We want to believe in the power of art. We know that certain books, films, comics, video games, etc. seeped their way into our beings and altered our chemistry. I am not the same person I was before I experienced 2001: A Space Odyssey, and my relationship with Stanly Kubrick’s vision evolved with every watch. From high school snore to college class pretension to the profound promise that humanity’s evolution will someday pull away from weapons of mass destruction. I found hope in the Starchild.
As fans of these outside elements that kickstarted deep thought, recontextualized belief, and motivated action, we are champions of their message. We look to our artists to scream resistance and challenge the status quo. Their rage is the spark that can set a nation or a globe into that fantastical change-for-the-better, progression.
Lynne Ramsay is a filmmaker that seemingly enjoys exploring societal anguish. Ratcatcher provoked the wretched poverty of her youth, We Need To Talk About Kevin admonishes our part in rearing evil through the lens of America’s never-ending string of school shootings, and You Were Never Really Here exhibits the scarring a lifetime of violence has on our souls. She brings passion and empathy to her miserable subjects (us) as well as a healthy dose of chastising anger. We feel it because we deserve it.
Ramsay took six years between We Need To Talk About Kevin and You Were Never Really Here, but when speaking at the British Independent Film Awards, the director announced that she does not want to wait that long before getting back behind the camera for her next project. Inspiration struck quickly after You Were Never Really Here, and Ramsay has concocted an “epic environmental horror thing.” Immediately after saddling her next screenplay with such a description, she let slip laughter. She knows the nightmarish visions that immediately leap into her audience’s brain. Nothing pleasant can come of this.
Anyone who has seen this year’s First Reformed or the mathematical logic of An Inconvenient Truth or the bombastic absurdity of The Day After Tomorrow knows there is plenty to be horrified regarding the rotting carcass festering under our feet. Man’s dominance over planet Earth should keep us up at nights, but denial is a helluva drug and keep-on-keeping-on has always been our modus operandi. If Al Gore and Jake Gyllenhaal can’t save us from ourselves, what chance is there for Lynne Ramsay to knock some sense into our impenetrable blockheads?
I doubt whether or not a piece of art can effect massive change in the world. Sure, a documentary like Super Size Me can cause me to ease back on the Big Macs and McDonald’s to consider a rebranding of their menu, but the ravenous nation will never satisfy its bottomless appetite and Denny’s is still waiting to sell you a short stack of The Grinch-themed green pancakes. No matter how loud or angry Ramsay may get with her horror, conservative Mom and Dad have spent a lifetime waving offer their liberal little children.
On the other hand, misery loves company. In art, I can find the like-minded and we can gather around a piece of work and plot our revolution. One of the angriest and exhilarating films of 2018 is Sorry To Bother You. Filmmaker Boots Riley, tired of creatives hiding their message in metaphor, transforms his experiences as a telemarketer into a bold, rebellious call-to-arms. Subtle, the movie is not. Nor will it revert opposing points of view. The film is a flare in the night sky, converge all you disgusted citizens.
When Riley spoke to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, he said that he saw an opportunity “to fuse art and movement building.” His music with The Coup and Sorry To Bother You act as signs of protest for his audience to push into the faces of the complacent and powerful. For revolution and transformation to occur we must organize and art is a door to assembly.
I look forward to Lynne Ramsay savagely terrorizing us with her Grand-Guignol take on our environmental crisis. Will it stifle carbon dioxide emissions or discover alternatives for natural resources? No. But we might.