96mins real-time shot entirely in two rooms!
Epistemology and that!
This film has no quotable lines. There is no sex. I can't link to youtube to give you a chuckle out of it, or even a quick impression. And just like in the real world, there is no action in it, only behaviour. But it's nevertheless one of the most tense and violence-laden things I've ever seen. I don't know if this was how men in the 50s always reacted to each other, but it's fucking terrifying.
The central theme is the unknown which is too-quickly taken for the evident - the confusion of opinion with knowledge. The unknown in question is the guilt of a young man, doomed to the Chair by an impatient and prejudiced jury.
The crowing and haste of the absolutists is made worse by the isolation of the noble sceptic character, "Juror #8". At one point, a hung jury is proposed as a compromise, but it is clear that the replacement jury this will usher in will not hesitate to vote "Guilty"; if there is a chance for epistemic modesty and, well, life, it is with this group alone. The world is an absolutist place, hence suffering. Groups act stupidly, hence suffering. We filter the truth, hence no suffering for us.
"It is the inner uncertainty of the most fervent believers which is the engine of their faith."
It's also about the ways we fail morally: through inability or unwillingness to think clearly, through egoism, and through our failure to notice what later seems all too obvious.
Note that as it ends we still do not know if the boy is guilty or not, and that Lumet's approach is not academic - the law looks at reasonable doubt, after all. Though even this is too much for half the characters to concede.
There's a great deal to be said about the cinematography, but I'm not the one to pick it apart for you. The closeups are some of the more powerful I've found, there's a start.
[INTERMISSION: On taking away your brains.
See, everybody hates a sceptic. Godites take his cant as blasphemy. Other absolutists resent the anarchism of not-knowing, or the sceptic's unravelling of their castles. Normal folk laugh at him, maybe lest they cry. And even the rational animal, the intellectual, finds him irritating, pedantic and counterproductive.
WAYS OF GETTING HIM OUT OF YOUR WAY
1: "You simply cannot be a sceptic. Being and not-believing is like bathing and not-getting-wet."
2: "Your standard for knowledge is unattainable and thus false."
3: "Language mirrors reality, and language is epistemically safe."
(externalism, cf. Wittgenstein)
3: 'A brain born in a vat cannot say "I am a brain in a vat".'
(externalism, cf. Putnam)
4: "Here is a hand. Here is another."
5: "This is just the way it is."
6: Implode the demon
7: Once heard a very clever idea utilising fuzzy probabilities (a concept which I'm fuzzy on). It involves kicking your own leg out from under you so that you land on them.
8: "Well...it's obvious that it's not."
(common sense, that is, irrationality)
9: "Oh, just shush."
(give up but retain your position anyway, the most common solution.)
Certainty is not forthcoming; scepticism is correct only insofar as you never give a straight answer - the undefeated champion who never leaves the house. We don't deal well with not knowing shit, it's too much nervous tension. But scepticism keeps us honest even as it points out how partially-sighted and clumsy we are, and if you really care about thinking you'll not abuse any of the above.]
Scott Pilgrim (2010)(Wright)
Juno crossed with Street Fighter II Turbo. You know what you will think of this film from that info alone.
It's the most visually overpowering film since 300, a "height" which I'd assumed no-one would ever aim to outdo.
I actually resented the thing a little - as I do anything that tries to manipulate my emotions/background this baldly. But considered in terms of its drawing off and creating a mythology for the C21st popculture/hipster/nerd/ADHD/net in which most of my friends live, it's an artwork. Vegans are psychic ubermenschen; bass notes produce visual onomatopoeia; nobody is worried by murder; and sarcasm and fashion and pretence reign.
I reckon we will always need large cultural loci - people go on and on (both decrying and cheering) about the fragmentation of audience that the internet enables. But truly large texts like this let us deal with social change with some sense of being more than just an atom of preferences and values, that is, a Consumer.
The other point of mild interest is that Michael Cera has, after twenty intermediate films, finally gotten a role as a dick. Or, as close as he's going to get anyway.