- Safaa Al-Saleh
“Nomadland” has achieved what no other movie has achieved this year until it deservedly deserved the title of “Best Film of the Year”; After winning three Oscars (Best Film, Best Direction and Best Actress), four major awards from the British Academy “BAFTA” and four major “Golden Globes” Awards.
The film, which has been translated literally as “Nomadic Land”, continues to win many Film Critics Association awards and a number of film festivals that it opened with winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year.
The movie screenings were delayed in cinemas due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but it will start in Britain and other places in the world, starting from the middle of this month, and the film has appeared internationally on the Disney Plus movie screening platform since April 30.
What made this movie so successful, and what made its director Chloe Chow, 39, – born in China, educated in Britain and residing in the United States, to achieve a historic achievement and become the first woman of Asian roots and the second woman to receive Oscars and Golden awards Globes, to the front of the global film scene in the third feature film in her directorial career.
Eastern wisdom and western model
In the speech she gave at the Oscars, Zhao summarized her philosophy of life with brief words about the constant pursuit of good and the good human being instinctively, and says that she learned in her childhood when she was playing a game with her father in memorizing what she reads, borrowing from a literary classic Chinese work, his first phrase Which says: “People when they are born are good by nature,” adding, “These six words had a great impact on me when I was a boy and I still believe in them strongly today.”
So, she dedicated her film to “Everyone who has faith and courage to hold on to the good that is within him, and to uphold the goodness of each other, no matter how difficult it is to do so.”
Zhao has made sure to plant this Eastern wisdom (and specifically the Chinese Tao philosophy) at the heart of a material analysis of the transformations of American society in the twenty-first century and the margins of poverty it creates at the edges of his huge economic machine. It starts from a logical premise attributed to the economic transformation caused by the recent financial recession in 2008, which led many people to lose their savings or their businesses and their homes and become unable, especially the elderly, to mortgage the remainder of their lives to obtain Loans to buy a modest home that they may not be able to meet with their accumulated interest.
So they had to resort to the street to live in “caravans” and “trucks”, roving in search of seasonal and temporary works in the American Midwest, and they are the authors of the book on which the movie relied on “Nomadland: America Survivor (or Survivor) in Twenty-first century “Jessica Broder:” Nomads or the new nomads. “
Zhao did not go into dealing with her subject, with all its tragic nature, to the depth of the tragic aspect, and even the terrifying one that lies in addressing the story of the collapse of human worlds, the demise of their lives and their quest in the lost time to build a new life Rather, she searched for everything that is positive and good in it. The mainstay of her treatment was the idea of goodness in people and the hope that guides them, this hope that the author of the book, Broder, sees lurking in the street.
Zhao seemed to be trying to plant a model derived from the philosophy of Eastern Taoist wisdom (dating back to the Chinese sage Lauzzo, author of the book The Tao) in the heart of the American Western model and to find an artistic template that reflects this. Hence, she was keen to avoid the “representation” that dominates Western philosophy and governs its aesthetic theories, and to present life as it is as the subject of art itself and the source of beauty in it within a realistic approach of its own whose features slowly crystallize throughout her three films.
Thus, we see it instead of focusing on the contradictions that this margin who lives a difficult life can contain, focusing on solidarity relations between people and the love generated between them and the austere lifestyle (the Minimalist) that moves away from the greed of material life; The wisdom of the practical life philosophy of the Tao lies in knowing people, and the virtue lies in their love, and this applies even to the artistic form of the film, as we will explain later.
Through this treatment, Zhao left us a cinematic poem full of beauty, benevolence and human solidarity, deepened by the camera of her partner (in life and work) Joshua James Richard and the music of the Italian pianist and musician Ludovico Ainaudi.
And if this mixture is the film’s strength, then it was at the same time its weakness in the eyes of some, and the source of criticism directed at it, especially from left-wing critics, many of whom (although some found that the film reminded of the socialist realist approach) what they saw as romanticizing Poetically about the lives of these nomadic people and neglecting to discuss or overlook the difficult conditions of seasonal workers, especially in Amazon stores where many of the movie scenes were filmed.
“Nomads Or the new nomads’
Chow made an elegy for the American dream by selecting this segment of “nomadic people” who were pronounced on the fringes and strict economic terms of American capitalist society.
The human metaphor has overturned the free individual who harnesses nature and produces prosperity, which is at the heart of the capitalist project; For its progress in a different context to express the failure of the dream of this project by diving into what it said harshly on the margins, with a special focus on the pure relationship with nature this time and the depth of human solidarity as an alternative to those brutal relationships based on the exploitation of nature, greed and the accumulation of profits that govern our contemporary world.
Zhao avoided the trap of falling into melodrama, or begging emotions to present the life of a marginalized segment living in harsh conditions, and tried hard to tell us a story full of hope and human solidarity despite the darkness of sadness over it.
She begins her journey to discover this world, with the journey of the main character in the movie “Fern” (actress Frances McDormand), whose husband dies and loses her job following the closure of the industrial complex in which she was working and lives in a house in the neighboring houses where the workers live in it. Without a job, in her 60s, she cannot continue to pay off the bank loan in exchange for a house, so she chooses to live in a caravan in a truck and move around near places where there is seasonal work.
Here she gets to know an entire community of these nomadic people who live in the same way and travel in the American Midwest, where she finds herself in their midst and in the midst of the spirit of cooperation and human solidarity spread among them.
