Lost in the multitude, I struggle to understand and cope
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I just watched, after a particularly depresing evening, a Stephen Spielberg movie, The Terminal, where Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, who is caught in bureaucratic glitches that make him an "unacceptable", someone who can neither fly back to his country somewhere in East Europe nor can he go out of the terminal into the Big Apple to fulfill his father's wish of completing a tin of papers signed by 57 famous jazz musicians. He has to stay in the terminal for nine months, when he impresses and become friends with everybody in the terminal except the cold and ruthless boss who sees the east European, innocent, non-English speaking Navorski as a potential threat to the way he runs the airport. but Victor remains wise to his traps as well as his machinations and ultimately forces the boss to concede defeat and let him get the one last signature that will complete the set. A run-of-the-mill human interest story in a way, but nonetheless raises certain pertinent questions.
I was talking to a friend just before i switched on the movie and the conversation was largely built around success and its relation to family and human obligations. One aspect on which we both agreed on and I suppose most readers will do the same to was the increasing need of individual space, time and mental preparation to fulfill the challenges urban societies and a globalized reality would throw before us. Ambition is all, and success maketh a woman, or a man, more a man. And when was money more powerful than it is now? And yet, we speak of families, love, affection,bondage? Are not these all old fashiones, reactionary(!) concepts? Are not conversations, relations, friendships made based nothing but on work? Can a moonlit night be a moment to be savoured, silently, without thinking of deadlines? Are not people judging themselves based on which bigshots they are dining with or even better (if sexual orientations allow) sleeping with?
Navorski made me realize that this utterly artificial, selfishly individualistic outlook towards life may be actually damaging to our well being. His cool ways of taking things was diametrically opposite to the highly calculative brains of the Airport boss. But it was the boss who was breaking things, when Naborski stubbornly hung on to his wish to fulfill his father's dying desire - to get the last signature - to fill up that old can of peanuts with the signed papers of 57 great jazz artists. What a simple wish! And Spielberg so daftly keeps it hidden from the audience for most part of the movie,and we keep guessing Navorski's designs and drive ourselves nuts, just like that silly old successful head of JFK Airport, New York.
The movie has a number of flaws, but I don't want to get started on that. My literature-spoiled-enriched-crooked-crumpled mind almost made me look at the movie as yet another popular appropriation of the subaltern, and it would have been absolutely easy to can the film using the paradigms of theory. But, just for this once, for a day, let me love, let me admire, let me write simply on Viktor "the goat" Navorski - my saviour for the evening. Now, it is well past midnight, and the computer clock is beckoning me of duties to be done tomorrow, starting at eight in the morning. I might be late, I might oversleep, and I don't really care a hoot. Because this is a moment when I need to write, I have to write. As i am saluting the human spirit, saluting the lovable, clumsy, magnificently human, saluting Viktor Navorski.