Saturday, 4 October 2014

REVIEW - MANAKAMANA (STEPHANIE SPRAY AND PACHO VELEZ)


Is there a more succinct or more successful example of the subjectivity of cinema than Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez's Manakamana? The simplicity and the specificity of their experiment doesn't just suggest the viewer to retreat into their thoughts, nor even encourage it, it actually relies upon it in order to function. Their trump card is that they induce a deep level of deep thinking with ease, beauty and honesty. Since one's feelings of any film are triggered by stimuli within it, the apparent minimalism of Manakamana might intimate a barren, distancing experience upon watching, but the contemplative attitude established by the first two cable car rides draw one's attention most naturally to the wealth of detail in the film. Sights and sounds generate as vivid a response as if we are in the car itself; in a canny and thoroughly original twist, Spray and Velez allow their subjects to acknowledge their presence - if only in passing moments wherein their performance slips - thereby emphasising this project's self-awareness. We mimic this introspection, while appreciating the sense of candid reality that it imbues in the film. And knowing that we're supposed to think this hard, and notice this much, and feel this strongly somehow doesn't diminish Manakamana's impact. Perhaps it's the element of surprise that the constantly-shifting focus entails - critical variables selected to invite levity, sympathy, or even just meditation on fundamental features of life. Whatever you'll observe in Manakamana, it'll be as unique to you as the film is to its medium, but the experience feels universal.