The Wrath of the Lamb

Anatoly Solonitsyn (the Writer) – ‘Stalker’ by Andrei Tarkovsky

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Keep awake, keep awake, artist, 
Do not give into sleep…
You are eternity’s hostage
And prisoner of time
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~ Boris Pasternak

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The film ‘Stalker’, made in 1979 by Andrei Tarkovsky, is an absolute wonder. As usual with Tarkovsky, every shot in it is unique and intrinsically harmonious. As usual with Tarkovsky, you will have your breath taken away. And you will be bored too. And puzzled. Searching for a meaning that will elude you. For his cinema is not about entertainment, plot, revelation, or resolution. His cinema is about poetry, beauty, and the search for bringing forth art’s ultimate purpose, which is the uncovering of the core and substance of our being. With ‘Stalker’, you will feel what it is to be locked in a maze. And as usual with Tarkovsky, amidst the shallow words are pearls. And amongst the mud and the stagnant waters is the eternal truth.

The Stalker is a simple man living with his wife and his little girl in an undetermined country. His job is to guide people who want to enter into a mysterious place called ‘the Zone’, protected by barbed wires and police forces. This is a green, lush, deserted land where stand some vestiges of settlements. Maybe this is the consequence of a fallen meteorite. We don’t know. There is a place, concealed in the Zone, where desires come true. But as one of the protagonists finds out, “it is not merely a desire but one’s most secret desire that is granted here. Here will come true that which reflects the essence of your nature. It is within you, it governs you, yet you are ignorant of it.” As a result, many people want to reach this place in the Zone called the ‘Room’, and they need guides to lead them to it. This time, the Stalker is on again for a new trip with two men called the ‘Writer’ and the ‘Professor’. 

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A reflection on the qualities of Andrei Tarkovsky’s movie ‘Stalker’… (READ MORE…)

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The Flowers of St. Francis

Brother Nazario Gerardi – ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’

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Praise be to you, O Lord, and to all your creatures. 
Especially Brother Sun, through whom you light our days. 
He is beautiful and radiant and resplendent, 
and derives all meaning from you
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~ Canticle to the Sun

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The deepest realisations and expressions of truth in Christianity have sometimes come from words and understanding, as was the case with Meister Eckhart, but it is, by far, not the most common path. Many a man or a woman have come to embrace God’s being through the expression of profound love and surrender. Such a path was trodden by Francis of Assisi, and has been splendidly shown in Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’. And if all one knew of Francis of Assisi was through watching this supremely elegant film, one would know what needs to be known, one would meet the essential — the essence — of this man’s life, of anybody’s life when it is lived from love and humility. One would know of the pure joy of being, of trust in life’s bounty, of care and attention for every beings on earth.

Showing only a moment of Francis’ life, the film is more a parable on the qualities that were emphasised throughout his life and teachings, than the real description of his life’s journey. Through a succession of simple vignettes, we are exposed to a panoply of Francis’ various expressions of love. We are shown a man who lived with his heart, and a life that has been made into a prayer to god. We are shown that prayer is but an act of love. We are shown people coming together around a common faith in God, their daily life and turmoils, their behaviours. Francis of Assisi encouraged his disciples to access or express god’s being by being oneself an example of the presence of god. And by making this presence shine in all their daily activities, so that the brightness of god can be harvested by everybody around. These expressions are in the film like the little flowers of St. Francis. A whole bouquet of them.

Praise be to you, O Lord, 
for Sister Moon and all the stars, 
which you cause to shine clear and bright
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~ Canticle to the Sun

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A homage to Francis of Assisi through Roberto Rossellini’s movie… (READ MORE…)

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The Word

‘Ordet’ – Carl Theodor Dreyer – A/S Palladium

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Ordet is a difficult film to enter. 
But once you’re inside, 
it is impossible to escape
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~ Roger Ebert 

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There is a beautiful line in the film ‘Ordet’. This is when Inger answers her husband who is complaining about his lack of faith. “It will come. Just you see how warm you will feel then. And how happy. It’s nice to be happy, isn’t it?” How revealing that she equates here faith with happiness. For faith in God is usually meant to be a deeply ingrained certainty or belief, something artificial, made up, sustained. Serious spiritual seekers will tend to abandon the word, in favour of the search for — and ultimately abidance in — something that is our natural and inborn identity, always present in and as ourself, never at a distance. But there is indeed a kind of faith necessary for the discovery of this hidden identity. This is better called the love of truth, or a deeply ingrained eagerness to find the truth, an earnestness, a fervour that starts and fuels the journey towards the understanding of ourself. 

