I have an elitist attitude towards mainstream Hollywood cinema. I always come out of the theater complaining that the movie was not intelligent enough; not real enough; not thought-provoking enough; not nuanced enough etc. etc.
My friends say I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to mainstream cinema; that my views have become deeply distorted related to cinema; that anything related to sane and wholesome entertainment escapes my warped sensibilities.
They laugh that my taste in movies borders on being quixotic, surreal, distorted, kinky and torturous for them. My dossier of recent indie movies include lesbians making out in an oppressed foreign land, their passion expressed in sub-titles; a man fully masturbating in front of his mother, a sort of Oedipus complex; primitive stoning of a woman where her extreme pain and anguish is expressed in sub-titles.
Based on this premise, at most times I am a solitary figure at the movie theater devoid of any company. I am a forsaken indie film buff!
I do enjoy the stark realism of indie films. I enjoy the depiction of nuanced emotions embedded deep within the psyche–emotions that only several years of Freudian therapy can bring to the surface. I enjoy the honest portrayal of psychoses, complexes and neuroses that most of us have, but hide from even ourselves. Such psychological disorders in their stark nakedness are brought to the surface by brave indie directors. I like the lack of glamour, the chapped lips, the “bitten to the bed nails” and the bedraggled hair—all illustrating palpable realism.
Lately I have been on a spree of watching indie films. I saw the Iranian lesbian flick called Circumstance; Michal Fassbender as the deeply disturbed sex-addict in Shame; an Iranian son trying to take care of his dad with Alzheimer’s’ while going through a divorce in A Separation and Tilda Swinton playing a desperate mother to a sociopathic killer in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
I have come out of the theaters deeply depressed and melancholic. The movies leave me with a lingering despondency for several days. Of course, since the movies are well-made with intricate plots, they are hard to brush off and forget like mainstream cinema. I analyze and re-live the movies spiraling into an abyss of somber pensiveness.
Imagine the extreme sense of loneliness one would feel if at Christmas you are eating alone an over-cooked dry piece of turkey in a lonely diner with a flashing neon sign named “EAT” in the window, except the letter “E” has short fuse and does not flash.
Imagine the plight of a mother whose sociopath teenage son takes a sick delight in masturbating in front of his mother.
Imagine two young girls living an oppressed life in Iran, but find solace in each other’s arms, except that one of the girls is married to the brother of the other girl.
Imagine, a sexual addiction being so overpowering that it prevents you from ever having a meaningful relation in your entire life, I mean ever!
You get the point right? The despair, drudgery, hopelessness, agony, existential angst that is the essence of most plots of indie films.
Cinema is escapism. It is entertainment. It takes us away from our lives for a few hours and transports us to another world. However, if the make believe world of cinema not only mirrors, but magnifies the shortcomings of real life, it ceases to be escapism and at some point becomes painfully torturous. It becomes an affirmation of the misery in the world, the wretchedness of human existence.
Life is hard enough. At most times it is a struggle. Do we really need a confirmation of its trials and tribulations magnified on a 40 feet celluloid screen for a whole uninterrupted two hours?
I will always be an indie film loyalist. But for the sake of sanity, I may become a temporary Hollywood neophyte.