Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thank you Linklater

The thing that hits you most about Richard Linklater's Boyhood is the ambition; the scale I suppose. The canvas is so big and so much happens over the duration of the movie that by the time you leave Mason reflecting on life, sitting next to that pretty girl and watching that sunset, you feel exhausted. Linklater offers nothing new in terms of content that's not done before in this medium but like one of the film's many ecstatic reviews noted, this is probably the first time someone's been able to pull of something as real while covering such a long duration.

Coming to think of it, and since people have started calling it Linklater's magnum opus, I would like to believe that his directorial style and his experience of shooting films in real time has helped him manage this colossal aspiration. Boyhood, is quite literally, the story of a boy from age 6 to the time he goes to college at about 18. Similar stories have been handled before but Linklater's genius has been to work with, I come to understand, a loose script and then improvise on it during the time of shoot. By letting in popular culture and real-time events paint his narrative, he's brought a certain intimacy to the proceedings and I could really connect to a lot of things in the film that also formed a part of my growing up. Having seen his Before Trilogy and School of Rock, and now this, I can safely surmise that Linklater is more of an everyday documentarian than a highly opinionated individual trying to make the audience look at the world his way. That doesn't mean that he is not guided by his philosophy and his preoccupations, nor that there is anything wrong with showing the world from a certain point of view, but he seems to be more interested in learning why people change and what they change into during the course of their lives than put them into an artificially created uncomfortable situations and see how they react.

I remember hearing to him talk once about the 2 different kinds of filmmakers: One kind are those who like blasting rail sets and want to blast bigger rail sets and the other kind are those who read philosophy, dabble with arts and want to make pictures that reflect their ideas and ask questions. In his long and prolific career, Linklater has proved time and again the seriousness with which he treats his art, his willingness to experiment with genres and have fun; But mostly he has made the artform richer by his constant enquiry into the lives people live and their relentless pursuit in trying to add meaning to their existence.

Boyhood is the story of a dreamer, of a confused young man who is both bewildered by the beauty life offers him and also alarmed by the things people do to chain themselves up. I think the final scene poignantly sums up what Linklater has been trying to say all along: that the moment is out there to be grabbed but before you pull your hand out to get it, you are already past it and into the next one. I have a feeling that we'd be all the more better at dealing with our lives if we could relive it a second time. Living the same life all over again but with the foreknowledge of how things are going to end or begin would help us treat them with more love and value, but since we can't do that, rare films like this offer a great chance to look back and reflect. And maybe realise that life's not all that bad. It's just what you make of it, I guess.

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