How can man live in a box?
At the eve of winter's beginning in the South Hemisphere, I decided to go to Siberia with a movie that I took too long to reach.
Dersu Uzala, directed by Akira Kurosawa's in 1975, by request of the Russia Ambassador at that time, is more than I ever could imagine. The early 1900s witnessed a lot of changing around the world, and even in some remote places on Earth. The two main extraordinary characters represent how difficult the modernization can be: a Russian Captain meets a tribal hunter in one of his military exploring expeditions. A confrontation could arise from this meeting, but what happens it is just the opposite: their mutual and deep respect and friendship prove to us how different ways of living are possible to coexist - even if only by two special beings.
But something doesn't depend solely of their will. The modern world, in Kurosawa's view, is not able to sustain the simple ways of older times. In this, his thoughts meet Walter Benjamin's, whose ideas I mentioned three posts ago. Learning by experience and not only by intellect is a big lesson here, and the Captain cherishes all of what Dersu hand to him through simple and wise actions and words.
Cinematography is the way this story is told. At every scene, I couldn't let to think how difficult the shootings must have been. It is so overwhelmingly beautiful, that in a few minutes into the movie and I was in an almost meditative state. Some movies can do that, and Dersu Uzala is masterful in this and others aspects.
But the sadness, and loss and futility of some elements of modernization are presented too by Kurosawa, and the last tone in the movie is of mourning - a feeling matched to what we see at the last part of the movie, with Dersu losing his connections with nature, losing himself in a world that doesn't make sense to him anymore. It is devastating, through the poetic and respectful images of Kurosawa.
An afterthought: There are filmmakers that we respect and admire for their lifetime achievement, even with we haven't met some of their most appraised works. It was like that with me with some of them. After watching Woody Allen's Manhattan, 1979, and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, 1976, a couple of years ago, I could finally understand how ingenious they truly are - despite the fact that I already admired them. The same happened here with Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala. An outstanding movie, that transcends its own time - as classics are known for.
PS: The first time I was aware of how a movie can be a form of meditation was at the end of Departures (Okuribito), a 2008 Japanese production. During the final credits, no one got up to leave the cinema. A silence took hold of us all, and I realised how meditative I was. It had happened with me before, but that was the first time I could name it this way.
PPS: I use to call my flat "the little Siberia". The sun only reaches part of the living room during two months a year. I'm not complaining, I live in a fairly hot city. But yesterday, it was cold for our standards: 16 C. So Dersu Uzala was a fit choice for a chilly night. This morning, Brasilia seemed to remember that seasons do exist, and it was an unusual grey cold morning to salute the first day of winter :)