Double feature: Bleakness and wry humor, lugubriousness and satire, cynicism and faith – tricky combinations that both “The Man Without a Past” and “Being There” manage to pull off. These two films explore the constants and variables of identity with a similarly detached, often near-affectless tone that highlights small gestures and casts shadows over larger ones.
Both films derive momentum from a fundamental confusion about their respective protagonists’ identities. This confusion (and its plot implications) allows both films to make sparely eloquent points about the way that our identities – and thus our selves – can be shaped by the assumptions and interpretations of those who interact with us.
As their somber-paletted stories unfold, both films limn those elements of an individual that even the strongest dislocations cannot centrifuge away.
Although both films presents a jaded face, the heart of each holds demonstrations of humanity’s capacity for good.
For a marathon: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” provides another take on the inescapable, un-erasable components of the self.
After “Being There,” check out “Light in the Piazza” for another case of (mis)interpretation of identity that turns out to be less clear-cut than it would first appear.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “sweetbeetandgreenbean” and “bittermelon” at Flickr)