Faith and the lack of faith are at the centre of the Danish film ‘Ordet’, meaning ‘The Word’. This is a film of iconic dimension, that has been celebrated the world over for its perfect craftsmanship and its deeply religious subject. It was made in 1955 by one of the greatest film director in history, Carl Theodor Dreyer. Watching Ordet, you are shown to what degree of elevation a film can be subject to in the hands of a true artist. Watching the film, you are slowly grabbed and lead to unforgettable artistic and spiritual heights. Dreyer, who thought deeply about his art, once said: “There is a certain resemblance between a work of art and a person. Just as one can talk about a person’s soul, one can also talk about the work of art’s soul, its personality. […] Style is not something that can be separated from the finished work of art. It saturates and penetrates it, and yet is invisible and undemonstrable.”

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A reflection on faith with Carl Dreyer’s masterpiece ‘Ordet’… (READ MORE…)

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The Song of the Little Road

Subir Banerjee (Apu) in ‘Pather Panchali’ – Wikimedia

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You never know how and when a piece of art, a film here, is going to touch the soft grounds of delight and beauty. And how it will come to be loved by people for opening that hidden, special place in their heart. ‘Pather Panchali’, or ‘The Song of the Little Road’ is one such heart opener. It was the first film made by the Indian director Satyajit Ray. It describes the life of a poor family in a village of rural Bengal, with its many struggles. You feel the occasional pinches of hunger, the cruelty, the thwarted expectations, the jealousies, the losses, intertwined with moments of peace, quietness, and insouciance. Days spent between the simple joys of life and the tragedy of death. 

What is it that makes a movie conducive to feeling in ourself that flavour of beauty? Often, such movies are slow, meditative, and as a result can bring a feeling of boredom in ourself. The craving in ourself for experiences that either fulfils our inner sense of lack, or covers it up, is not being quenched. And the mind quickly jumps in and understands it as the film being not good, not interesting. But this judgment may have nothing to do with the film, and everything with our own self’s tendencies and structure. 

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Approaching the qualities of Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Pather Panchali’… (READ MORE…)

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The Sacrifice

‘The Adoration of the Magi’ – Leonardo da Vinci, 1480 – WikiArt

This is the first piece of a new category in the blog called ‘Impressions of Truth’ which aims at exploring art and spirituality through the medium of films, and celebrating various famous masterpieces of world cinema. Art is at the core of the spiritual endeavour and creativity is one of the foremost qualities and expressions found with the discovery of our true nature. The function of art is to give us a taste of the deepest reality hidden behind our human endeavours. And filmmaking has uniquely tailored visual and narrative qualities, perfectly conducive to bringing us closer to the inherent peace, harmony and love within us. So let’s immerse ourselves in the unique intimacy of a cinema room, the play of forms on the screen, and the ancient gift of being told another human story…

As an introduction, I would like to warn that, for the specific purpose of this text, I have chosen to describe the precise contours of the movie’s storyline. This is a film where the narration is not of the utmost importance, but be prepared if you plan to watch the movie and would rather not know so much

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The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, 
to plough and harrow his soul, 
rendering it capable of turning to good.”
~ Andrei Tarkovsky

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The screen and cinema room turned to a pitch black. Only the faint crackling murmur of an old empty sound track could be heard. And then… Then slowly rose the most exquisite music. ‘Erbarme Dich’ of the St Matthew Passion by J. S. Bach. Only hear this piece once in a movie by Andrei Tarkovsky, and its hearing will be forever associated with the great Russian film maker. Tarkovsky once wrote: “My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware that beauty is summoning him.” The film ‘The Sacrifice’, by the master, is a living testimony of this claim. 

As this most divine music unfolds, a darkly lit portion of a painting comes to life. This is Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Adoration of the Magi’, where you see Jesus as a baby, sitting in Mary’s lap, reaching for the gift that is presented to him by one of the Magi. Then an exquisite feminine voice rises among the violins and sings these poignant verses: ”Have mercy, my God, for the sake of my tears! See here before you, heart and eyes weep bitterly. Have mercy, my God.”

Tarkovsky’s movies move slowly, with long takes, and unconventional scenario and structure. This can be a challenge for the viewer who is used to expect from a movie the usual suspense, pleasure and excitement. The thrill comes here from a wholly different place. It comes from silence, harmony and beauty. And if the purpose of art is of the deepest kind, Tarkovsky is indeed one of its most faithful representative, and could very well make his these words by Rupert Spira: “The role of the artist is to transmit to humanity the deepest experience of reality. Art is remembrance. It is love. It is like a sword that distinguishes between appearances and reality, or a cradle that reminds us of home.” This indeed is a form of elevation, and the film makes it immediately clear.

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Discover the beauty and qualities of Andrei Tarkovsky’s last movie… (READ MORE…)

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