jueves, 2 de febrero de 2012

On human misery and the mind drifting away

The theme of alcohol and drug addiction has been treated in several ways in contemporary cinema. We can cite films such as Figgi’s Leaving Las Vegas or Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream and, of course, the classic nineties’ dirty realistic epic on the matter, Boyle’s Trainspotting. But maybe there is nothing like the powerful, bare, outrageous and impressionist version of drug addiction and its consequences as Terry Gilliam’s Tideland.
Faithful to his dramatic, fabulist and daylight dreaming style, that has rendered amazing films such as Brazil, The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys; in his 2005 drama he manages to face the spectator with mind’s drifting away as a consequence of a life shaped entirely by drugs. Whose mind? Certainly the addicted one, but moreover the mind of his beloved ones. In this case Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland), the ten year old daughter of a couple of heroin addicts whose way of life ends in their premature death by overdose.
We can interpret the strange and in a certain way funny girl’s mental life as a child’s thing; a way to escape to an unbearable situation, to handle the shock of having lost her parents in question of months by their selfish actions. But it’s more than that. We are no longer in front of a matter of decision, a determination of a free life election made by a young woman. On the contrary, we confront a living prison situation.  Jeliza-Rose is a prisoner of destiny. Her intense mental life, fulfilled with imaginary girlfriends made by her own fingers and old doll’s heads, her relationship and infatuation with a handicapped boy and her living with his father’s mummified corpse, turns her into a mental disabled person.

Tideland's Jeliza-Rose

One of the most disturbing things in Gilliam’s film is precisely the overlapping realities in the kid’s thought: the blurring transition between child’s play and schizophrenic episodes of insane fantasy. There’s a point where one is equal to the other. Perhaps in contemporary movies only David Lynch’s Lost Highway surpasses Gilliam’s precision to set in cinematographic language the mental insanity of a person.
So, she’s the one who carries the weight of her family sins (in this sense her encounter with a kind of witch neighbor, an ex-girlfriend of her father, is a representation of the demons from the past). Cornerstone of conservatism, but certainly an unavoidable starting point of socialization, family is the boiling point of mind's construction. When the natural imperfections of this psychobiological work are so much, it turns into a zone of deconstruction of human features that yields alienated individuals, living in misery inwards of their damaged mental life.
Jeliza-Rose’s character hits a deep nerve in the viewer's sensibility because she’s a very young person living a current tragedy only equipped with a common mental fire-exit: leaving the mind drifting away in the immense ocean of insanity, turning it into an outcast of our social diseases and our obstinate self-destructive spirit.
Contrary to the director’s pretention in the strange prologue to the film, this is not a story of a girl’s dreams and her desire to live, this is a powerful picture on some of the roots of our social dismal construction. In this way, American sociologist and thinker Immanuel Wallerstein has set up that drug addiction is a symptom of something deeper and much more urgent than a simple matter of law, police or personal disease; it is a kind of self-isolation from a reality so overwhelming that is better to get out from it. It’s a rebellion against the social system; a false one, alas, but the one that millions and millions of persons around the world have in hand despite a global structure that allows production, distribution, offering, acquisition and complicity of States, governments and institutions worldwide. 
As Peter Sloterdijk has established in his Magnus opera, Spheres, there is a major problem in the fourth sphere or fourth vital cover of infants; that is, in their socialization process since the birth's fact. We're receiving our children in a paradoxical world that is entirely efficient in pragmatic comfortability (medical technology, scientific survey of human body, and so on), but fails miserably to conform immune minds to neurosis, insecurity and fear. That's the echo of the actual world that sounds aloud in Tideland's fantasy, that's the electric shock that its terrible fantasy unchains in the viewer, no other than the dread of our times' possibilities.


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