Saturday, 2 May 2009

My Dinner with Andre

I just watched the film My Dinner with Andre, about a long conversation, in a New York restaurant, between a playwright called Walter, and a theatre director called Andre, who has recently travelled to far-away places such as India. Their conversation is all about mysticism, and existentialism, versus science, and pragmatism, but there are some areas of consensus, between Walter and Andre.

Their conversation in the restaurant, is very dialectical, and to sum up their arguments very basically, the director says, that you have to escape from domestic routine, and from everyday meaning - transcend ordinary, mundane, superficial reality - and simply BE (what the playwright refers to as "pure being"). On the other hand, the playwright, says that he believes that purposefulness (doing or thinking things) is more authentic, and a basic part of the structure, of what it means to be a human being - to actually be doing things - conversations, thoughts, or actions.

The playwright says, that mysticism and magic, are based upon escapism and coincidences, but that science is based upon tests of reality, which can be repeated and verified. They both agree though, that science has magically provided the answers for everything, and turned people into unthinking, unfeeling, robots and machines.

The other thing the playwright said, was that mysticism, and believing in magical signs and symbols, was a way of avoiding, full, rational responsibility, or of avoiding actually doing things. The director, then said that doing things, and conforming to conventional roles, was a way of avoiding our true selves, thoughts, and feelings.

The director concludes, by saying that we are, most of the time, just being performers in our social roles, and not being our true or authentic selves. He seems to be saying in his conclusion, that we should deviate from, or subvert roles, and that roles are ephemeral with social and life-changes anyway.

What I love about this film, is that there are some good arguments on both sides, the odd humorous moment here and there, and some profound insights in it, and it really gets you thinking about a lot of things. I think it's a film that could change people's lives in some ways.