Turn off your mind relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying
Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void,
It is shining, it is shining.
Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being
Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing
And ignorance and hate mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing
But listen to the colour of your dreams
It is not leaving, it is not leaving
So play the game “Existence” to the end
Of the beginning, of the beginning
—The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows off of Revolver
I watched the Guy Ritchie film Revolver for the second time last night. As film making goes, holistically speaking it is not Ritchie’s best film, but I do think it is his most thoughtful and imaginative. At times the film meanders into vignettes that lack coherence and become self-absorbed with their aesthetic. There are worse ways to drift in filmmaking.
The film meditates through melodrama and action on the nature of consciousness and the destructive nature of ego. Using character constructs that represent the Id and the dynamics of desire and greed, Revolver is a persistent revolving door of interior dialogue that manifests itself as exterior drama. Jake Green (Jason Statham) is centered between Avi (André Benjamin) and Zach (Vincent Pastore) as a character bent on revenge who discovers the emptiness of that proposition and realizes the center of all of our battles is our own Ego. We are always fighting ourselves — desire, greed, love, hate, fear.
Kabbalahistic references aside (Ritchie was married to Madonna and became immersed in her nutty religious gravity) the film reminded me of a very simple premise, that the frame of our lives is our own. We own it. Not to be a reductionist, but it begins with the glass is either half full or half empty. Of course the glass is also neither and if we stretch our imaginations the glass is only there because we decide it is there at all. Materiality is dependent on consciousness. A film which does a far superior job of digging into this, dumbed-down dialogue aside, is Inception. The dynamics of parallel contingencies that persist within the mind can be unravelled in much greater detail in a longer essay. For a snippet of the philosophy of transgression in Lacanian terms you should read Zizek’s essay on Casablanca. Essentially, Zizek posit that the lost piece of film two-thirds through Casablanca where the cut away suggests either carnal or spiritual passion is a classic example of our own minds filling in the blanks of materiality. Of course when we enjoy cinema, we are removed yet again from the stages of reality, because mentally we become the omnipresent but invisible participant in the virtual reality of the film itself.
Films ability as a medium to fragment time/space gives us access to ideas on consciousness that are more difficult to access in other art forms. Francis Bacon’s referencing of Muybridge and Braque and Picasso’s invention of Cubism are just two examples of painting’s effort to do the same, but in this digital age where time is compressed by the persistence of moving images, film still holds greatest frame for the play of consciousness. The revolution that Revolver touches upon, is the liberation of the mind from ego. In reality the imposition is much subtler and complicated where we find ourselves balancing our consciousness between what Lacan described as ‘imaginary order’ and ‘symbolic order’, the former being the fantasy image of ourselves and our desires and the latter referring to the global constructs of linguistics, communication, ideology and law. Many a student of aesthetics has been bound up in unraveling collective consciousness as it relates to that tenuous space called beauty and the sublime. The symbolic attachments to the above photo of the non-speaking Lollie character that holds a brief cameo in the film tells all. Ritchie’s failing in Revolver is either his own intellectual weakness or his assumption that intellectual density and popularity are irreconcilable. At times the film using a blunt instrument to telegraph teleology. It’s too bad, because at other times it approaches the sublime. In this scene, Ritchie meditates on the nature of beauty and desire, which is often a driving force in counter point to our fears.
The ability to sit still with our feelings can provide us with a bandwidth that is nearly infinite. I like to think of the ego in parallel to gravity. It is a weak force but the one that inherently ties the universe together through its invisibility. Just because reality is ultimately immeasurable doesn’t mean it isn’t a son of a bitch. Stepping away from the metaphors of our minds if only for a brief moment, can give us the perspective necessary to allow us a humble fascination. Beauty is not a destructive angel if you realize it is simply a part of the complex mechanics of our minds.
I often think that I end up watching films at exactly the right time I need to see that particular perspective. Of course, that in and of itself is an invention of my own ‘imaginary order’ but the lie serves its purpose, to remind me to sit still.