The first part in the Triptych of Ship of Theseus

Chaar Yaar‘s brief commentary on the first story in the film Ship of Theseus:

In Anand Gandhi‘s Ship of Theseus, three narrative lines hang around, let us say, a loosely laid out proposition that looks suspiciously like philosophy.

Aida El-Kashef as Aaliya Kamal, a visually impaired and celebrated photographer in Ship of Theseus
Aida El-Kashef as Aaliya Kamal, a visually impaired and celebrated photographer in Ship of Theseus

The first one is about a blind Egyptian photographer who gains her eyesight through an eye transplant and loses her creative moorings as a consequence. In essence, she is not what she was anymore. The charge of plagiarism is, in my view not, sustainable – at least, not with regard to the short video film from where it has allegedly plagiarized the idea. I have two reasons to believe why the charge is excessive in a teenagerish kind of a way. For one, the video-film in question is too shoddy a creative attempt to inspire emulation of any kind. But more credibly, the first part of the Ship of Theseus has an intrinsic poise which is impossible to arrive at through plagiaristic intent. Having said that, I would like to point out that I am not particularly enamoured of the first part of the film. For all intent and purposes, it remains for me the weakest section of an otherwise very interesting film.

The question about the profound disenchantment as a result of the recovery of eyesight through surgery/transplant was posed far more reflectively by Andre Gide in his La Symphonie Pastorale in 1919. It was posed as an existential crisis that could be extended as a metaphor, possibly, of the larger crises visiting Europe at that time. This regrettably isn’t anywhere near happening in the Ship of Theseus which is why the film remains a film about a proposition and not about a philosophical condition.

The first part, in my view the weakest in the triptych, is built largely through theatric conventions of blocking, overlapping dialogic exercises, very basic – shall we say realistic in their ordinariness – mise-en-scene. There is a little, interestingly edgy, outdoor encounter with the city. It harbours a sense of split subjectivity in which one sees both the unattached, ordinary movement of the city life and the not-so-ordinary movement of the blind girl making her way through the possibility of an accident that does not happen. This is some kind of a hermeneutic premonition about the eventual fate of the first part. The outdoor shoot maintains, for most part, a sense of the border – the camera being almost vicariously subjective. However, there are shots that assume autonomy in a way that does not add to the uncertainties and possibilities of overload beyond the narrative space. The narrative, as such, does not have an opening in a philosophical sense. But, shall we hold that against the film?

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