Originally published on 18/08/22 on Letterboxd
"They're absorbing all the ambient energy"
Immeasurably moving. There's not really a way for me to talk about why this film is so important to me that doesn't sound like an extended confessional, but that is precisely why it's so effective.
In channeling the dissonance inherent to his juxtaposition of the untouched elemental with the fractured virtual towards not a grand, overarching thesis but towards sweeping, abstract images, Ang Lee never imposes paradigms of perception. Instead, the film understands more acutely than any of its counterparts that the primacy of perception is inextricable from the formation of the self- it is why the film so often situates Bruce in seemingly boundless desert landscapes, a mere green speck, a phenomenological anomaly wrestling with its own inexplicability by observing the basest of lifeforms: microbes.
His willingness to recognise symbiosis as an ecological essential is in direct contrast to his father's maniacal need to preserve authority via (literal) coalescence with the ecosystem. It is why he is able to rid himself of his father by turning every raised voice, every abandonment and every thrust of the knife against him via simply allowing his father to see witness what he's done to his son via the eyes of a child. The obvious artificiality of such images becomes irrelevant when they convey torment and catharsis so much more incisively than staid realism ever could.