Art is subjective. Art is one field where the adage “One man’s food is the other man’s poison” holds true. Art takes many forms and sometimes is without form as well. One of the forms of art is visual, taking to mean that art is perceived via the organs of vision, the eyes. The most popular of visual arts is painting. Painting is the use of colored media (oil, acrylic, pencil,etc..) on a material (canvas, paper, stone, wood, etc..) to create an image that is appealing. The appeal of the image to the viewer is highly subjective and is emotional.
Art in the early ages (stone age stuff) comprised simple drawings on the walls of caves. Probably the work of some curious and bored person on a rainy day. It has evolved so much over the years, yet sometimes is indistinguishable from those early works. Several media have been experimented with, several materials used and several themes tried. But one thing that has remained constant throughout all this is the fact that paintings represented more of what the artist saw and interpreted than what he imagined. And in those ages that required great skill, especially in the capture of how the subjects were illuminated, or in other words, the capture of light. The invention of the camera and the advent of photography changed all that.
Photography made it a lot more easier and faster to capture what is seen than it takes to paint the same scene. Now the artists suddenly found themselves without anything to paint (not really, but to give a general picture). They had to find something to paint and so started to exaggerate their interpretation of what they see. This led to some interesting developments like Expressionism and Cubism, but artists being artists won’t let it stop there. So they started a movement where there was no subject and art stood on it’s own. Art for art’s sake taken to the literal extreme! And the best example of such a movement is Minimalism. This style was a bit controversial since the works that were exhibited seemed to require no effort from the artist at all. But for the artists, it is the highest/purest form of art because it is natural, and straight from the sub-conscious mind. Below is a little experiment of mine in minimalism, or is it?
Everyone who goes to 2046 has the same intention, they want to recapture lost memories.
Because in 2046 nothing ever changes. But, nobody knows if that is true or not because no-one has ever come back.
So begins Wong Kar-Wai‘s movie 2046. The start portrays 2046 as a magical/fantastical place, where everyone goes to in search of lost memories but never return; except one man. He gives vague reasons as to why he returned and is on the train back (the start is like a science fiction movie). The narrative then shifts to the protagonist living in Hong Kong in the 60’s. He has just returned from Singapore and is starting as a journalist here (the movie is like a non-linear sequel to Wong Kar Wai’s earlier movie In the Mood for Love). He rents a room in a hotel where he spent some time before he left for Singapore and wants the same room as before. But the room is under renovation and so the owner offers the adjacent room and he accepts.
The adjacent room gets renovated after a while, but the protagonist has settled in his new room and doesn’t want to move into the room he originally wanted, the one that held a special place for him, a room numbered 2046. The rest of the movie explores the relationships between the protagonist and the serial occupants of the room 2046. The first is the owner’s daughter who is in love with a Japanese man. The father doesn’t approve of the relationship and the lover returns to Japan. The next occupant is a girl who works in a club, who initially starts out being platonic friends and ends up falling in love. The protagonist refuses to get into a relationship with her. After she leaves, the owner’s daughter returns, depressed after what it seems to have had broken up with her Japanese boyfriend. The protagonist finds that she’s interested in martial arts stories and makes her his assistant, writing stories for the newspaper. It is now that he gets an idea of writing a science fiction story about a place where everyone goes to recapture their lost memories. They even decide to name it 2047 after the room number of the protagonist. Eventually, he develops feelings for her but she doesn’t respond. After a while, she leaves for Japan and hears that she got engaged to her Japanese boyfriend.
The protagonist is reminded of a past lover in Singapore who helped him recover the money he lost in gambling. He thinks back to all his past relationships and makes them all characters in his science fiction story with him as the guy who returned from 2046. The story is told in a very non-linear fashion with the science fiction segments interspersing the actual storyline and a flashback to the time the protagonist was living in Singapore. There are several references to the earlier movie In the Mood for Love but this can be watched on its own too. The movie is a bit slow moving but the pace is well suited to the story. The cinematography is excellent and the dialogues even more so. The parallels between the protagonist’s own relationships with the women around him, who happen to share the same room, 2046 and the way it is used as the object of metaphor in the science fiction story is simply a brilliant piece of work by the director. In the end, despite so many women falling for him, and he too falling for a few, the protagonist walks away from it all. The movie doesn’t show where he goes. Has he finally returned from 2046? What would become of him? Will he change? Or remain the same? There are several unanswered questions… but as a movie, it’s sheer poetry.
The title of this post is shared with a song by the band Nine Inch Nails from their album ‘With Teeth’. The band is fronted by Trent Reznor who does most of the song writing and composing(not just arranging though he may use a few samples as is done by most of the Indian music directors and pop stars) the music. What makes his music appealing is the powerful lyrics and the musical genre (industrial rock) that seems to strike from within. It is my opinion that you can listen to other genres of music but rock music is to be felt in the bones to be enjoyed. People who can’t do that just hear noise.
The appeal of lyrics and music extends to one other song from this album, ‘Only’. This song is one of those few songs that cannot be written without feeling anything like what the song mentions. The song has no target (as opposed to a love song that seems to be written with the girlfriend – past, present or future – as the main target) and thus is open to interpretation. This is especially true as the chorus of the song goes “There is no you, there is only me” and somewhat contradicting the rest of the song lyrics in which the singer sings about losing definition and purpose in life. And so, this has been my anthem for the past few days and am hoping for it to change.
On a side note, ‘With Teeth’ has been said to be the worst NIN album in years, the music shifting toward hip-hop sounds than industrial rock. After listening to some of their previous tracks like ‘Closer’ (supposedly their best), ‘Perfect Drug'(can be interpreted as alove song), ‘Head like a Hole’, ‘Hurt'(An extremely good soft song and was covered by Johnny Cash sometime before his death) , ‘Fragile’, I have to agree. Now they have returned to their industrial roots in their upcoming album ‘Year Zero‘, said to be a concept album about a dystopian future (as all futures are). Most of the songs are good and have a visceral appeal. A few are of the can’t get it out of my head type, and is a must buy, though streaming from the site will do for now 🙂