Editor's note: From Tuesday, 22 November 2016, Firstpost is carrying Rupleena Bose's daily dispatches from the ongoing International Film Festival of India (Iffi), in Goa. Read parts one, two and three.
Highlights from day four of Iffi follow:
Something about the last two days made me wonder what characters at the revolving stage party scene in Manoj Kumar’s Purab aur Paschim must have felt. They were in a strange place, while Manoj Kumar sang about the nation, everything around them was in a dizzy whirl. The camera, the stage, the party, it was almost as if you were in the middle of everything that was continually moving or changing. A fair number of classics were screened at IFFI today, the restored version of Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, a doc on Fritz Lang (and the trigger of my analogy Manoj Kumar’s Purab aur Paschim)
A few kilometres away the Mariott Hotel is taken over for 4 days by NFDC’s annual Market event Film Bazaar (an event separate from IFFI, celebrating its 10th year this year) where there are sessions and parallel events around films in development and production. Along with that there are Masterclasses and Panel Discussions around trends surrounding cinema in India. Even while I was watching films old and new, classics in form narrative and technique there was another conversation emerging about future of cinema. Talking to Michel Reilhac was a spin in itself. Michel Reilhac is a VR (Virtual Reality) Filmmaker and curator and handles the VR sidebars of Cannes and Venice Film Festival. VR headgear gives the feeling of being a character in a science fiction film for the uninitiated I couldn’t help asking Michel.
‘Think of it like this’, he said. ‘What if there is no fourth wall in cinema?’
In theatre, the Fourth wall is the imaginary wall that separated the audience and the proscenium stage where the play was being enacted. It was making the audience voyeurs intruding into the domesticities and conflict of the actors/ characters on stage. With twentieth century and movements in theatre and elements of metatheatre, the fourth wall was often broken making the audience and the characters and conscious and part of each other’s narrative.
‘Cinema is flat isn’t it, VR will break the wall and put you i.e the audience at the centre of it, in the middle of everything’. So in a way VR takes the experience of cinema closer to performance art or theatre Michel explained. Interestingly the technology of it is still exclusive. Till technology makes it accessible in terms of availability and expense VR will remain a subset of the cinema going experience. ‘That is when real change will take place, when the distribution of this technology is chalked out’ Michel said. The VR sets are fascinating, as an individual you are isolated from the reactions of the next person unlike a usual movie watching experience. But in that isolation you are plunged in the middle of the scene, the space in the cinema always flat, suddenly adds another dimension. In a world becoming isolated and voyeuristic, where digital interaction is often easier than physical communication, VR is the experience we individuals are probably seeking out. I remember reading French sociologist Jean Baudrillard on Hyper reality in the postmodern age in his book Simulacra and Simulation. Michel too mentioned the idea of hyper real adding that it is only now with VR technology that reality and representation blends into each other and the audience is a character in the stage in front of her.
I couln’t help thinking of the large distance covered between the film festival and the future of cinema, between the breaking of the 180 degree rule in the train scene in Pather Panchali (1955)and the VR eye pieces that transport the viewer into the action without any effort except procuring the VR sets. Could it be that after over 150 years cinema was changing into something else?
I felt like one of the extras in the Purab aur Paschim (1970) sequence with everything that was constant now in the state of flux. The chair I was sitting on was moving, the stage underneath it was rotating and the scenario itself was going around in circles, the visual world around with revolving and showing different sides. So I decide to end this whirlwind sort of a day with a trip to a stable old world place in Panjim. Here at quaint Pergola with Caju Feni and a dash of lime, soda and water where some famous Goan writers and friends take to tables with animated discussions I finally felt reassured that the world might just not change so soon.
The writer is assistant professor at the department of English at Sri Venkateswara College.