Hello, person of the planet Earth.
As an university student that lives in halls, drugs and alcohol are all around me. London always smells like marijuana and drunk people are the knights of the night. There are some people who I’ve met and talked to multiple times and they can never recall meeting me before. There are some people that you only get along with when they’re drunk. There are people who get funny when drunk, or violent, or their sex drive rises high. Everyone has their different reactions to different stimulants.
As someone who is quite interested in philosophy and psychology, something I’ve always thought about is the question of if you’re still yourself when not sober. Do people still have their morals when they drink a whole bottle of wine and cheat on their partner? Is someone truly depressed or anxious (or mentally ill in any other way) if they experience that only when they’re under the influence of a type of drug?
I feel like those might be questions that one cannot answer… or ones that require multiple expensive researches and studies to be done. The brain is such a complex thing that I don’t think answers about it can ever be defined be certain. It’s just a bunch of atoms and energy literally trying to solve itself.
And even though I’m not a scientist or a psychologist and I can’t give you answers, I dare to say one thing though – everybody is addicted to something on one level or another. Be it a drug, a type of alcohol, a TV show, a person, a food. And, as you know, most things is bad when you give your everything to it. I just had a nice little conversation about this with someone I see around quite often – he said that anything is bad when it’s too much.
I’m going to touch on the topic in filmmaking via showing you some films that capture addiction in one of its many forms. I am not going to go in too much depth simply because the topic is so long and complicated – but what I do hope to achieve is to get you thinking about it.
Probably the most famous example of addiction on film is Aronofsky’s Requiem for a dream (2000). In it, the characters start out as young people who are in love with life. They have dreams, they have reasons, they have goals. As the film progresses, we observe how they lose everything and they become their addiction. Drug use is their only highlight – this can be concluded by viewing the famous fast-cut montages that are used whenever someone takes a pill or pinches their skin with a needle. This is also underlined during the final scene – a series of matching shots of all the four main characters in a fetal position – having lost their freedom, a part of their physical body, their dignity and their mind, they face their fate and they become a physical embodiment of their addiction.
The image portrayed in this film is easily the first thing people think when they hear the word “addiction” – which is why some of the other forms of addictions are overlooked and sometimes, are not even classified as such.
Another good film that one might not consider as a portrayal of addiction is Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash (2014). The film achieves it’s rawness and genuineness with its long shots and with the marvelous acting game played by the actors. It takes just one look at Miles Teller’s struggling face to deduce that he is obsessed. Once you think even deeper about it, you can see the signs of addiction – self destructive behaviour in the name of the thing you are obsessed with, letting people go because of it, giving your whole life to do what you love so much. If it’s not obvious already – the main character is addicted to music. For some, becoming the best drummer can be useless; for them, music might be something that they just listen to in the elevator or during commercials. For others, such as Miles Teller’s character Andrew, drumming is a moving force in his life, it’s his reason and goal and he’s willing to give it as much time and effort as it takes. Is that a bad kind of addiction? Who are we to judge?
One of the most common addictions is the addiction to a person. A huge portion of art in the world is made in the name of love and about the idea of soulmates. An example in film I could think of is Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is The Warmest Colour (2013). In it, we can see how Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos)‘s life becomes literally blue (through the use of set design and lighting, fashion and mise-en-scene in general) as she falls in love with Emma (Lèa Seydoux) – a young artist with blue hair and a charming smile. Blue symbolises Emma and by the end of the film, we can literally see Adèle swimming in it, portraying her immense love and obsession with her lover. Even in the last scene, when Adèle is supposedly over Emma and is ready to go on, she’s wearing a blue dress, which shows how Emma will always be a part of her. I think the film is so well done and portrays obsession so well because the director himself a mad genius. He took 5 1/2 months shooting the film, and it was only supposed to take 2. He shot the famous 10-minute long sex scene in the span of 10 days – 10 days of unscripted, raw, embarrassing acting of lovemaking between to women who barely knew each other at the time. He made them do things that, if they did in the USA, “they’d all be in jail now” (source). It was a crucial shoot, but the product of it is one of the most beautiful films there are. Is every love an obsession or is there a certain factor that defines one from the other? Am I ready to give everything I have just to be around this person? Am I ready to say goodbye to my identity just to be accepted and loved?
Addiction is something that can be explored in every aspect of life. It is nothing defined and it doesn’t necessarily have an answer. It is stronger than your rational mind and it overtakes everything else – if you let it, of course. You might be able to escape it, but sometimes it’s just in your blood. Where is the border? Who is to say what is good and what is wrong? You either are or you’re not. And it can be anything – the best and the worst things come from being so madly inlove with something that you are ready to give your whole existence to it. You can create a masterpiece, as did Kechiche. Or you can destroy yourself, as did Aronofsky’s characters. It’s your right to choose what you want to become… or is it?
Until next time,