Jaideep A Prabhu
Mindsnack #2 : Three movies to keep your thinking
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There are dozens of good movies out there, and there is a mood for each kind of movie. Some are best enjoyed after consuming oregano, while others are of a more serious type; some are great as background noise when you have people over at your cave, and others are best enjoyed while snuggling.

This weekend, I briefly discuss three movies that are not as well known; all three will make you think, and two of them are filmed entirely in one room – so bye-bye big budgets, special effects, and exploding cars! Two of them are even inspired by real-life events.

Why three? I do not know, but I am sure I can come up with some gematria if you really want. Anyway, on to the movies.

The Man From Earth

This movie was made in 2007 and the last writing by Jerome Bixby. The story is about a university professor, John Oldman, who is quitting his job after ten years and takes place in his living room at a farewell gathering. Present are a biologist, an anthropologist, a historian, a psychiatrist, an archaeologist and his student, and a deeply religious art history professor when Oldman reveals to them that he might be an old man (get it? No more cheesy jokes, I promise!). In fact, Oldman asks them how the would disprove him if he claimed to be a 14,000-year-old Cro Magnon.

The movie is a back-and-forth investigating different kinds of evidence as well as the jumbled memories of Oldman – there is a reason the script writer put those specific writers there! The group discusses genetic replication, family life, geography, events in history, and even nomenclature and the creation and shelf life of knowledge. “I didn’t know I was a Cro-Magnon until researchers named me so,” Oldman says at one point. All in all, a very fascinating movie.

God on Trial

This 2008 movie is a television play written by Frank Cotrell Boyce and is based on an anecdote from Elie Wiesel’s The Trial of God. The film is shown as a recollection of an Auschwitz survivor visiting the concentration camp after many years with his grand daughter. Thought to be apocryphal, Wiesel confirmed in September 2008 that the events did indeed transpire and that he was there to witness them.

In the movie, one prisoner who had been selected for the gas chambers angrily cries out that G-d should be put on trial for abandoning his people and breaking His covenant with His chosen people. In their midst, they find a rabbi, a lawer, and another scholar who agree to set up the impromptu court. The trial touches upon some major components of Abrahamic faiths – indeed, all faiths – such as free will, proportional punishment, purity, faith, knowing the mind of G-d, and even the challenge presented by science to theological dogma. A riveting movie you will have to see if you want to know whether He was found schuldig or nicht schuldig!

Das Experiment

A very controversial experiment about the inherent nature of societal positions is the subject of this thought-provoking film. Philip Zimbardo’s prisoner experiment at Stanford in 1971 indicated that prisoners and guards are prone to violence not because of each person’s personal nature but because of his or her place.

In the film, a group of mentally stable people are selected from an applicant pool and divided into two groups, guards and prisoners. In this situation, interestingly, group dynamics develop within the group and against the other. Although the guards are told not to use violence under any circumstances, their effort to maintain discipline takes the form of humiliation, retaliation, and counter-retaliation.

Given the position of authority given to the guards and their instructions to control the prisoners, some viewers may be reminded of another famous experiment, the Milgram Obedience Experiment, conducted in the early 1960s. In this one, a test subject was told to give an electric shock to another person if that person gave a wrong answer to a question that was asked. Hesitant at first, a surprising number delivered the shock and even increased the voltage to fatal levels when “authorised” by a doctor. The indication that even normal people may follow morally questionable orders when it came from figure of authority cast uncomfortable and grave doubts about the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

So those are my choice of three movies that are bound to keep you thinking long after the ending credits stop rolling.

Have fun!

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