Somewhere (film)

Somewhere (Directed by Sofia Coppola)/2010

Arthur Schopenhauer said that the essence of a human being is a consciousness separate from the rest of existence, and because of this separation, suffering and boredom are inherent to human existence.  We are either in a state of psychological of physical suffering, or if we manage to work our way out of suffering, we become bored.

Schopenhauer, taking the Buddhist cue, thought that the only way to escape these two negative states was to detach oneself from the fundamental desire to dominate others and our inexhaustible hunger to accumulate things; we need to let go of the inherent grasping of being a living organism.

Sofia Coppola’s movie Somewhere is at home with Schopenhauer’s pessimism. It follows the life of a superstar, Johnny Marco. Johnny is very rich and successful and has an endless supply of new sexual partners and luxurious hotel rooms, but he is completely bored with life. Because he has it all, there is nothing in life that can excite him; he has the occasional thrill of a new sexual partner or luxurious hotel suite. However, these things still come with a certain level of suffering, as the partners do not appreciate being disposed of after one-use and each luxurious hotel room eventually becomes like all others.

Johnny has a daughter who he seems genuinely affectionate towards. He seems happiest when with his daughter. Yet, in his state of confusion, he fails to see this, and does not get any meaning or satisfaction from being a parent. Coppola is either pointing to the fact that being a parent also fails to provide meaning in life, or Johnny is simply blind to what could provide him meaning.

Stylistically, Somewhere is mostly ultra-realism. Coppola focuses on the day-to-day realities of being a superstar; she does this with such an eye for detail that one can sense an autobiographical aspect to this film. One of the unique aspects of Somewhere is that it shifts between ultra-realism and symbolism.

It made me wonder: if she wanted to display the mundane realities of daily-celebrity life, then why not just film a celebrity going about their daily life? In response to this, I would say that, as is the case with quantum physics, as soon as someone knows they are being watched on camera, they cannot possibly act in the manner that they would if no camera was following them. The best we can therefore do is either create non-fiction that captures our view of how people actually act, or film people doing what they would do as if there was no camera watching them (something that can only work as a proxy due to them knowing they are being watched). And because pure realism is ultimately unattainable, I cannot see anything wrong with shifting between ultra-realism and symbolism, though it may confuse some viewers.

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