A FILM BY VIKTOR GAsIc
Two couples and their children go on an excursion into the forest. They are young, successful and well-set parts in today's social-political establishment. When their children disappear in a storm, the entire construct of their friendship starts to crumble. Very soon, their bourgeoisie façade falls and the four turn into the profile of a lost culture. What follows is an odyssey through the forests that turns more
and more into a journey into the metaphysical. The story is told in fragments and out of chronological order. The forest and the film imagery act as a poetic expression of the inner mind, creating the metaphorical psychogram of a lost culture that desperately looking for a way out and a future. It is a poetic portrait of today's society.
„We climb into the same river
and yet it isn’t the same.
It is us, and we are not it.“
„Whom would you choose: The Devil
who will take you to God, or the God
who will take you to the Devil?“
The idea behind the surface
The author about the film
I consider the movie to be contemporary, filmed prose, a kind of poetic realism. The dream of permanent progress of modernity is finally a thing of the past in today's postmodern society. We have reached a social and political vacuum universe in which the old idea has died already and the new one hasn't been born yet. Everything is relative and nothing lasts. Both protagonists, Paul and Marek, are disillusioned. One is an idealist, the other a pragmatic materialist. When the children are lost in a storm, they turn their eyes to the future, which shows us the image of a blunted society without empathy, unable to exhibit care and responsibility for oneself or for others. The story of mankind really is a tragedy, since everything comes to an end eventually. However, human nature as individuals still enables everyone to reinvent themselves. We are standing at a crossroads of history. We can choose between the old "tried and tested" primitive structures of power or showing the courage to take new paths with reason and humanism.
About metaphysics in the film
When I speak of metaphysics, I don't mean the metaphysics made up by people, (and therefore personified based on the human image), which is organized and systematically institutionalised similar to a McDonald's branch. To me, metaphysics is a term from ancient philosophy that refers to the hidden nature. The authenticity of a piece of art, as in a film, is in the idea. This idea is not immediately visible, but concealed behind the film's audio-visual surface. When I was a child, I watched films by Pasolini, Antonioni, Zanussi or Tarkowskij, and though I didn't get those films at the time, they impressed me deeply. Their images, dialogues and atmospheres have remained with me for decades. That may have been one of the main reasons for me to study film. When I rewatched those films again several times after this long time, with different eyes, the moment when the idea behind the films got through to me was like a revelation. In this respect, the film as a piece of art is a metaphysical experience as well. It's not the protagonists who go on a classical hero's journey according to Campbell, but the watcher as an individual. In this respect, "The Forest" isn't horizontal, but vertical dramaturgy.
About film as art
Claude Chabrol said that there were two types of filmmakers: There are the story-tellers, who want to tell a tale, and the poets, who represent a worldview or opinion. I see film as the art that combines all other arts. In the film, Paul holds a lecture about subjective and objective art. The term of subjective and objective art was coined by Gurdijeff, one representing the surface or shape and the other that which is concealed, or the content. To turn a film into art, just using the technical tools and mastering the rules of filmmaking isn't enough. The most important step on the path to art, however, is the experience of one's own life, in which that which is learned or experienced is internally processed. Like philosophy, art is born from the individual's doubt. This is the phase of artistic self-actualisation, which has a sacral, anthropological component. It is the contemplation, since it only works in internal dialogue with nature. A piece of art is always painted in the artist's own blood. It is similar to a building that develops from nothing or an idea. The more complex the building's architecture,
the more expensive will it be. The price an artist has to pay for his masterpiece is loneliness. The more demanding and the higher his art, the fewer recipients and recognition will the work reach. Although it will protrude over the hemisphere like a tower of Babylon, hardly anyone will see it. That is the paradox: the highest art is often called dead art because the idea behind it is only evident to few. The next question is, of course: Why do you even make art if it is not of any "use"? Then why go to all the effort to conquer that which is useless? In order to satisfy your own artistic ego or out of a need to share your own experience or opinions? Tarkowskij said a beautiful sentence: "Mankind has not invented anything selflessly, safe for the artistic image, and maybe the purpose of human existence actually is in creating works of art, in the artistic act, which is selfless and has no purpose. Maybe that shows that we were made in God's image.“ 1 What use are experiences that we make if not that to realise ourselves and to develop further? Art as such is the highest form of being human.
