Iain Reid is a writer. He was born in Canada 40 years ago. Four years ago he published a novel, his first novel. It instantly became an international hit. It was a difficult novel, which seemed to go in circles without going anywhere. But that didn’t stop it from being an international hit. No one wrote an article on how the story of Jake and Lucy, the couple who drives to his parents’ house, in the middle of a horrendous snowfall, could be interpreted, having a conversation of the highest intellectual level, while she thinks about leaving him . Yes, Reid’s novel is what’s behind the latest in the always controversial, by elusive, Charlie Kaufman. Your movie I’m thinking of quitting provokes, next to Tenet by Christopher Nolan, and perhaps shortly the recent winner of the Golden Shell in San Sebastián, Beginning, the attack of the well-off spectator who is not even aware that it is.
That is to say, the reader has long ago, one could say that from the very beginning of the novel as a novel – since its inventor Definitively, Miguel de Cervantes, wanted her unruly, funny, thoughtful, a Russian doll with almost infinite possibilities – he is aware of whether or not he is a well-off reader, and the critic, too. And that is so because the written narrative has centuries of history. Before her, there was an unwritten narrative that has already hardened conventional history –the classic approach, middle and end–: the words were carried away by the wind and at most the verse was used to make the whole something easily remembered. But with the written paper, and above all, with the invention of the printing press, and the appearance of the market, written art expanded and began to play with the convention. And there was reluctance at first – ¿or did Virginia Woolf hate the Ulises by Joyce? – but is there today?
The year 1974, Thomas Pynchon won the National Book Award by The rainbow of gravity, but not the Pulitzer, because its jury considered that it was a failed novel, “illegible, overwritten and obscene.” Today, it is one of the classics of postmodern American literature. Well, misunderstanding, in literature has also always been there, but it would seem that the reader is aware that in the, fortunately, large publishing market – which continues to grow, and in all directions, atomization is unstoppable and necessary for his iron ill health – he can choose one path or another, and he departs from what he knows is not going to give him what he expects, but does it happen that way in the cinema? Why are there no articles on the complexity of the novel’s plot I’m thinking of quitting (by the way, just published in Spanish by AdN) and yes about how boring and tedious it is cinematically? Why if we don’t understand Tenet don’t we enjoy seeing it?
It should never be generalized. Of course, there are those who enjoy it all the time. You enjoy David Lynch’s cryptic moving canvases, or the almost audiovisual artistic installations of Nicolas Winding Refn –No matter how much it is shot at from all fronts because what it does is incomprehensible, when it is perfectly understandable on a level that has nothing to do with the conventional. Also of the physical-theoretical puzzles of Christopher Nolan because something does not have to be understandable to be enjoyed. As any neurologist would admit, the brain has fun when it learns, and it always learns when exposed to something it has not experienced before. What role does will, or habit, play in this learning? One would say that a huge one, and still rigid. If only one in every 100 films tries to break the narrative scheme, isn’t it logical that it doesn’t make sense?
“A movie, or a television series, is the closest thing to a magic trick,” David Lynch once said, “and magicians,” he added, “should never explain their tricks.” Lynch invites the viewer thus to let himself be carried away by whatever he is seeing, forgetting the expectations. Expectations are the real enemy of cinema understood above all as an artistic gesture, a moving altarpiece, a breakdown of all conventions. In a movie of footnotes and metanarrative flow like What hides Silver LakeFor example, the viewer must immerse himself as he would in a David Foster Wallace novel. That is, you must let yourself be overwhelmed and misled, you must want to enjoy the microscenes of a macropuzzle that is not necessarily basted. Never assume that, whatever happens, there will be an approach, a middle and an end. Because, wouldn’t the viewer then be unaware that cinema can and should be more than an experience? mainstream like the one proposed by best sellers literary?
If only one out of every hundred movies you see tries to break the narrative scheme, isn’t it logical that you think it doesn’t make sense?
Maybe half a century ago, the years that it has existed 2001: A Space Odysseyby Stanley Kubrick (an exercise in expanding the cinematic battlefield without equal until then), the debate around the meaning of incomprehensible cinema did not exist as a debate because neither did the networks, nor the infinity of dissonant voices of the well-off spectators, who sometimes they are tanned but they are equally rigid. Not even film critics are safe from the curse of expectations. Nowadays there is more risk because, beyond the existence of the networks, it costs less and less to make films, or there is more money in the sector – before the bubble of the streaming-. After all, the market is so atomized that, won’t there already be a market for the audiovisual experiment, or the work, without more?
In any case, the existence of something incomprehensible to the viewer is always, although it may not seem like it, good news for cinema. It means, on the one hand, that this type of cinema has stopped depending on the market in the way it did – offering concessions, conforming to the established – and, therefore, it can launch itself to explore and expand limits without fear . On the other, that a spectator mature enough to accept that cinema is not only history, it is also, and has always been, shot to the jugular, as happened in the case of literature, labyrinth, aesthetic experience, abstract art. A story that no one has built, that the viewer, like the stories that await us in museums around the world, must learn to build by himself, or simply allow himself to lose himself in it because it is also a pile of mirrors in the to be reflected.