Ship of Theseus - The Film (A review of sorts)
#1
So I had a chance to watch this film and thought I should share my impressions with all you lovely people of Nirmukta.

[Image: 220px-Ship_Of_Theseus_India_Release_Poster.jpg]

This is probably one of the better Indian films to have come out in a really long time. The film is beautifully shot, the narration is never too imposing, the stories flow seamlessly, interspersed with some wonderfully idle, lazy, but powerful scenes. The film sparks inner monologues in the viewer's mind and provides wonderful backdrops with beautiful music in the middle of the film to play those out.

There is minimal investment in the characters, the ideas, the situations, or the locales. For me, a film, or for that matter, any form of art, becomes too intrusive when the creator of that form of art tries to say too much through a protagonist, or an idea, or a situation. The whole act of creation then becomes an elaborate ruse to get through that single object of interest. You filter out the noise afterwards, the signal remains and quite often it's not powerful enough, or it does not resonate with you enough to leave a lasting impression. Ship of Theseus, on the other hand, isn't too keen on any idea, or at least it's not trying to sell you one. It's akin to the creator of the film saying, "I came across these really cool ideas, let me see if can find a beautiful way to tie these together and present them to you." And he (the director is male) accomplishes that. From the discomfort of switching between sensory modalities to the Waking Life (Linklater)-ish conversations (one of them involves Cordyceps, so there!) between the new-age rationalist and the vegan, dualist monk, from the slums of Mumbai to the house-parties of Sweden, the film moves effortlessly between characters and ideas, never dwelling on any one of them for long.

The connecting link of the stories in the film is supposed to be the ancient Theseus' Paradox but that link is somewhat weak but then again that's over-thinking it. Avoid that and you'll love this one as a fine work of art.

Give it a go if you can.

Cheers,
Nats
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#2
I got to watch the movie yesterday in Bangalore. My 5 1-rupee coins:

Quote:(i) Did you find something in the film that the trailer didn't prepare you for?


The trailer did not spoil the element of surprise at all. I knew that it's gonna be a 'class movie' as opposed to [a mass movie]* Chennai Express. Suffice it to say that the movie exceeded expectations.

*How does a freethinker strike-through text?

Quote:(ii) Do you think there was material for more than one film here? Could each of the three narratives have been fleshed out films in their own right?

The movie is pretty self-contained. I wouldn't add or subtract anything from it.

Quote:(iii) Can some portions serve as aids to free-thought advocacy?

I presume that this movie will draw freethinking crowd (oxymoron?) more than other groups in the population. The director's short film 'Right Here Right Now' [1] [2] got me curious. And then I watched one of the movie trailers and heard the word 'Charvak' in passing. Nothing would have discouraged me from watching SoT after that.

Quote:(iv) What would you have done differently had you been the director?

I'd have downsized the "White~colored~Firangs~Are~heartless~and~Indians~Are~Compassionate" trope.

Quote:(v) Do you think the movie will prompt any lifestyle changes for you?

The kidney story in the film spoke to me.Thanks to it, the hindi word कर्मठ (karmaTH) is etched in my memory for life. The movie changed my worldview, yes. (I am looking up stuff like 'Causality' on wikipedia now GoodMorning ) But I don't think that the movie alone was capable of galvanizing me beyond that (no offence Mr.Gandhi. It's not you, it's me. )

Nevertheless, props for making me think for the second time in a cinema hall. (Nolan's inception was first).
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#3
This deleted scene from Ship of Theseus was made available today as a sort of bonus material.
It serves as a cogent and compact summary of many of the views surveyed here.





It is a pity this scene didn't make it to the final movie, for it has a line that secular humanists reiterate in some form in almost every conversation.
Quote:No, I am not discussing religion here. All ethics must be arrived at in isolation of religious beliefs.
...
Why is it such a difficult idea to accept the fact that we must and we can reduce suffering in this world? There's enough of it as it is and I'm not the first one saying these things.

Within those two minutes, there's also a rejection of the naturalistic fallacy, again something that is part of the daily routine of anyone engaged in discussions on ethics.
Quote:Q: Don't you agree that Nature is inherently violent?
A: That kind of an argument can be used to justify terrorism and war.
And even if we are to accept that we are a more evolved animal than the ones in our environment, isn't it still part of our responsibility not to kill, at least not for taste or convenience?


Edit (04/02/2014) : Replaced broken link to video-clip
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#4
Ship of Theseus continues to make its presence felt and welcomed in film-festival and special-screening circles and thanks to one such event, it's now my turn to respond to the questions listed in rabrav's post above.

