Monday, February 19, 2007
There is a god in every artist. This is what the films Being John Malkovich, Shadow of the Vampire, 8 ½ and Gods and Monsters convey. The structure and substance behind these films as well as all manifestations of the arts portray the genius that the artist is. The director, being the Supreme Being behind the film, possesses the freedom to create what he has in mind, and can pull it off especially for arts’ sake. The actors, while merely players, have the same liberation to interpret their roles. As such, an artist oozes with originality, and this is shown in all films. In Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, Craig Schwartz pursued his puppetry even as he did not get paid well for his art. In fact, at one point of the movie, he got a beating from an irate father while he performed on the streeet. When a secret office portal led to the consciousness of John Malkovich, a Hollywood actor, Craig was so empowered that he seemed god-like in getting in and out of Malkovich’ body. This power got the better of him that he permanently occupied Malkovich’ body in order to taste fame as an actor and, still in pursuit of his first love, as a puppeteer. Jonze as a director is another manifestation of the artist as god, since he was able to come up with a unique movie with actors that were barely recognizable, departing from the conventions of Hollywood films many of which forego substance over form. In Shadow of the Vampire by E. Elias Merhige, F. W Murnau agreed with a real vampire, Schreck, to give the monster the leading lady as food, in exchange of a realistic performance. Murnau figuratively became the film’s true monster by pursuing his vision and feeding his crew, staff and his own humanity all for the sake of getting immortalized via his art. As a god-like being—the director—Murnau demanded blood to complete his filming, very much in the same manner as vampires nourished themselves. In 8 ½, the artist suffers some kind of block on top of his insecure relationships with women. In effect, he had nothing to say to his demanding producers but said it anyway. This statement puts the artist in god-like mode since even at the extreme poverty of the imagination, he can articulate something: that he is empowered even when he has none. Far from his protagonist, the director has a slew of things to say, from mid-life crisis, lust, parental memories, childhood, hatred for women, among other topics. In Gods and Monsters, homosexual director James Whale was shown to be the god of his filmmaking career. To go with his godness, the aging Whale was still active despite attacks of strokes. His time of shining in Hollywood was marked by absolute freedom as a creative worker, producing films that were unforgettable. At the forefront of these films were Frankenstein and Bride of Frankstein, which obtained life after creation, much like when the Frankenstein monster acquired life after a triumphant operation by Vincent Frankenstein. When people interpreted his movie, their reactions range from amusement to horror to ludicrousness, but what was important was that the artist as God was able to transmit his message in his films through the intercession of the monster.
The abovementioned films tell that the artistic process is the making of a genius. It is the most salient form of man’s use of his God-given talent. In a loose extent, man practices his godlikeness whenever he engages in the artistic process. In Being John Malkovich, Malkovich got to see what was on his own mind when he entered the mysterious portal leading to his own consciousness. What he saw in his mind was a whole lot of his replicas mouthing “Malkovich…Malkovich…Malkovich.” As such, he has seen his ego, the seat of man’s deity-ness. Being an artist, Malkovich populates his ego because for himself, he is the god. In Shadow of the Vampire, Murnau decided all alone what to happen in his film, even if it proved disastrous, if through this disaster his vision would be fulfilled. He allowed the vampire to drink the blood of the film’s cast and crew for his art’s ultimate purpose. He was the god of his film. In 8 ½, the film about an artist who had nothing to say is a stroke of brilliance of the artist who made this film as a means of saying he had something to say unlike his film’s character. In Gods and Monsters, the artistic process remains generally vivid to the gay director despite the onslaught of age, which says so much of the genius that Whale was notwithstanding the silver hair.
The films as a statement of the artistic process tell that should there be an artist in me, I can nurture it for the god in me to emerge. Art is a product of liberal expression, so I see that the god in artist is really privileged to say what one wants without having to apologize for it. I want to effect godlike traits because the artistic process occurs in a genius, and with what talent one has, one is capable of transforming the world.