Monday, September 23, 2013

Mistaken for Strangers

I could never, ever, be mistaken for The National fan.

It's not that I don't like their music or that I find their congregation funny, it is just that they don't do anything for me, they do not move me.

Or at least they didn't until last Thurdsay.
   
On Thursday (19Sep2013) evening I went with some friends to opening screening of Mistaken for Strangers in Kaptol Centar Zagreb. Movie hall was nicely filled and had an unseemly event, like bombing or fire, happened, Zagreb would have lost almost all of indie-hipster opinion makers. We waved and greeted people around us entering the hall and I smirked a bit and said we should do a muster call to see if anyone's playing hooky. When I sat down a friend leaned down to me and asked:

"Why is hipster sad?"

"Dunno. Why?"

"'cause he heard his band on the radio."

And as we laughed the room got dark and the movie started.

Original movie poster


Right from the start I felt that I'm right where I should be. I may not be The National fan but I'm person enamored with music related documentaries and well made films built on disarming psychological premises and this film is clearly both of those things and displays all its glory right from the very first scene.

 "Don't you have any kind of system or organization for the things you'd like to ask?" 
[Matt to Tom in one of the scenes from his dissorganized interviews]

 The axis of this movie, principal structure around which everything here revolves is Tom Berninger, the guy that spent a year on tour with his brother's band (as movie tagline deftly spells). Tom Berninger is pudgy, naive, seemingly easygoing yet troubled and at the same time extremely gifted individual. Incidentally, he is also the younger brother of Matt Berninger, The National frontman.

By the course of either fine dramatization or simple truth of events Tom Berninger goes on tour as a roadie with The National as a pity or support gesture from his brother - depending on how you look at it. Motivation behind Matt's act remains his own throughout the movie, but this does not diminish the grandeur and beauty this course of events brings.


"I had no idea you were never in Europe!"
[Matt to Tom while flying from USA to Europe]

Movie tells a tiny bit of story about Matt Berninger and The National, about how frustrating and humble their beginnings were and how big they have grown from then to now and this leaves me quite unimpressed as it also left Tom. 

I was never that kind of fan who makes subject of her adoration into an object. I never forget that there are personal lives behind that people up there on stage and I see their crumpled up clothes and bags under their eyes when they are on the road. I notice that overrehearsed boredom and meet with respect both the surprise with unexpected well reception from the audience and watery glazing over of the eyes looking somewhere deep inside his own head where someone close is talking to him from afar.  So in this respect my experience is akin to Tom's. We both see the musicians for ordinary humans and we're too close to the topic to be impressed. But in everything else, hearing Matt talk is just like hearing my own inner voice; civilised yet annoyed and short-fused, focused on the task at hand and intent on having no idling in between two successes. And what makes us most annoyed of all is not being able to transfer that skill (modus operandi, really) to ones we feel closest to us, to ones we believe would benefit the most of it.

So Tom's trouble and lack of focus moves me on a personal level like daily life does - but this feeling comes out of a sequence of scenes and motifs that Tom had put together, while making his movie.

It is a wonderous paradox.

Beauty of seeing someone understand for the very first time. Magnificence of growth.

Tom: “It’s like they think the only reason I’m here is because I’m your brother!” 
Matt: “The only reason you’re here is that you are my brother.”

There is a slew of scenes depicting Tom as a quitter, failure, misfit, inadequate and a great bunch of people that love him and believe that there is value and ability behind his facade of leisureness. It slowly dawns on us, the viewers, that the only thing he truly lacks is not the talent or ability or persistence - it is confidence. But confidence stems from success and feeling of self-worth from feedback of being good at something. 

Like being good in making a movie and people liking that movie you made.

I may not be The National fan but I'm sure as hell Matt's fan after seing this film. Because the greatest gift one can give to another is an opportunity to be a success.

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