I was recently given a copy of the Julie Taymor’s film Across the Universe, having no knowledge of the plot, genre or any reviews. After starting slow this film has became one of the most memorable I have seen in some time—more striking as I am not a fan of any type of musical film at all. This has proven the be the exception.
I do not know where to start in describing this film. I found it enjoyable to watch (after the slow start) based on numerous features. It is a film I will need to watch many times to pick up even some of the nuances, references to pop culture and society in general. It is perhaps the varied allusions to events and actions in the 60’s (i.e. during and post the US-led incursion in Vietnam) and the very subtle (critical) commentary on these actions that was most appealing to me.
In essence the film is a love story, though one who thinks about film beyond a means of simple entertainment cannot miss the social commentary. The film tells a story and in exposing contrasts and apparent dualism’s constructed in society, it provides subtle reference to the hypocrisy of politicians, the naivety of society generally, and contrasts this with the often blinkered drive of those seeking to change the world. Across the Universe has done this well and very powerfully. I think its success lies in how it achieves this whilst not imposing on the viewer. A task often very difficult to achieve.
The timing of watching this film for me was interesting. Prior to watching it I was reading a post on a invisible voices: the blog of a friend whom I respect. References were made to recent discussions of a direction for ‘the movement’, of how activists can support each other. What I got out of Deb’s recent post, specifically, was the ever present issue of imposing or forcing views onto others, often seeking to guilt people into doing what one thinks is right as opposed to attempting to plant seeds and hope they will come to such a perspective/desire on their own. This is not a utopian ideal, as some may immediately respond. Rather it is consistent with an approach to social change in which the means reflect the ends—something often lost on ‘movements’, often a result of an heightened awareness of the implications of existing social and economic systems. This is an issue I often think on, and it is one hinted at in the Across the Universe. Activists/agents of social change often are blinkered in their drive to foster and seek social change, losing sight of others issues. I am not intending to imply I have a solution or know of an answer at all. It is something I still struggle with and I see it in many others.
Awareness of this has, at times, emerged in movements and was typified in the Reclaim the Streets (RTS) movement and actions in the mid-late 90’s. These events were not without their own issues, indicated by their losing any real cohesion and direction, then effectively disappearing. A aim of those participating in and supporting RTS was to live whilst seeking to foster change. To live the change in a sense often not considered as many reject such ideas as a naive Ghandian relic. It extends far beyond this, however, and has parallels with the view of many. One not need to look far to find many references to the the notion that a revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having (an Emma Goldman reference recently popularised in V for Vendetta1). Urgency will always exists—at least into the future further than I can see. I say this not to stifle one’s drive, rather to highlight the importance of sustaining the self. Many active people are know have experienced burn-out. For its duration (short, long, unresolved) you are less effective…
To get back to the intent of this post (which has taken away from others I am working on), it was intended to be little more than a recommendation of a film. It is a film I will be watching again soon. I hope I will enjoy it at least as much, maybe more as I note references missed in my first viewing.