We come into the world naked, without prejudice. Right after we have opened our eyes, preproduced "clothing" is waiting for us in the form of nation, religion, culture or social status. We put them on and play the game of life. Life becomes a carnival, a political farce. We wear these clothes. Some even die for them, without ever having wondered: "Is this really me?" Our ego thus becomes the driving and self-destructive force of life. All people actually are idiots deep inside; they are idiots because they neither know the actual reason for their existence nor will they ever learn it. They are thrown into this world and are lost as individuals from the beginning. They desperately cling to society in order to find a place and get recognition. In the end, there isn't much left
to do but to abandon themselves to the river of life and let the water carry them. Paul and Marek could hardly be any more different, and yet the line that separates them is marginal. It depends on the respective perspective from which they are viewed. One believes in what he has, and what he wants to have, while the other believes in who he is or who he wants to be. It is only about having and being. Nature is surrounded by bipolar forces that move in constant change. The two currents that merge into one at some point are the living dialectic of nature. It is the greatest challenge of life to let go of everything in order to find one's own concept and to stay true to it. Rarely have people conquered their egos and overcome themselves.
Utopia as a perfect society is the home of art. It is the perspective from which artists view the world. Only by comparing it to reality is a piece of art given truth and meaning. This is also the reason why almost all art is critical. The artist's view was once focused on his direct society. Now, in the global era with its media presence, it is the entire world. All of us are turning in the same circle. Everything is connected.
Since the beginning of the world, mankind has pursued a path into a better future with ideals of equality and justice. The vision of a better future was part of social life; it was the dream of a free world. Since industrialisation in the middle of the 19th century, the technology development of the modern era and the philosophical enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries, it seemed that the utopian expectation of the perfect world was just within reach. This sociallyidealistic continuum was broken and has stagnated in the last 30 years. We are at a kind of evolutionary crossroads; either we will continue following the old path of social-Darwinist mutual exploitation or we will start down a new path of a fairer and optimised global economy that will integrate not only all of mankind but also nature. History teaches us that mankind is only able to find a new and evolutionary path after a great disaster. Apart from natural disasters that happen without human contribution, there are disasters that humans have caused on their own. These include the economic catastrophe of the 1930s. We know that it spread from America around the world in a Domino effect. We know that that economic crisis ended in a World War. Founding the United Nations right after the war in 1945 may have been the best lesson mankind has learned from this. It was an idea that is now considered the pioneer of today's marked globalisation. Like the economic crisis of 1929, the crises of 2008 and 2010 are also man-made crises.
One of the tasks of art is to draw attention to the problems in the world. The task of politicians is to solve them. It's not that global politics are managed by the smartest persons, i.e. the scientists and/or humanists, i.e. sociologists and philosophers. Quite the opposite: It's the common people, the leading oligarchs or the egotistical dictators obsessed with power who characterise today's political climate. If we look at the past, we will see that this is not a new development. Their clothes and haircuts or the names of institutions may have changed over time, but they are still the same faces and the same organisations that shift power towards each other. The democratic carousel rarely turns only forwards: there's one step forward and the next elections take us two steps back again.
The paradox par excellence in the banking crisis a few years ago was that those whose capital gambles caused the crisis were the same parties chosen by politics to stabilise the situation using tax money from the state. Instead of putting the money streams under social control thereafter, everything has returned to the previous state. Because of this, we can speak of a regression instead of progress in socially-political respect.
The ideals of the French Revolution and Enlightenment have been corrupted; the ideals of the communist revolution have been betrayed. In this respect, Marx is right when he claims that all previous revolutions had only shown one thing: That much can be changed, but human nature cannot.
The total collapse of all utopian ideals is connected to the rise of unfettered capitalism as the only accepted, global political and economic system. We are living in unprecedented wealth today. The consumerist prosperity on one side is misleading, however. The frustration and resentment of those cast aside on the other hand can trigger an avalanche one day. On the one hand, groups are increasingly moving into the third world, in order to spread at the expense of the natives and on the other hand, even though there are enough means and technology to solve all problems of food and water scarcity in the world within 24 hours, those in power are not interested in this because it would bring barely any profit. As a consequence, the third world is migrating away because it has hardly any free living space left. Almost everything is subordinate to profit: water, as well as the seas and forests are commercialised. This conversion of values may be expanded to any level of social life, no matter if in politics, sports or art: He who offers more wins.
