November 09, 2011

The Fundamental Need for Catharsis

“… cinema’s preeminence is arguably due to its unparalleled power to make us see and feel from another’s point of view. Through the screen, we can temporarily become braver, funnier, stronger, angrier, more beautiful, more vulnerable, or more beset with danger and tragedy. A good movie sends us out energized and refreshed in spirit. This cathartic contact with the trials of the human spirit is a need as fundamental as eating, breathing, or making love. Art, of which the cinema is but the youngest form, nourishes our spirit by engaging us in surrogate emotional experience and implying underlying patterns.”

Just today I read this passage from a wonderful book I’m reading these days. It’s called ‘Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics’ and is written by Michael Rabiger. It’s a great book because it insists on and inspires to, over several chapters, find an authorial voice, a compassionate heart, and a storyteller’s knack. I’m already one-third into it, and the technical aspects of film-making are yet to begin. I’m looking forward to that as well, but one thing is certain – it’ll be these early chapters that I’ll keep revisiting, for years to come.

I was especially affected by the above-mentioned lines by the author. I had never thought of cinema in this way, though it makes so much sense now. It is as if you already knew something, but never realized you knew that until someone pointed it out to you. Thank you, Mr. Rabiger.

And I feel so lucky to have watched Nanni Moretti’s ‘The Son’s Room’ (2001) on the day that I read these lines. The movie is a warm and moving tale of a family trying to cope up with the loss of a loved one. Using a simplistic design, but some unforgettable characters, it does take you through a ‘surrogate emotional experience’ and you do end up ‘refreshed in spirit’. Movies like these are like a rare beautiful dinner with your loved ones, like one odd evening at a quiet beach, like writing a simple but personal poem after a long, long time – you don’t know how much you needed them, until you actually made time for such experiences. I would like to share these lines from the song 'By this River' by Brian Eno that features in this film. It is brilliant in the context of the film. Do watch it soon!

“Here we are stuck by this river,
You and I underneath a sky
That’s ever falling down, down, down,
Ever falling down…

"Through the day as if on an ocean,
Waiting here always failing to remember
Why we came, came, came,
I wonder why we came…

"You talk to me as if from a distance
And I reply with impressions chosen
From another time, time, time
From another time…”


  1. great write up Satyanshu...will catch 'The Son's Room' soon..

  2. Thanks Hiren.
    But credit must go to Mr. Rabiger.

    Thanks anyway! :)