Ship of Theseus (2012)
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- 140 min.
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Wonderful film, poetry in motion. Anyone from a common man to a philosopher will enjoy this movie. Forget Indian cinema, this movie is worldwide among the best ever made. India needs to send this to the Oscars.
So I heard a lot of good buzz about this film, decided to see it...
And it completely blew me away. This movie is one of the high points of Indian cinema, easily the best Hindi movie of 2013. Visually and intellectually, never before have I come across a movie so stunning. It makes several coherent, thought-provoking points and has many beautiful narratives. So happy that it was released in my area.
by the way, the rating for the film is now 8.5 - not 5.4 as is given here.
In the last scene, the recipients of various corporeal donations gather in a natural history museum (a perfect location for considering dead body parts that have become revivified) to watch the home movies of their anonymous life-giver. Those home movies, preposterously, come from a spelunking expedition, a clear reference to Baudry’s favorite metaphor, Plato’s Cave. The organ recipients see not their donor but rather his shadow silhouetted against the cave’s craggy surfaces. The image projected against a screen in the museum then becomes the image projected against the screen. The diegetic cinematic experience suddenly becomes our own cinematic experience. The reality of the donor’s shadowy outline is all we or the film’s protagonists get, but as embodied spectators they know that it is a meager reality. (n.b. for those who have not seen it, I recommend John Carpenter’s Dark Star for a great climactic exploration of phenomenology).
The conclusion works beautifully because the entire movie is concerned principally with bodies, those that are living, dying, insensate, ailing, starving, suffering, struggling, and above all moving. A different kind of motion defines each narrative segment. In the first, the movement is circular, as exemplified by Aaliya’s desperate photographic twirl as she realizes that she has lost her artistic touch. The second segment’s motion is side to side, especially left to right, following the epic barefoot treks of Maitreya (I was reminded of the similar camera movement in Agnes Varda’s Vagabond). The motion of the third segment is up and down, specifically the climbing and descending of stairs, both those in the hospital and those leading to the unfortunate bricklayer’s home. The brief, final segment offers a more indeterminate motion, that of the donor, the fourth protagonist (the MacGuffin, but let’s call him Theseus instead), moving into the cave. On the screen, the motion is that of a shadow forever processing and recessing, moving forward in space and yet backwards out of the frame.
Theseus is present and not present, alive and dead, assembled and disassembled. His is one of my favorite paradoxes (just behind those of Zeno, probably), one that as a transhumanist/futurist I contemplate occasionally. But its answer rests ultimately on how one determines a thing’s thingness. Aristotle had a very specific response to this paradox, but I think Ship of Theseus does better by refusing to answer. A paradox is a thought experiment more than a true problem. Is the ship (or the body) still the same? The movie says both yes and no.
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In 2 official lists
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This movie ranks #61 in Golden Lotus Award - Best Indian Feature Film
This movie ranks #193 in ICM Forum's 500<400