The Two Types of Cinema

The Two Types of Cinema: For the Commune and for the Individual

It is no doubt a tempting exercise to classify a group into two categories. Two being the smallest number greater than one, such an exercise is not really taxing on the mind. Just choose a criteria and you are done! And this is exactly what I will do this lazy Sunday morning! I will seek to compartmentalize cinema into two categories!

At times, when watching a film alone or with a select few acquaintances and getting immersed in it, I wondered if it was actually a boon that I was watching it in private, rather than in a hall full of people I didn’t know and whose reactions and myriad activities I had no control over. However, this is the case only with certain films. Certainly, not all films fall into this class. For example, as I watched the closing sequence of Kamaleswar Mukherjee’s Meghe Dhaka Tara and hearing the ganasangeet fill the auditorium with its abundant energy and vigour, I really longed many times later to experience the film again – not just for the brilliant treatment and performances, but also for this icing on the cake – this superb, throbbing conclusion. This was something best experienced in the midst of a mass, perhaps even more aptly in the middle of nature, under a clear sky and sitting on the grass. Saving Private RyanAvatar and Gladiator are other films that I feel would be a real treat on the big screen with booming surround speakers and yes, with people for company. The modern fare with the fancy 3D stuff and visual extravaganza would certainly fall under this category.

Chamber dramas and tales of personal relationships, though, would strictly fall in the other category in my book – these are films of a personal nature and the technology of a TV screen would suffice. The presence of dozens of others with you, with varying degrees of business and relatives to attend to, can actually be a nuisance. Think of the pivotal scenes in any Bergman or Rituparno drama. And now visualize a cellphone merrily going off somewhere in the dark behind you. I rest my case!

Obviously, not all cinema is delicate or personal in nature. Adventure and war films certainly can withstand a minor assault or two of the nature I described above. The tremendous vivacity of such films in fact requires the energy of a mass and each member of the audience feeds of this combined buzz. The thumping soundtrack of The Dark Knight is best enjoyed with fellow fans. But quiet non-verbal communication grows fonder in the serenity, and want of sync in the mood of the audience can only spoil the magic.

But of course, a classification into two water-tight compartments can never do any form of art justice – least of all cinema. There definitely are films which do not clearly fall under any one of thee two categories, and then there are films which fall under both in non-overlapping sections.

So, long live all cinema, but to each its own –  treatment !

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