Friday, November 14, 2008

"My Architect" (Documentary) (2003) - Movie Review

Finally I made to a viewing of “Real to Reel” a film group in Peoria. My practice all these times was to come out of a film and directly write the review without discussing with any one. I have followed it not because I do not want to discuss but the mistrust in personal strength of holding train of thoughts. I am writing almost couple of hours later from when the film was over and I was tensed when I began talking with some people out there. Gladly I was able to remember more things and surely to bring in more perspective from different people of the same film.

Louis Kahn is a revolutionary artisan in the field of architecture during the times of late sixties and this fact I was not aware of. I did not know about such a person in first place. In fact Nathaniel Kahn the unrevealed son of Louis Kahn have glazed images but with much perfection of the events with his father when he was a child. Louis Kahn died alone in Pennsylvania Train Station in 1967 and Nathaniel was eleven at that time. After several decades Nathaniel decided to venture for the true quest to understand his dad and whether the belief of him and his mother of Louis coming to stay with them forever was true becomes his destiny.

To understand his father he visits almost all of the buildings he constructed. Louis Kahn’s entry into the populace of elite Architects happened when he was fifty. He was married and was a father. He also had an affair with his colleague and she became pregnant with his child. Then in his sixties met Nathaniel’s mother. Even after so many years none of them remember of Louis having a son. The journey unravels this riddled perfectionist and a recluse from the social clan brings anger than answers for Nathaniel. Of course Nathaniel does not show it explicitly in screen but you can feel it when he sees the horizons from the Salk Institute his father built.

We see brilliance as the symbol in bricks and sharp edges. It stands tall, hollow and magnanimous. The view of those structures blows gentle wind at your face on the ventilation and elevation the man has provided. It is simplistic but has a stature clearly representing endurance. Seeing the building should actually put a picture of a strong man with strong decisive thoughts. Instead we see Louis as a wanderer, unsettled workaholic and kind of annoying restlessness when it comes to compromising both personally and professionally. As every one else that part of his life would be a mystical darkness which would be scrutinized.

But what exactly is “My Architect” is what “51 Birch Street” is. Both have sons trying to understand their parents. In the latter the father is alive to shed out his feelings and the diaries of director’s mother to tell her side of the story. In “My Architect” it is the other away around and it goes through all the women in his life. He loved all of them and his kids but to me he was a man unwilling to give up his tendency of being a social animal and an idealistic personality in the embarkment of a life of his own. This in between persona earned his personal life a stain of irresponsibility.

And to see Nathaniel traveling around the globe to derive something out of it is something I would have hard time relating to. I am fortunate to have grown up with both the parents giving constant love to not get that feeling but I see something else too. The father is the strong man for his kids. He never would let the weakened side of him show up. And the sons and daughters want to believe that too and even as an adult the rationality of seeing them as some one as a regular person is hard to conceive. Despite the unconditional love going both ways the letting in of a father inside this super hero frame rarely happens. In that context I could very well empathize with Nathaniel.

One of the viewers said the music was too dramatic. I thought it tried too much but it did not annoy me. It would have been more apt for silence to substitute in certain places but it did not bring down the film. “My Architect” is not about architecture but it is a symbolism used as the contrast of character of this great artist in his mastery and in debacle of his personal life. Louis Kahn is an inspiration for many architects and end of day is a human would be the underlining of this film.

The film group invited an Architect to moderate a discussion and I felt the film is more about the emotions than buildings. The buildings as films is a work of art but the layers of sadness, freedom, space and time is the subject which would have been more appropriate to deal with. Nevertheless it was interesting to know certain elements of the architecture and the style of it from a person understanding and explaining it layman terms. Watching Louis Kahn’s life unfold with flaws, complexities and mistakes is an opening of any individual seated in the audience. Louis Kahn just happened to be a great architect and at least he could represent his feelings through architecture than most of us flutter in the monotone of conventional social life.

No comments: