the town behind completely Alfredo was forcing Salvatore to face any problems that would inevitably arise from his new life instead of giving up and returning to a “security blanket”.

Movies for the most part are a way for people to live other lives and in essence to live vicariously through another person’s shoes. Foreign movies are especially good at this because they not only let you live in another life but another culture through that cultures eyes.

Major Themes of “Modern Times” by Chaplin

“Modern Times” was a wonderful blend of comedy and social drama. The movie provided a look into the world of the great depression by people who lived it. Different elements of the movie portrayed the different difficulties of life in that era. Between bursts of comedy a grand picture of a society in turmoil is produced. Through work shortages, factory closings, labor strikes and political unrest Chaplin’s world shows us another side that people like to forget about the past.

One of the many ideas that are prevalent in this movie is the idea that each person is just a part of a larger whole, that although you could try to be individual, it was not in your best interests to do so. This idea is shown both in the beginning of the movie and when Chaplin was “forced” through social pressure to strike. The entire factory sequences showed how the average American worker was just treated as replaceable labor in the 1920’s and 1930’s the only concern of the boss was the ability of the workers to keep up with quotas. The mechanical device that fed Chaplin shows just how far some people would go to get that little extra profit at the expense of the workers well being.

The American dream is also a prominent feature of the movie, Chaplin’s American Dream was a small shack with a puddle out back, saying that is is not how much you have that is what matters but what it means to you. The American dream has been prominent throughout American literature for hundreds of years and this movie is no exception. Through the use of comedy Chaplin portrays the American dream just as Algers does, something that is attainable with a little hard work. This idea was especially important at the time the movie was made.

The last major theme is about the difficulty of life during those years, food and jobs were hard to come by, and as Chaplin shows us jail was preferable to the hectic and dangerous city streets. At the time of the great depression Americans had to fight for what little they had, and as the movie showed many people went hungry. However this movie glorifies the struggle of the poor rather than vilifying them for stealing food to survive. By glorifying the struggle the movie takes on yet another social issue: when the poor steal to eat it is not criminal, just survival.