Its easy crossing that invisible line


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Category: Reflections Date: 05 Jun 05


What is it about people that’s so compelling? I stare fascinated at people’s faces in airports, street, listening, slightly ashamed, to one-sided public cellphone conversations as if this would unlock the infinite mystery of human beings.


Its an infinitely absorbing study, because as soon as you think you have a truth, some human being contradicts it; as soon as you think you have some surety, there is a betrayal. As soon as you think you can label this person as “good”, “bad”, “humane”, “solid”, “reliable” or “stupid” they slip out of your fingers and turn into something entirely unexpected.


But art is something else. If it weren’t for writers and artists who hold up a mirror to ourselves we’d remain mute creatures as unreflective as cows chewing cud on a field living in the moment, simply reacting to life rather than driving it.


From the half dozen films I saw in the flush of the New York international film festival, I came away with one idea that is worth my years of people watching. It is this: In every human being’s life, there is a moment of truth, when the mask displayed to society, the self-deception about themselves is ripped off to reveal their true protean selves but mostly, its not a pretty sight. A line is crossed.


At some point in every human being’s life, an invisible line is crossed. It’s shockingly easy. One moment you’re a rock, an upstanding soldier and family man adored by your wife and children, and in days another you’ve crossed the line you’re a killer, a wife batterer, your soul curdled with hate.


In the Danish short film Brothers, one brother, Michael is the rock: an upstanding soldier and family man who is sent to Afghanistan to serve with the UN peacekeepers.


His brother Jannik is the black sheep: just released from prison, alcoholic, violent, he shows every sign of falling back into his bad old ways. But when he hears that Michael has been killed while on duty abroad, there is a moment of truth. He is decent after all, helps Michael’s widow and children rebuild their lives.


Michael however isn’t dead. He is a prisoner of the Taliban and in his moment of truth, is given a choice. Kill a fellow prisoner, a very young subordinate, who he has vowed to protect or live. He kills brutally in exchange for his life, for the love he has for his wife.


When he returns he finds that his brother Jannik has almost taken his place in his wife and children’s affections. No longer the heroic rock of the family he is now a haunted tortured man, who almost kills his wife and is aggressive in front of his daughters, pushing them away and towards his brother Jannik.


The film shows what people do when they are backed into a corner as Michael was, or given an opportunity to shine as Jannik was. It explains violence. It shows grace where we thought there was none as in Jannik’s care of his brother’s family.


After looking at that film, I called home and heard that the leader of the opposition Basdeo Panday his wife, and several associates were arrested, that we are effectively a “democratic” country without any opposition.


There are many questions.


Who crossed the invisible line? Is Mr Manning’s “witch hunting” turning a blind eye to the corruption in his own party?


Is Mr Panday culpable and where was his fortitude when Caroni was closing down? Can we say either is wrong or right?


Is one good when the other is bad and how does the pendulum swing?


The only thing we can do is remain vigilant and watch for a moment of truth.


Even if that revelation is bestial, know the bull charges when it is cornered.


Who is the beast and who is cornered? Time will tell.


Still, its not a pretty sight.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur