Monday, 22 July 2013

Ship Of Theseus - An Intellectually Stimulating Work Of Art

As a student of psychology, the Gestalt school of thought has taught me, “The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts because the human eye, first, sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts.” Simply put, it means that the construction of an entity is more important than the individual pieces of the entity on their own. Yesterday, I saw the movie, Ship of Theseus, which made me look at this Gestalt principle in a slightly different light.

The premise of Anand Gandhi’s film, Ship of Theseus, is the Theseus’s paradox, as contemplated by the philosopher, Plato, which argues that if you dismantle a ship, plank by plank, and then reassemble it, does it remain the same ship? Thomas Hobbes had introduced a further puzzle asking what would happen if the original planks were gathered up after they were replaced and then used to build a second ship. Which ship, if either, is the original Ship of Theseus?

You know a movie has left a mark if you walk out of the cinema-hall and continue to think about the film even as you wake up the next morning. Ship of Theseus had that effect on me.

 Gandhi brilliantly engages the audience with the Theseus’s Paradox by drawing analogies from the lives of his protagonists. There are three stories – each featuring very different situations – yet they all come together in the same frame at the end, in a manner that is so brilliant and that makes such absolute, perfect sense that you are just left gasping with wonder.

The life of each protagonist is showcased as an autonomous component and each of their journeys leads you to a place where you are left asking questions. The story of Aaliya makes you wonder, “If you do not have eyes, does that mean you cannot really see?” or “Is there a possibility that sometimes physical sight actually hinders the real, insightful vision?”

The second story is about Maitreya, a Jain monk, who leads a fight against animal testing. When he is diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, he refuses treatment because he cannot accept drugs that have been tested on animals. Attempts to convince him are denounced with intriguing arguments. This story raises questions that are seldom heard in mainstream features and, on a personal front, left me wondering about the extent and purpose of ideological rigidity.

The third story is about Navin, a stock-broker, who is constantly goaded by his maternal grandmother to contribute to society, at large, in some way or the other, instead of just going about his daily routine. He is presented with an opportunity to do this when he decides to fight for justice for a poor brick-layer, Shankar, who has been a victim of kidney-scam. At one level, this story beautifully portrays how all of us start as ignorant beings and, then, where the journey for the search of truth takes us. At another level, it makes one wonder if a human being is interested only in making money, does it really make him or her a lesser mortal being than someone who believes in sacrificing personal happiness for the greater good.
It is only in the end that you realize that the three beautiful stories of Aaliya, Maitreya and Navin are only deceivingly independent stories – in actuality, the three are all planks that form the unsinkable “Ship of Theseus”. The subtle reference to Plato's allegory of the cave, in the end, is remarkable. 

I would recommend this movie to everyone as it is indeed thought-provoking and forces you to utilize your mental faculties for some serious introspection and reflection about your notions of self, and your notions of faith, ideologies and relationships. The beauty of this film lies in the fact that it does not attempt to provide any answers to the age-old debate of the Theseus’s Paradox. Watching Ship of Theseus was quite a fulfilling experience for me and I would recommend all those who haven’t seen it to catch it as soon as possible – it might not in theatres next week – because it is a film that leaves much to savour even after you have watched it. 

24 comments:

  1. (y)

    This one truly seems to be my kind of movie and I am like dying to watch it... hopefully this weekend should be able to catch up with it.

    With your review... its like pushing me towards it more!

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    1. Ha!Ha! Do try watching it soon :) It is an experience not worth missing :)

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  2. Thanks for this review. I need to watch this!

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    1. You're welcome. Watch it and let me know how it was ;)

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  3. Nice review. :)

    Looking forward to seeing the movie. :)

    Jitu

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  4. It has been a while since we have seen such a thought-provoking film in Indian cinema. In a way, it reminded me of the way Shyam Benegal made his films on shoestring budgets. There should be more of these films out there everyday.

    You should do more reviews. This was an excellent analysis of the film. You should do this more often.

    Love Always,
    Sanika

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    1. Ha!Ha! I am surprised you feel I should do film-reviews considering the opinion you have of the genres of films I see :-P Glad you liked this one though ;) And yes, even I wish we had more such movies in mainstream cinema :)

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  5. your topic was a very surreal one. It forced me think again and again. It's true our priorities change, so do our times but do we change ? Explicitly, we do but implicitly I don't think that's the case. If we do change according to our times, then where is the control of our lives we all yell about??
    You have really given me such an obsessive topic to debate about..!

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    1. Ha!Ha! What's the point of a debate? Why are there just two sides? Surely, there are many others :)
      Watch the movie - it will give you a very useful lens to view life :)

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  6. A very nice review on a much talked about movie!Am yet to see but definitely sounds an interesting subject, Divya:)

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    1. Oh it is very fascinating, Rahul! Do try watching it if you can :)

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  7. I..... am almost convinced to make that trip to the cinemas...!
    Awesome, Divya!

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    1. Do it Mohini!! One of the reasons why I HAD to tag you to read this :P

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  8. Very well though out and well written review. Will watch the movie if I get a chance.

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  9. Gonna watch this one for sure :-)

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    1. Ah, yes! And given how different our tastes are, I really look forward to reading your views about this movie :)

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  10. Watched it today. Loved it. A thought provoking film and review was bang on..

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  11. Had no idea about this movie. I read the title somewhere and thought it was just another Greek mythology based movie from Hollywood(forgive my ignorance). After reading this, I saw the trailer on you tube and that itself has sort of left an impact.

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    1. Ha!Ha! Ignorance Excused :) I hope you don't limit your experience to just the trailer :)

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  12. Been hearing such good reviews, should probably go and watch it. Thanks for the wonderful review :-)

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    1. You're welcome :) Hope you enjoy the movie :)

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