- Member: WalterScott
- Studio: Graven Image
- Title: Visions of Arjuna
- Premiered: 2004-09-21
- Philip Glass Satyagraha
Winner, Best Instrumental in the AWA 2004 Professional Contest.
This was a video that possessed me and wouldn't let go until I'd sunk 100+ hours into it. Part of the time sink was deciding to do a video entirely in AE for the first time, not specifically to create effects per se but because I had gotten so frustrated with Premiere and found the AE process more satisfying. Of course AE gives you so much room to tinker with every little thing so the hours just passed by... A lot of the 'effects' that I did are very low key, such as zooming and cropping, or creating a shot that didn't exist in the original footage.
Arjuna is a kind of awkward colt of a series that I fell in love with with despite itself. Its elements of social relevance clash with super heroics just as the cg struggles to blend in with the cel animation. This is a show that will randomly drop the narrative for a ten minute screed about such things as childbirth procedures or soil depletion so self righteous that Isao Takahata would blush. As something of a windmill-tilter myself, I was enthralled.
To me this show is nothing less than a religious passion play dressed up as science fiction. Like Nausicaa, Arjuna dies and is reborn to redeem the world. On the other hand, to an outsider a prophet is indistinguishable from a madman. The entire series could be read in the context of A Beautiful Mind, as the hallucination of a young girl who went insane from trauma, the worms and so on being entirely figments of her imagination. Or, to put it more charitably, she becomes a modern day shaman, manifesting visions of the subtexts and symbols of modern society and its ills.
So I wanted to make a video about Arjuna's spiritual transformation (and/or leap into madness), leaving much of the ostensible plot and superheroic baggage aside. Visually I obviously cribbed from 2001 and from the 'Qatsi' trilogy of films that used Philip Glass music. I used to listen to Glass quite a bit, especially the soundtrack to his Satyagraha opera, whose libretto is taken entirely from the Bhaghavad Gita. (yup, it's in Sanskrit) The damn CD is out of print now and I ended up ordering it used from Amazon.
The opening song from the opera, which ends with a booming chorus chanting the name "Arjuna, Arjuna, Arjuna" (well it is from the Gita) seemed like the natural climax or destination, but that track is 18 minutes long! The entire soundtrack has nine pieces of similar length. After considerable experimentation I decided to splice together parts of three different tracks to create a kind of remix that would match the progression of scenes and concepts that I wanted to use. In the end there were about 10 or 12 separate edits to the audio, only a couple of which I hope are noticeable.
By the way, all of the live action clips are taken from the DVD box set of Arjuna which includes these outtakes from the various location shots used for the anime (similar to Kare Kano).
The order of events in the amv are similar to, but not the same as, the original anime. This is the gospel of Arjuna according to me. (Note: you might want to watch the video first to make your own impression before reading this. Or not.)
We start with the natural world, as it is, then as Arjuna sees it, with the cycles of life manifest in shimmering light. We see through Arjuna's eyes the disruption of that cycle due to modern 'Vietnam style' agriculture. The music is from the 'Protest' section of the opera, just the instrumental lead in. [Unfortunately I had to cut the vocal from that part. Translated it says something like 'do not feel hatred for any living being'. This little clip can also be found on the little 3-opera Glass remix compilation that is still in print.]
Only then do we go to the plot setup - Arjuna's accident, death and transfiguration. I'm trying to suggest that Arjuna's empathic 'powers' preceded the accident, they were always there.
For the outer space scenes I mix in shots from other parts of the show to suggest a 2001 sort of rebirth. The music is from the 'King: Newcastle March' right at the beginning of part 2. I can't make out the words at all but the libretto says something about a journey beyond death from which some travelers never return. Some of the clips here are actually from a different episode where the math teacher is ranting about the wonders of fractals and the mystery and order of the universe and what not.
Before returning to Earth Arjuna is given a vision of the train wreck of modern global ecocide. On her return to the city I wanted to suggest Julia Butterfly Hill coming down from her redwood tree after 2 years. Total culture shock and freakout. And then her ultimate super size me moment. It's hard to eat a Big Mac after you've become one with the cow.
The rest of my edits from the school freak out (my daughter liked that part best) and on are pretty straightforward, with each section of music using shots all from one particular scene in the show (but not in order). Arjuna grooves out in the rice fields and in the forest and gets a sense of her own power. That sense of power through communion with Gaia I illustrate with just a couple of the 'action' scenes, one in her own gut, and one from the last episode. The chorus is repeating a line from the Gita in which Krishna is admonishing Arjuna basically to quit whining and moaning and go forth into battle. (from 'The Kuru Field of Justice')
But then with a flash we are back in reality. I end with her w/ her boyfriend in the landfill. No worms, no super powers, no earth shaking disasters. Just the world we live in, with all its mess, but also its beauty. Was everything else just a dream? Or, like a shimmering Van Gogh, was it a greater awakening...
Anyway if this all sounds like drivel to you then don't worry about it, find another video and have a nice day. This may end up being like my first video about children, if you're in a certain receptive place for it you might really enjoy this video, otherwise, hmm, maybe not. But if anything in this summary piqued your interest then give it a shot.