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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

International Film Critique

I was quite excited to see we had a foreign film assignment since the semester began. I actually watched this film the summer just before this class started. The film is called “Un Homme Qui Dort” directed by Bernard Queysanne.  It is a French foreign film filmed in monochrome during 1974. If you want a movie that picks at the deepest questions regarding humanity and our existences this is your choice. This movie I would say has a gradual emphasis on existentialism and nihilism in the most artistic way possible. The way this film was made is completely gorgeous and the aesthetics are very avant-gard. Not only is the scenery and every scene artistic but the commentary done by a French woman is fantastically written as well and her voice is smooth as silk.

Let’s get into the philosophy of this movie. (This is a humanities class right?) This movie is about a college student who slowly starts to take a backseat into his own life and lets each moment pass without resistance only acceptance. Only observing and not acting. Being as passive as one can possibly be. Losing his grasp on his control over his own life almost in a way as if he has given up on everything but not exactly.  He goes from being a normal college student living in the heart of Paris the cultural heart of the world, to a former shell of himself with every passing scene becoming more isolated and alienated. In unique beautifully shot scenes where you can see him contemplating deeper and profound questions revolving around his own existence. Questioning his happiness, his self-worth, the meaning of life and existence itself. His own sense of self starts to deteriorate further and further. This film is what I would say is an artistically portrayed poem of a severe existential crisis. A lot of the writing for this film is written in the form of 2nd person where you place yourself in the footsteps of this man who struggles to know himself. Like most philosophy writings, the dialogue is spoken to the writer in an allegorical and metaphorical way. Almost like a canvas of gorgeously picked out words that act as paint to depict a greater picture or meaning that only you can interpret as there is no clear ending or meaning to the film. I believe if Nietzsche was born in the 1950s he would’ve loved this film.

Sometimes we get lost with the meaning that we place into the world we live in. Our meanings of existence is unique to each one of us. We dictate it and it is molded by our feelings and experiences. But sometimes, and I know this dreadful feeling all too well when we question our existence to its very core, it can get extremely overwhelming and scary. A lot of the quotes from this film resonated with me and the fantastic shots that went along with them gave me a feeling of what I would describe as somber. This film articulates the feelings of numbness, pain, emptiness, and the depersonalization that can come from our own contemplations of some of the morose realities that arise with existentialism. It questions the methods we use to cope with our own sorrows in existence in which can be rooted to escapism in every form. What’s the point of going to work, school, socializing, seeking love, finding joy and happiness, living real life experiences, or anything else that makes life precious if we all die in the end? For me, well that’s what makes it worth it. Experiencing all you can until the end molding your own life into what you want it to be. The fact that there may be no meaning is a reason in itself to live. Although this film was extremely melancholic and lugubrious I found it to be a beautiful piece of poetry in the form of commentary and grungy visuals. We can connect with this feeling of alienation the main character (whose name is never mentioned) feels. Some of us only a little but others maybe have a more similar view of the world devoid of the slightest bit of purpose or reason and this film depicts that perfectly.

The cultural differences in this film are very much different from the world we live in today. This film is filmed all entirely in Paris and uses an abstract, unique way of filming than most films being made in the 70s. It films the beautiful Parisian architecture as it was the 1970s and the film techniques are unique and artistic. I can see hipster film majors at the time eating this film up when it was released. The lighting has a bigger emphasis on shadows and the contrast is sometimes reversed, depicting the sky in an all-white eerie manor. Still shots of this man roaming the city of Paris day and night in a black and white raw and minimalistic way of filming. The different techniques the director uses when the man is experiencing sudden feelings of alienation and anxiety also coexist with the reader’s tempo and emotion of her voice getting more distraught and panicked is a detail I really loved.

I think this film definitely could be related to our happiness and the good life readings. Although this film is definitely not about happiness and the ideal “good life”, it brings about questions as to what is the point of life itself and how life can be viewed with the absence of happiness. I guess maybe the other side of happiness and the good life that is often overlooked and never emphasized. That is existentialism and nihilism. I think you made us watch a foreign film to get us to gain new perspectives of different cultures and how they were at the certain time period they were filmed. Because a lot of American culture has this sort of self-obsession with ourselves especially when it comes to films, a lot of us never consider what other perspectives to film other foreign countries can bring to the table. We are often sheltered because of this (unless you enjoy film). It gives us a way to take a front row seat into a certain place and time that we are completely unfamiliar with and that to me is extremely fascinating.

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