Quote:(i) Did you find something in the film that the trailer didn't prepare you for?

What the trailer had me prepared for, was to be attentive during scenes of unusually edifying conversations replete with brisk repartee. As edifying or perhaps more, were the silent sequences with lone characters, employed masterfully in the movie without resort to worn devices like voiced-over soliloquies.

Among the merits of the film which seem to have received little mention in earlier promos and reviews, is its quiet refusal or conscientious objection to the 'alternative biology' of commercial cinema's supernormal anatomical proportions implicated in the proliferation of body-image issues, and importantly, also to overly stylized portrayals in parallel cinema that tend to reduce bodies to metaphors and depersonalize characters by reducing them to symbols. The film seems to make a statement through its very refusal to superimpose either genteel discretion or distracting interpretation over the sight of bodily functions, or bodily inconvenience, or bodily inadequacy. Many of the silent sequences lend themselves to reflection on "What does it mean to be comfortable in one's skin?", with the accompanying questions that arise unbidden, such as "In the presence of whom?' and "What about comfort with what lies beneath?". The consequences of treating such questions as not belonging to 'polite conversation' are all too real, especially when they may lead to delayed or denied treatment of medical conditions. Making such conversations possible sooner might help save some lives, as recent experiences in Uganda and elsewhere in responding to breast cancer starkly remind us. It is a sort of conversation which philosophers like Montaigne urged fellow inquirers to not neglect.

A pleasant surprise and a bonus material for me was a cameo performance by Rajasthani folk musician Mir Mukhtiyar Ali. Kudos to the film-makers for helping lend our collective ear at least for a time to 'folk art' that all-too-often gets a raw deal in showbiz sweepstakes. There is a nod to 'folk technology' too in the movie, with Mohammad Saidullah showing up in a TV screen.

Quote:(ii) Do you think there was material for more than one film here? Could each of the three narratives have been fleshed out films in their own right?

Perhaps there was indeed material for three films (or more) but what those separate films might have suffered from was the tendency of their viewers to identify a single protagonist in the narrative and lapse into the limiting of imagination that following a 'hero' entails. Lapsing into idealization of the characters into may have rendered them more distant to the viewers and ended up offering fewer teachable moments.

Quote:(iii) Can some portions serve as aids to free-thought advocacy?

With instances of committed as well as accidental activists, of those putting themselves in the line as well as those who sympathize and do what they can, the film had useful reminders of the merits of a pluralistic approach during any endeavour of advocacy and activism.

Quote:(iv) What would you have done differently had you been the director?

Would I have left the deleted scene above in the movie?
But then again, perhaps not, because fewer viewers may 'tune out' during a philosophical discussion when it is free of didactic airs.

Quote:(v) Do you think the movie will prompt any lifestyle changes for you?

Perhaps it was a reminder to train oneself to not instinctively balk at 'meeting someone halfway'...or part of the way....or simply moving an inch from a position of stand-taking in which one is invested in through public commitment and in-group solidarity.
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#5
Finally I got to see the movie courtesy open sourcing of it cineoo.com/sot.

I have to admit that I am not like nastlerox [EDIT: corrected the name. Had mistakenly written Rabrav]. when it comes to movie experience. I always like a movie to have a definite message and the only experience that I count for is communication and expression of that message. Thats why I love movies like Matrix even though they are totally against my worldview, while I don't care much for Lord of the Rings (or in general Tolkien's work) because they are too artsy for me.

Having said that, this movie, even though artsy at times, is very impacting and has lots of nice messages. The long scenes, in my opinion, give time to the watcher for live-introspection.

Also I found the characters in the third story fascinating. They seem to have really intellectual conversations with most day-to-day honesty (if you know what I mean). The innocence and brilliance of the conversations was something that I cherished most in the movie.

(i) Did you find something in the film that the trailer didn't prepare you for?

For some reason I had assumed the movie to be a tad bit elitist. The trailer seem to have given me that impression. But I think the movie is nothing like that.

(ii) Do you think there was material for more than one film here? Could each of the three narratives have been fleshed out films in their own right?

I think that would have substantially dampened the "intellectual" impact of the movie.

(iii) Can some portions serve as aids to free-thought advocacy?

Lots! The second story is full of discussion that is completely in spirit of freethought.

(iv) What would you have done differently had you been the director?

I would have cut down its length (I don't know how though).

(v) Do you think the movie will prompt any lifestyle changes for you?

It propels me more towards Veganism.
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