A DYING ART, WAITING TO BE REVIVED

June 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

People do use cellphones in The Trip, the delightful English road movie directed by Michael Winterbottom. But they never look at their cellphones; not in restaurants, not while driving, not while standing somewhere waiting for something or someone.

They’re too busy making conversation. After all, that’s how conversation occurs, doesn’t it? It’s made. We have to create it and, in the absence of that act of creativity, there must be silence between people, which would be an acceptable alternative (not nearly enough of it these days), except for the fact that we long ago abrogated silence in favour of apps, background music, televisions in elevators and never ending skyscraper construction.

But back to conversation. While we may look back at more primitive agrarian cultures and see the human being bent over their plow, we might now define the modern human as bent over a phone, staring into the electronic void, saying and hearing nothing. The Trip reminds us (or at least this writer) of the joys of working with and off another person in the search for entertainment, as opposed to having it spoon fed to us. These men spend a lot of time in a car and at no point is the radio on. Instead, they proceed to create utter nonsense for six days straight as they go about their business in the English countryside.

Of course, this is a fictional film, with two hours of written, edited and parsed material. But the essence of their interaction and the lesson implicit within remain: we can never know the satisfaction and joy of connecting with others if we don’t at some point venture forth and attempt to connect in the first place. There are risks involved: we need to show an interest, bring our sense of humour, be prepared to offer unbridled opinion and to entertain the perspectives and humours of others. That many of us might call these acts risky says something about the point at which we find ourselves.

In addition, sometimes conversation and interaction is boring. That’s the thing from which this society flees. Boredom has become more intolerable than cruelty, avarice and self-aggrandizement; we’d rather watch reality television and violent, money-soaked blockbusters than films where heaven forbid there is a moment that doesn’t stimulate.

We’ve forgotten that sometimes there’s value in patience, in sitting through and with the quiet moments, during which nothing of great interest is occurring. The alternative, which we have now in our mass distraction industry and society of constant noise, is the en masse numbing of thought and feeling.

The Trip has some of those moments. But in living with those, one also experiences joy, laughter,  spirited exchanges of ideas, poignancy and a smattering of poetry thrown in for good measure.

I could tell you to seek out the movie. Or we could just gather all of who we are and instead seek out each other.

Picture : Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon in The Trip, directed by Michael Winterbottom.

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