In The Darkness, As a Light

From Close-Up, by Abbas Kiarostami

Aristotle says there are only 36 plots that can be narrated in stories. It is true that no stories have been told apart from these 36 plots in literature theatre, cinema, and narratives. I seriously reject his theory and I believe stories can be narrated that are fresh from these thirty six plots and one day I would love to see myself doing it. On the first hand, apart from indulging into the true false debate of Aristotle’s theory, here a deep introspection is required. To introspect just think what differences you could find between the content of Vietnam colony (1990’s Tamil movie), Avatar (2009), and Embrace of the Serpent (2016 Columbian film)

Avatar is the story about a group of humans trying to colonize Pandora, a moon inhabited by humanoid tribal alien species called Na’vi, by waging a war against them to acquire a unique resource, a rock unobtanium. To gain their trust for this a human, the protagonist is sent, with the mission of getting himself accepted by them as their own. He is given a new identity for this.

Vietnam colony speaks about a group of corporate trying to acquire a colony from its people. ‘Hero’ is sent on a mission to gain their trust, and make them accept him and finally convince them to give up their land to the corporate.

A part of Embrace of the serpent deals with an American agent posing himself as an enthusiastic traveler to a native Colombian tribe, but actually this agent is on a mission to check the possibilities of colonizing the place for its resources.

Aristotle seems to have a point, right? I fear and prevent myself from a restrictive thought, generally any thought that narrows down the liberalities of stories. I think due to the same reason great storytellers reject the concept of genres in stories. If genres become path pavers for a storyteller when creating stories then their stories will get into confinements. Genres are only for the viewer or reader to pull him in to the story. So, genres are not needed to be worried about by a writer when writing a piece. Then what they need to worry about. For this, take the case of the above three movies. These movies speak about colonization of native places by a foreign body for resources through sending an agent to earn the natives’ trust and check the possibilities of colonizing. But the differences start emerging when timeline and space of the stories come into play. According to the timeline and space, the science, geopolitics, economics and every worldly aspects change altogether to speak different philosophy of the world in which the story is happening. So, the characters’ traits, attributes change altering the thought process and eventually the motive of characters. This motive affects the decision taken by the characters at different points and course changes. Then, journey which the piece offers differs to give people different experience. That’s why the above taken movies give people varied experiences though bearing thematic and plot similarities. These worldly characteristics and characters play a Permutation Combination game to yield rhythmic narratives that are contextually different and vast to manipulate the emotions invested on it. Every art has its own rhythm but especially cinema vows much to music as both art forms, with their rhythmic nature of visuals and sounds commands the audience and embark them into a journey of emotions by tone and mood easily. Yeah, stories in novel also set the tone and mood by choice of words for a particular context, but cinema and music are much more related. Speaking about this rhythm, it gets constructed as a whole and called ‘structure’. Also, contexts do come together to choose its own medium of narrating the story that is ‘form’. Structure and Form are like amoeba, whose shape or outlook can have infinite possibilities. I think this nature of stories make them unique and vast as sky.

Generally, Form and structure are dictated by the voice or views of auteur narrating stories. To make clear this point I take the example of a recent Tamil film’ Visaaranai’. Visaaranai voices against the ‘Strong eat the weak’ instances that are happening in a democratic society. It speaks about Human Rights of people in lower spectrum with no voice of their own being exploited by people at higher level in hierarchy. Misuse and selfish use of Power, Control by a system’s higher authority lead to exploitation of those who do not adjust with the ‘morals’ proposed by the former. This voice of the filmmaker is evident in the film’s form as the first half of the movie narrates voiceless immigrants who were working day and night to meet their means [one of the character in the film works day and night, is also against ‘Human Rights’ but he doesn’t know that he is exploited for work] with no identity become vulnerable to a crime trial that they were in no way related. They were abused by the stronger police officials to admit the crime that they never committed who enjoy unquestionable power to do anything they want to solve a case. Then, the latter half explores the intricate nature of ‘hierarchy levels’ in Police department and its own ‘inside’ exploitation of power. These two prisms being thematically connected investigates the different trials that come together in film’s form and structure to serve filmmakers’ voice against ‘Strong eat the weak’ nature of the system. Try yourself by taking big epic like Mahabharata to small short stories. Then, the vastness will be understood.

What is seen is different but the form and structure with its rhythm call for an intellectual debate and makes us to get connected spiritually thus giving a transported experience. I think that’s why Stanley Kubrick once said


May be. Also, I don’t reject the concept of content or plot entirely. If Content is to be seen as the ‘Parameter’ of an art then Form, Structure and Rhythm are the ‘Metameters’ that are to be felt. I think these ‘Metameters’ are the variable for an art form to reinvent itself in evolution of mankind with changing time.

Personally, as a cinephile, this understanding of form and rhythm struck me hard by watching films of great filmmaking auteur Mr.Abbas Kiarostami.He is born as an Iranian but the whole world of filmmaking vows to him. With his stories that are simplest eventually becoming truest to life has invented the form and rhythm through his deep vision. For example, his Docu-Fiction ‘CLOSE UP’ blends the form of both documentary and fiction greatly to give an unforgettable experience. His stories are socially responsible and he had the intention not to mislead any viewer by glamorizing morally bad values. Great auteurs return to moral stories at one point of time but Abbas Kiarostami from his start narrates stories with highest sensibilities for morals. By seeing his films, I wonder if love is the universal communication and connect between different people at various parts of the world with numerous differences then stories are also universal communication and connect between people, with Form, Structure and rhythm being the medium to express. On being universally communicative, the Master Kiarostami says-

“In order to narrate stories that are Universal, you need to be rooted to your own culture”

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