Holy Motors

Film Reviews

Film review by Ghoshen.

Holy Motors DVD coverHoly Motors is a French film from 2011 that won many awards, including one at the Cannes Film Festival, and ended up on several ten-best lists for that year. Directed by Leos Carax, who is probably best known for The Lovers on the Bridge. It tells the story of a man (Denis Lavant) whose job it is to be driven around Paris in a limousine to keep a series of “appointments”. For each appointment, he assumes the guise of a different character (a female beggar, a motion-capture artist, a gnome-like fellow named M. Merde, a murderer and so on) and acts out a script that has apparently been given to him. Some of these roles appear to be purely fictional characters, as if on stage, but actually intruding into the real world. Others however, such as a man driving his teenage daughter home from a party and the murderer who is well known to his victim, seem, inescapably, to be real people living their real lives.

This is a remarkably rich movie. One could easily enjoy it just as a fantastic, mischievous and bizarre story of a day in the work life of a talented but wholly unrealistic actor. Then again, a cinephile could appreciate the allusions made to past French films with echoes of Tati, Buñuel and Godard. (I have been told that none of these were intentional but they are surely present.) And then one could get all intellectual about it and try to decide what the movie means, as a group of people did after the screening I attended as part of a university’s French film festival. Although I participated a little, my way is not to be so analytical but to contemplate it from a spiritual point of view and let its curiosities steer my imagination. I must note though that a key thing it brought to mind was a line from Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” (And, by the way, in case you did not know there are reasons to think that Shakespeare was well informed and evolved spiritually.)

We may keep popping in and out of witness consciousness but we assume that, every time we find ourselves fully aware, that the witness that is there is the same witness that has always been there throughout our lives. But suppose this is not the case. Suppose that each time we become awake, it is a different witness that alights upon our consciousness, like a candle that is lit and snuffed again and again but each time lit from a different eternal flame. After all, what identity does the witness have? Surely any identity comes only from the memory of its host. I do not mean to suggest either that this is how witnessing actually works or that this is what Carax is hinting at in the film; I just want to suggest that Holy Motors can work like a discourse by Osho that pulls the rug out from under huge layers of one’s beliefs and leaves one wondering if life and consciousness work in a way that is dramatically different from how we typically imagine. Carax may just be having fun with this movie but there are a few clues, such as a scene with Kylie Minogue in an iconic but defunct department store and another where we learn that there are more people who “work” in the same line as our protagonist, that compel me to think that he had a much deeper motive. As well as a lot of fun!

Review by Ghoshen, Osho News

Official Trailer
List of cast

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