Since 2009, there have been 142 documented self-immolations in Tibet. Tenzin is preparing himself to be the 143rd. In his monastery, he sits in a state of deep meditation, preparing his mind and his body for the act to come. He is unaware that the Chinese government possesses information about his intentions and has sent soldiers to arrest him. Through non-violent resistance, the monastery monks obstruct the soldiers long enough for Tenzin to be safely escorted away and into the town. His limp body is taken to the public square where it is drenched in gasoline and handed a lighter.
An inferno envelops his torso as Tenzin sets fire to himself. He succumbs to the blaze, and is put out by Chinese soldiers before dying where he lays. From within the smoke, his soul, immortal, emerges and ascends to the heavens.
Each world, the physical and the spiritual, will have a different feel to it. The physical will be rough and abrasive. The camera will move quickly, mimicking the way we move, and what it focuses on will be determined by the action unfolding directly in front of it. Sounds will be louder, and have an earthy, thick quality to them.
On the contrary, the spiritual world perceived by the consciousness will be smooth and delicate. It will be more of a guided meditation rather than a telling of a sequence of events. Similar to Baraka in its feel, a film by Ron Fricke, it will aim, without words, to show us the world from the perspective of a quasi enlightened being, with an emphasis not on “whats happening,” but on “what’s there.
The whole film will have the impression of being one seamless take, as the POV of the monk goes in and out of his body. These entries and exits will serve as hidden cuts and allow for the change in aesthetic style.
A recent film “The Russian Ark” experimented with both the long take technique and the breaking of the fourth wall. More of a documentary than a fiction film, it follows two ghosts around the Hermitage palace in St Petersburg, one of which is embodied by the camera, and condenses three centuries of Russian history into a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take.
Both these films put aside conventional rules of narrative to explore a new way of perceiving cinema. Baraka manages to capture the very essence of what we are; It reaches past language, nationality, religion and politics and speaks to our inner viewer. Russian Ark breaks the fourth wall and gives us a first person experience by embodying the character of the ghost with the camera.