‘La La Land’ Proves Self-Love and Love For Another Can Coexist
The love story that ‘La La Land’ tells is not about keeping, but letting go – which also releases our creativity.
The Quint DAILY
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La La Land is a melodious exploration of two poles of human existence – expression of self, and surrender to the other. We can be the best versions of myself, either if we give ourselves totally to our deepest creative yearnings (literature, music, fight against injustice, an idea) or if we surrender ourselves to something that we consider bigger than us – a lover, a nation, an institution....
Sebastian is a talented jazz pianist. He has ambitious plans for saving jazz – a dying music genre – but cannot make both ends meet. Mia is an aspiring actress. She serves coffee for a living and the only time she gets to act is in auditions, where she is consistently rejected.
Initially, their exertions to find their calling do not bear any fruit – except that they find each other. This is an enchanting relationship. They do not comfort each other so much as they challenge the other. They embrace not to smother but to let their creative energies explode. They lose themselves in pursuit of their dreams and find themselves, momentarily, in each other and move on. Their dreams are realised; their love for each other is not.
La La Land is Both Anna Karenina and Lust for Life
Tolstoy created Anna Karenina, possibly one of the finest female characters to personify both beauty and the capacity to love. Anna, a married women, meets Count Vronsky on the train. We are captivated by her elegance and we embark, with her, upon an inexorable journey of doomed love. Her complete surrender to Vronsky must lead to annihilation of her splendour, charm, body and soul.
Irving Stone’s Lust for Life tells us the story of Vincent van Gogh, the great painter who is shown to have both a miserable life and a miserable death. His work does not sell while he lives a desolate life. He gives himself totally to painting. Ultimately he shoots himself at a very young age to end the misery of his body and mind. The book abruptly ends the captivating experience of the reader with a puzzle – why did Van Gogh, unrecognised, surviving largely on the remittances of his not so well-off brother, keep painting? Then, realisation dawns on one, with an exhilarating understanding of life. It does not matter if he eats crumbs or sleeps on tattered mattresses. He is here to paint, to tell us about our life and enrich the human race forever with his exquisite work. His complete inability to understand mundane details of life without which one cannot exist, is possibly a gift for his genius which can then depict the core of human existence with strokes of a brush, without any distractions.
La La Land’s director Damien Chazelle does not reach those creative heights – although he does make a commendable effort. However, his movie achieves something difficult for a feature film director to achieve – one who is restricted by the medium itself. Chazelle manages to tell a deep story which touches two simultaneous chords – one, individual creativity (which, by nature, is self-centred), and the other, the ability to love someone and totally abandon ourselves in that love.
Damien Chazelle has immense control over the medium. The cinematography is flawless. The music is perky but meaningful. Fast moving frames vanish while merging into each other – leaving lasting impressions on us. The director is not a Tolstoy or an Irving Stone. However, his achievement is that he gives us a slice of both. That becomes possible because the love story he has to tell is not about keeping, but letting go, which simultaneously unleashes our own creative impulses.
(The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer but ardently follows cinema when he is free.)
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