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, three and four.
The word is that almost everyone is in a hurry these days. Patience and pace are unwanted words amongst people who consume — be it news, cinema, books or music. Things must happen endlessly. Except there are places where not much really ‘happens’ but you begin to find the place, its people, history simply by observing. There is usually a routine to small town life, there is beauty in living the known because within the images of everyday familiarity, there can be poetry.
‘Ohio Blue Tip Matchsticks, in a font that looks like a megaphone’.
This is one of the first poems we read written by Paterson (played by Adam Driver), the poet — not the town of the same name where he is an NJ transit bus driver. American poet William Carlos Williams wrote a set of five books titled Paterson (1948-56) around the New Jersey town of the same name. Influenced by James Joyce’s Ulysses, William Carlos Williams wanted to frame a narrative around Paterson much like Joyce did for Dublin. William Carlos Williams is Paterson, the poet-bus driver’s favorite writer; in moments of quiet distress he reads the poems even as he quietly goes about his routine jobs.
The bus and his perspective drive the film and the audience into observing the left out small town. Paterson has a pattern in his everyday life. He walks with the words in his head and on the screen, he rewrites his poems on the walk to the bus station. When the first ride rolls, he sets aside his notebook to drive the bus, meeting strangers and regulars who in the easy small town have the time to be a part of his narrative as the film takes us through one week in his life. He has a quietness about his demeanor that allows him to muse about the things even as his partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) urges him to publish his poems. But Paterson is in no hurry, he has a private relationship with time that calms him, makes him extraordinary. Every now and then, he meets other people who want to discover stories and histories of the town Paterson, like the bar owner who collects paper cuttings mentioning Paterson to put up on the board in his bar. Paterson is not Dublin yet as with people who spent their entire lives in one place — there is a need to put the city on the map even if it’s a map created by their own selves. Jim Jarmusch too in naming the character as the city (and vice-versa) tries to redraw the nothingness of the town with beauty.
The week in Paterson’s life tells us everything about introspection, imagination, routine and resilience, his character’s softness charms with Adam Driver’s outstanding performance.
All of Jim Jarmusch’s characters through his films have been beautifully written. Words make them special, be it Coffee and Cigarettes (2004), Broken Flowers (2005) or his stunning last film Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). His characters are not necessarily real but they are people you wish you would suddenly meet in a bar or a train and strike a conversation that will change a part of you. Jarmusch’s films have a distinct pace, a pace that never rushes you and for me only rewards you with a world that you become a part of and take back home waiting for him to come back with another new narrative. Only after the film ended did I notice the large auditorium of Kala Academy, which was filled with a fairly large number considering it was a midnight screening. In the receding night and the second last day of the festival it seemed like Paterson had brought two unlikely towns from across the world together in their content relationship with time.
The writer is assistant professor at the department of English at Sri Venkateswara College