Controversy or moral reconciliation?
Here, the film turns into a set of stories and situations among these nomadic people, which enter into the narrative line in an accidental way and unfold in the form of coincidences, as Zhao here (as the sage advises Latsu not to pre-chart the way) does not resort to an escalating dramatic construction or a traditional plot (that has a beginning In the middle and the end, the dramatic action grows linearly in it), but rather crystallizes a non-linear narrative structure, and sporadic stories that overlap accidentally and separate their personalities and emotions and feelings of pain and happiness that they experience in an interwoven wavy fabric closer to the concept of the circle of Tao, ruled by the poles of good and evil or light and dark but they are They remain inseparable, and there is no cut or sharp line between them, but they mix and complement each other in this wavy line, which represents their meeting point.
This is what we see clearly in Zhaos treatment of her subject and her insistence on a realistic approach to portraying life as it is not representing it, and her assertion that there is no separation between the material reality that she criticizes and its alternative, as do the ideologies that criticize contemporary capitalist reality and its contradictions. It does not dive into a critique of the contradictions of this reality, but it continues to sing about alternative human values, even if it manifests itself in a marginal reality that is, in its reality, nothing but the product of the mechanism of oppression in the original material reality. As if it wants to affix this imbalance as material greed in man in general and not to a specific stage of the development of industrial society and the economic model of late capitalism. Some may see in such an understanding a transcendence of the historical debate that governs the relationship between this reality and its alternative to a kind of moral reconciliation.
Chow introduces all of this in a style akin to the “Deco Drama” documentary drama, which takes place among the nomads themselves who play their true roles with the exception of the main professional actors: Frances McDormand and David Strathearn.
This style has become a hallmark of Chow since she tried it out in her first movie, “Songs My Brothers Teach Me,” which she filmed on an Native American Sanctuary in South Dakota, using non-professional actors.
She reinforced him in her second movie “The Knight” in 2017, in which she used a real character of a rodeo (a sport related to cowboys in America) named Brady Jandro to represent a character inspired by the story of his attempt to cope with his life in the aftermath of a bad accident he suffered while practicing this sport.
It is difficult to describe Nomadland under a “giraffe” or a specific artistic genre. In addition to mixing drama and documentary, it mixes road movies with what we can call survival or survival films. sSurvival film”.
This is evident when compared to other road movies that have a similar or similar theme. As is the case with the movie “The Lady in the Truck” 2015 directed by British film and theater director Nicholas Heitner on a script by playwright Alan Bennett based on a real life in which he played Maggie Smith as an old woman living in an old truck, or with the 1996 movie “The Truck” By British director Stephen Frears, who tells the story of a man who loses his job and shares with friends a truck and transforms it into a mobile place to sell fish and french fries.
A Glorious Actress
The film relied a lot on the performance of the distinguished actress, Frances McDormand, who picked him the third Academy Award in her film career (four awards if we add her award as a producer also in this film), and only a very limited number of actresses achieved this. They are: Catherine Hepburn, who is the only one who won four awards in acting, Ingrid Bergman and Meryl Streep, and actors Jack Nicholson, Daniel de Lewis and Walter Brennan, who won the award for best supporting actor three times.
McDormand is a well-known actress, who started acting for the theater in the 1980s, before becoming the favorite star of the two Coen brothers, after her marriage to Jules Quinn, where she appeared in a number of their films. She picked her first Oscar for portraying Police Commissioner Marge Ganderson, who is pregnant and investigating a roadside murder in her area, in the 1996 film “Fargo” by the Coen brothers.
And she won a second Academy Award for her role as an angry mother over the lack of seriousness of the investigation into the murder of her teenage daughter in a rape, so she rents out billboards left outside the city to present her case and express her anger, in the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Her career is full of major awards, including: three BAFTA awards and two awards each in the Golden Globes, Grammy and Tony Awards.
McDormand imitated the character of Fern, and embodied her with a performance that seemed automatic, and it became very difficult to distinguish her from the nomadic community of the non-professional actors who actually played the role in reality in the film. She mastered the harsh and austere lifestyle of the character.
Joshua James Richards’ camera, director of photography, tried to embody the director’s vision, and came up with a wonderful marriage between a poetic photography style embodied in the filming of open spaces of landscapes in the roads and wildernesses of the American West, and the frugal style (Minimalist) in photographing interior scenes, especially in those narrow places that do not It allows for free filming, such as in a truck.
Here, the human face and his emotions were his main material, which he presented in very close shots and under economical lighting, or in natural light, which he excelled in photographing under him in most scenes, especially the external ones in open spaces.
The soundtrack to the Italian pianist and musician, Ludovico Ainaudi, deepened this poetic feeling. In fact, it was not the music set for the film, but rather the director and composer’s selections from his previous works, especially his album “Seven Days of Walking”; Therefore, the film’s music was not nominated to compete for the Best Soundtrack Award, which requires that more than 80 percent of the film’s music comes from new works that have not been heard before.
In addition to his compositions in the framework of classical music, Ainaudi practiced soundtracks for films and dramas, and I remember his soundtracks for the British series “Doctor Zhivago”, directed by Italian director Giacomo Campiotti in 2002 and his music matched, according to some music critics, the lavish musical work of Maurice Jar That preceded him setting the soundtrack to the 1965 epic film David Lean directed on the Boris Pasternak novel itself.