Cinema Absurdum

With all the High Production Values, It’s All Too Predictable -- and Silly

Opinion | Darko Gacov | October 2007

I have become discouraged with movies; with all the pizzazz and high production values, it’s all too predictable, and often downright silly. Suspension of Disbelief has been left in the dust, and we have entered the Cinema of the Absurd.

Take war movies for example. If a soldier makes the mistake of showing someone a picture of his sweetheart back home, we know that he will perish in agony, preferably a slow and painful death. And if an Allied soldier tries to infiltrate a German top-secret hideout, he’ll get away with it. All it takes is a Swastika on the shoulder and a few words grunted with a German accent.

And it’s not just war movies; we can find such illogical gimmicks in all genres. Take the motivational issues in police action movies. For example, a detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty. With said suspension, he instantly develops new professional knowledge and can now disable the necklace of bombs planted all around the city or land a plane perfectly, with someone in the control tower to talk him down.

Bombs, of course, will be fitted with an electronic timing device with a large red readout so everyone will know exactly when it is going to go off. That is to show the gentle side of the terrorists and the moral values that they have left from childhood: "We might want to blast you off this block, but we are men of honor and inform you as to when and where, with a timer more expensive than the bomb itself."

When confronted with evil international terrorists, sarcasm and wisecracks are clearly your best weapons, with a suicide-bomber’s internal monologue that might go, "I plan to sacrifice my life to achieve my goal of blowing myself up. But nevertheless I am intimidated by your mockery and witticisms, and I will change my mind, or at least postpone any action until the snipers arrive."

Now isn’t that an optimistic thought?

The courage of the freelance helicopter pilots that are invariably hired by the villains is particularly noteworthy. They are always eager to accept bookings, even though the job will require them to shoot total strangers and certainly end in their own death as the helicopter explodes in a ball of flame.

I especially enjoy the martial arts movies, since they are the ones that make sense out of this whole mess of irrational, unreasonable and absurd examples. It only takes two things to become the master of martial arts: a reason to do it (usually when ninjas come and kill your family) and a very old guy who barely moves but can teach you kung fu in a week. Then it doesn’t matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts; your enemies will wait patiently to attack you one by one, by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out all those ahead of them in line.

If we think about this charade a little bit more consciously, we can see that the moviemakers are in it for the money. They try to influence the viewers, but at the end of the day, we are the ones dictating where the cameras are pointing. We are the ones setting the standards. So what does this say about us? The Cinema of the Absurd might in the end just be indicating an Audience of the Absurd.

Once you discover that Fido will run after the same ball repeatedly… it is not so absurd to play fetch with him till the end of time.

Only in this case, Fido brings something else along with the ball.

Other articles from this issue