CRASH (2004) – A Thothfull Movie Review
I Thoth thought…
(Racism was about colour, creed and culture. After watching Crash I realised that there are only two races in the world – Good & Bad. We’re all coloured with good and evil and so we’re all just one colour – Good & Bad. Thus true racism – I learnt – is not admitting that we’re all the same.)
… Crash? “Looks like it’s going to be another one of those family dramas” – 12 years ago – I’m thinking, before watching the movie. Back then, I was much younger and I hadn’t yet attained cinematic-enlightenment and become a movie monk yet. Around that age, I’m thinking, if the movie didn’t promise pure ass-kicking entertainment and nothing else, I assumed I was being dragged for some dull family-drama. Crash was thus one of those first films that I watched, I’m thinking, which opened my eyes to the idea that movies weren’t just meant for entertainment, but were also a powerful – educational tool.
(12 years later, after spending a life in movie meditation, I’m thinking, I can finally articulate the many things that this movie made me feel and learn about what it means to be human)
Our Identical Accidents
In L.A. where the movie is based – the Mexicans are seen as seen as thieving gangbangers, and many of them are. The Chinese are seen as encroaching immigrants, and some of them are. Anybody remotely Middle Eastern is seen as an Arab responsible for 9/11 – for which they aren’t. The Whites are seen as white supremacists, which they consciously or subconsciously might be. The Blacks are still looked down upon as unsophisticated muggers or murderers (which many of them are). And even though America sees racism as a thing of the past, this is how it is… And this is how all these races perceive and live with each other, as both victims and professors of racism.
(This also summarizes the plot of Crash, which is about how individuals from these different “races” and their stereotypes collide – as the plot unfolds, causing them to question who they really think they are.)
In Mumbai, where I watched this movie – the Gujratis are seen as money-minded opportunists (even though a majority of the world is), the Biharis are seen as job stealers (#IndianIronies), the North East Indians or Nepalis are employed in Chinese restaurants because of their facial features (we love diversity), and many Hindus still practice Casteism within their communities… the list of stereotypical classifications goes into the 100s in a diverse country like India, but let’s not leave out the Muslims – who are looked down upon as unsophisticated, uncouth (true – in many cases), religious extremists and terrorists (numerically untrue). Again – all victims, yet all – conscious or subconscious professors of racism.
The point of the movie? Just because you’re right about someone’s traits, doesn’t mean you know who they really are. Crash opens your eyes, I’m thinking, to the reality that lack of education, immigrants, thievery, unsophistication, extremism, place of birth – are all problems we’re born into, but they’re not problems we’re born with, and they’re ultimately problems we choose to leave behind or live with. In a world where we’re all both victims and perpetrators of ethical accidents, we think that it’s up to us to judge each other, when in truth we’re all the same, making the same mistakes, meant to empathize and give each other second chances.
The Two Sides of the Crash
On one side of the world, the movie starts with a quote – “It’s the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something”
On another side of the world – in Mumbai – where I’m writing this review, I’m thinking, we touch upon each other too much…
Picture a really broad stairway on a train station leading up to a bridge. Now picture that broad staircase cramped with people pushing each other up the stairway. Each person moving up one half step at a time, nudging and stepping on each other all the while. And, at the exact same time, people are trying to rush down the very same staircase… It wouldn’t be untrue to picture shameless men trying to feel women up in these crowds, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to picture the occasional stampede…
(It also wouldn’t be implausible to imagine me writing this review from my phone, sitting on the roof of the train – due to overcrowding – which thankfully isn’t as much a common occurrence now as it used to be.)
…I’m thinking, when I reflected upon Crash from my Indian perspective, I learn that – on one side of the world, there’s so much of space between us that we can’t help but just crash into each other every now and then. On another side of the world we crash into each other so frequently that we can’t help but want a little space. There are moments of beauty and ugly consequences on both sides of the crash, but I’m thinking – what we’re really looking for is to stop ‘Dashing Cars’, and drive each other through life in trust and in touch with each other’s sensibilities.
(I’m thinking everyone knows this but – Dashing Cars are a game found at amusement parks, where you and other players sit in cars and within a small enclosure – derive pleasure by dashing into each other till the time is up)
Great Movies Come In Unplanned Pairs
Just as Guy Ritchie’s Snatch needs to be watched along with Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrells, and you absolutely must watch Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro after watching Grave of the Fireflies, you similarly mustn’t watch Paul Haggis’s Crash without watching Alejandro Iñárritu’s – Babel.
My point? – A lot of people compare Crash and Babel, citing Babel as a better movie, whereas I watch both movies as a whole, and think they complete each other’s narratives. While Crash shows how we can be so so emotionally disconnected despite living in the same city, Babel portrays how all of our stories are so invisibly interconnected the world around.
Thothful Observations –
Ultimately – I see Crash as a drama which plays out transparent confluences of good and bad – throughout the movie, strongly overshadowed by the theme of racism. So while you may think the movie is all about racism, a closer look reveals that it’s a deliberate recurring pattern of yin and yang incidences and relationships, wherein there’s a bad hidden in every good occurrence and there is a good no matter how bad you think someone is.
For me, I’m thinking, this portrayal of racism’s true nature and true colour, i.e. an ever-varying admixture of Good and Bad, and the idea that we’re all deceiving ourselves by thinking we’re different, when in truth we’re all the same regardless of our differences – makes Crash one of the best and most heart-touching movie I’ve ever seen.
I’m thinking, you’ll either watch the movie and introspect deeply on how you ought to be more empathetic with people, or you’ll be among those self-satisfactorily thinking – “those damn racists!”, until the right kind of crash in your life reminds you that any kind of labeling is racism.
“We’re all looking at reflections in the mirror. And the mirror – I’m thinking – has many cracks” – The Thothful Monk
(This review contained no spoilers, I’m thinking, except if you count me telling you that there’s a car crash scene in Crash that will crash your perspective on life forever.)