The neoliberal system of the global free market according to the Chicago School turned out to be a primitive system of economic cannibalism at the latest after the second banking crisis in 2010. The larger group takes over the smaller one. In other words: the larger fish eats the smaller one. The survival strategy of the neoliberal free market is not far from the "wilderness survival strategy". In order to prevail in society, humans are "dehumanised". A parable on this can be found in Greek mythology, in the myth of Cronus who eats his own children because he fears for his rule. Without social laws, there will be injustice and inhumanity, just as in the wilderness, where daily survival is determined by the law of greater strength. The problem is also that we charge the same economic structures and therefore the same people who have caused a problem with fixing the problem. Neither politics nor the economy have changed, because none of the originators has been held accountable and none of them is willing to admit their mistakes. In the same way that the Pope and the church stood above the state in the Middle Ages, the banks do today. In the end, this leads to
managers and the financial industry still collecting disproportionately high bonus payments at the expense of tax payers. There is a social tension field, since the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. According to the relief organisation Oxfam, the richest 1 percent of the global population will own more than the remaining 99 percent next year (2016). The 85 richest people on earth together will own as much as the poorer half of the global population together – that is about 3.5 billion people. The basic social orders of a civilised society, such as labour rights, health insurance protection, training, studies and pension insurance increasingly fall victim to such "capital rescue campaigns". For example, universities in Great Britain are no longer subsidised for humanities because, it is said, these do not increase productivity (of private companies, that is). 2
The unfettered capital has been released from all social responsibility; new methods for bypassing the rules of fair play seem to spring up all the time. The true driving force of our society today is still based on social insecurity and existential angst. They are the "archetypical" primal motives. Are we able to learn from history in order to develop further, or are we still bound to the egotistical primal instincts of our nature? Social acceleration of the postmodern era has increased these fears even more. The continuous technology development, social conversion and political adjustment have made man even more a means to an end. Production increases in order to increase consumption, in order to increase production. I buy, therefore I am. Fair Trade, organic products and sustainable economy, veganism, vegetarianism, ethical banking systems and basic income are new utopian values of the new Consumer Democracy Generation after '68.
The matter of today's global capitalism has become rather complex. The main problem of the current era and the impossibility of a utopia is in the fact that the medium world has been replaced by the medium money as the communication core of society. No ideal remains stable; everything can be bought and sold; everything has its price. Human nature, honour, the honest character as a single individual, however, is built from the word; it is a social and mental existential essence that will, if even removed partially, cause an anthropological discontinuum, an evolutionary depression or even degeneration. It is an attack on human nature, at its inner-most core, a shock treatment similar to the BSE disease in cows that have been fed animal meal. There is a disillusioned climate caused by a nihilist vacuum in which any utopia has turned to abstraction only.
Life has changed; it has grown faster and more chaotic. God, as Nietzsche said, is long dead and buried, but his corpse lives on; it is still marketed by religious institutions or even abused by politics in remoteprovinces of the world. In the meantime, the urban areas have created a new god with computers and the Internet: the god of continuous entertainment. Similar to the crusades and conquests of the Middle Ages, every state apparatus with its secret services is striving to maintain and spread its own hegemony online around the world today. Some information is concealed, other parts are deliberately reinforced depending on interest and benefit. Media and politics work together; there is a good reason why some media moguls are at the same time leading politicians or their henchmen who show strength and market themselves like a Zampano from Fellini's "La Strada" in their own TV circus. In fact, politically speaking, no one knows what's what anymore. Konrad Paul Liessmann even said that the only program dealing with facts was the weather forecast. Everything else was interpretation and continuous entertainment.
Postmodern theory of global acceleration (according to Hartmut Rosa’s "Acceleration") 3 increasingly shows that the global-political and economic streams are lost in a similar vortex of uncontrollable markets. This leads to economic crises and no one really knows how to get out.
Mankind today needs and is trying to find a new economic system in which social control of capital is connected to social values. The Greek bankruptcy, the stock exchange crash, Occupy, Wiki-Leaks and Anonymous attacks on power structures are just some examples for this.
Man does not live up to his task of keeping the world fair. Or, to put it more optimistically: not yet. Technical progress is advancing disproportionally to human social development, which makes us limp behind in a kind of immaturity of our own making. This kind of human does not fit today's zeitgeist, where there is enough technology to solve all the elementary problems in the world over night. This shows us a paradox: technical development was driven by mankind and has got far ahead of human social-economic development. Mankind today is unable to socially and fairy use such technology developments. By not optimally using our technology, we are actually abusing it.
The way out of today's crisis requires us to overcome self-destructive cycles of economic tendencies coupled to greed and an addiction to money. It's a near-impossible mission, since mankind today would have to reinvent itself for this. Like common Fascism has found its way into politics, common snobbism has found its way into art. The true, critical, revolutionary art as a utopian medium remains peripheral – but hasn't that always been this way? Creation of a new economic paradigm with social reason will remain a utopian idea for as long as mankind does not oppose its own corrupt awareness. Mankind has built these traps on its own in its thousand years of politically-economic "development".
1 Andrej Tarkowskij „Die versiegelte Zeit“, Ullstein Verlag, Frankfurt / M - Berlin 1996, S. 242
2 Phillipp Mossetter „Good economy oder warum Marketing noch keine Haltung ist“, Kulturzeitschrift Vorfreude Nr. 1
3 Harmut Rosa „Beschleunigung. Die Veränderung der Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne“, Suhrkamp 2005
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