(Extra Credit) Holy Motors – Mannerist Film, Symbol of Metamorphosis, Opening Scene…

Leos Carax’s film “Holy Motors” dives deep into what movies are truly about. It goes against normal ways of telling stories to explore the complexities of movement, identity, and how we connect with what’s happening on the screen. Carax, often labeled a Mannerist filmmaker for drawing inspiration from cinema history rather than life itself, presents a cinematic creation that transcends traditional narratives.

In a rare interview, Carax stressed that “Holy Motors” uses the language of movies to tell a story that’s more than just about films. The movie asks many questions: Is it about actors and their work? Is it trying to find pieces of who we are that we’ve lost? Is it reflecting things about our world today? Or is it more of an imaginative puzzle that engages people in a different way? It doesn’t stick to just one idea or limit itself to being just a movie.

Drawing parallels between Carax’s film and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” elucidates the intricate layers of transformation and self-discovery. The appointments transforms Oscars into different people but we are unaware of who he really is. His own self is rather alienated from this process of acting, which is very similar to when Gregor transforms into an insect. He is no longer himself but became a product of his labor. However, understanding “Holy Motors” necessitates abandoning the conventional narrative and embracing the essence of cinema’s inception.

The film echoes the chronophotographic experiments of pioneers, evoking the essence of movement captured by the earliest cameras. Carax masterfully reimagines and reinterprets images from cinematic icons like Godard, Welles, and Demy. For example, there are scenes that echo the visual aesthetics of Godard’s jump cuts and fragmented narratives, Welles’ innovative use of cinematography, or Demy’s exploration of fantasy and reality, offering a tapestry of cinematic references intertwined with contemporary nuances.

At its core, “Holy Motors” exudes a nostalgic longing for the lost elements of cinema – the towering cameras and film rolls that once defined the medium. Carax’s yearning for these elements permeates the film, intertwining with its profound exploration of movement, stillness, and the passage of time.

The opening scene of the movie is crucial, showing a cinema full of sleeping people, reflecting Carax’s worry that nobody will pay attention to his new creation. The quiet and unmoving audience in the theater reflects a scary feeling of not being noticed. But in that stillness, there’s a small hope shown through a single person.

Carax, possibly himself depicted in the sequence, navigates through hidden corridors and emerges in an empty theater section, peering at the motionless audience. This evocative sequence mirrors the dichotomy between active engagement in theater and passive observation in film, inviting contemplation on the nature of spectatorship.

“Holy Motors” challenges the conventional notion of the passive film spectator by prompting contemplation on the difference between active participation in theater and passive observation in cinema. The film invites audiences to question their roles in the viewing experience, enticing them into an immersive journey through the realms of movement and introspection. It also questions the role of acting and what it really means to act as another person.

While Carax’s apprehension of an indifferent audience lingers, “Holy Motors” stands as a testament to cinematic brilliance. It goes beyond regular stories and invites everyone to a world where movement, who we are, and what movies mean all come together in a stunning way.

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