Some films are celluloid gateways into the souls of their makers. Many filmmakers resort to deeply personal experiences to simulate authentic ones in their cinema. But how much can we really understand a filmmaker solely through their camera lens? What would an unadulterated look into a narcissistic filmmaker’s process look like? Will it be a raw insight into the male gaze? Will it reveal the hypocrisy of one who touts his horn as being liberal yet harbors orthodox sentiments? Everything is Cinema is your answer to the all these questions.
It is a docu-fiction film written and directed by Don Palathara. Although he’s called a fresh voice of the Malayalam New Wave, he prefers not to be categorized in any way. His films reflect a raw honesty often found in indie films made by young filmmakers. Everything is Cinema is his latest film, which premiered at the 2021 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
‘Everything is Cinema’ Plot Summary – Events of Kolkata, 2020
The film begins with Chris, a filmmaker from Kerala, who moves to Kolkata with his wife Anita, a famous actress. Chris intends to make a follow-up documentary to Louis Malle’s 1969 documentary film Calcutta. We see Kolkata from the lens of this Mallu filmmaker who feels as much a foreigner as did Malle in this Bengali-speaking city. His camera captures several meditative shots of Kolkata reminiscent of the images from Malle’s Calcutta.
Unfortunately, this is 2020. News of the lockdown forces the couple to stay indoors. What started as a meditative exploration of a perceivably alien city morphs into a home-video style, almost voyeuristic exploration of the relationship between Chris and Anita. We see Anita perform her daily activities, with Chris’ misogynistic voiceover exposing his toxic mindset. Chris slowly degrades from an artist willing to do it all for his art into a stereotypical toxic male who believes the world revolves around him.
As the days go by in the isolation of the lockdown, their relationship continues to strain.
Separating the Art from the Artist
Chris starts off as an artist, one who worships his art more than anything. Following his process ritually to get the most aesthetically appealing scenes, getting the right shot matters more than anything. He’s a likable guy who just wants to make his film. And then the lockdown happens.
As the days go by, we see the deep-rooted conditioning of traditions, patriarchy, misogyny, and more surface slowly as he voyeuristically films his wife. A lot is being spoken about the male gaze, and this film shows us in the most authentic way possible by putting us right in the camera. Chris’ voiceover only makes matters worse as we slowly begin to dislike this man for his backward thoughts, hypocritical behavior, and overall self-hate and hateful demeanor. All this makes you wonder if you can genuinely separate a piece of art from the artist.
In the case of Everything is Cinema, the art is the artist, and the artist is the art. The complex character of Chris represents an amalgam of the two distinct bodies, which are usually debated over. You can undoubtedly appreciate Hitler’s paintings while denouncing his ideologies and praising Lovecraft’s writings while criticizing their racist undertones. However, with Everything is Cinema, you can’t help but start resenting the very film you’re watching. It’s an uncomfortable experience at times, and you want to scream at the screen for Anita to leave this horrid man.
There are occasional beauty shots of Kolkata that make their appearance. Still, as your perception of Chris changes, you can’t help but wonder what resentful thing is he actually trying to capture in these meditative shots. Don Palathara has done a fantastic job showing us the reality of toxic relationships and the male gaze, all shot in the middle of the pandemic.
This isn’t your regular film that dramatizes conflicts for the sake of entertainment. This is a docu-fiction masterpiece that attempts to capture reality and succeeds at pushing you to introspect.
Everything is Cinema is a very raw film, and that’s for the best. The raw aesthetic gives it an authenticity that many extensive budget features don’t even come close to. Its indie nature allows it to be as honest and unadulterated as can be, presenting to us a disturbingly frank portrayal of the toxic male gaze seen straight from the lens of a poisonous male filmmaker.
I strongly recommend you watch this film.
Everything is Cinema is a 2021 Documentary Fiction film written and directed by Don Palathara.