Artist & Objectivity : A Case of Oliver Stone’s ‘W.’

Josh Brolin playing George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's 'W.'

Josh Brolin playing George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's 'W.'

Art & Objectivity, kind of, don’t go together always. The eternal contrast between science and art claims that science tries to understand the reality, as it is, while art tries to present reality in form of a subjective interpretation by an artist. Can art be objective? If yes, to what extent?

I thought of this, when I read Oliver Stone‘s own take on his recent movie “W.” on Slate. I couldn’t appreciate all the details that he discusses in the article since, I haven’t watched the movie, as it hasn’t been released in Spain yet, and I really don’t know if it will be released soon. But I found his own take on his function and responsibility as a dramatist, quite interesting. Here he explains what is he supposed to do as a Dramatist and that’s why his movie W, is the way it is. It provides some good insight about how a creator thinks!

Following are some quotes from the article…

“….Our purpose was a dramatization. As you know, these quotes and speeches are strung over years and numerous meetings…… As dramatists we simplify and condense,…….. Drama requires a concrete representation of the abstract “

“…As Dramatist we are shaping the pattern that we see repeating itself in the W.’s presidency.

Very interesting. Quotes, speeches, body language, mannerisms etc, was studied over years, patterns were identified and the character was created. It’s possible for a biopic that some events, some conversations  are included purely for the sake of narrative. That’s where the movie maker needs to present the abstract, but in a simplified way. “W”, despite being a biopic, is very different from any recent movie in the same genre in one respect, i.e. it depicts important events in life of a sitting president. It’s a huge risk. An overcritical or over-dramatized version could written off as a sheer Gag than a serious movie. Probably it’s this risk that makes Stone say the following…

“But as a dramtist, I consider it professional to remove my feelings, to allow the audience to live through him and see as human”

This is what made me think. What does an artist really do? Is it possible for an artist to remove personal feelings from his/her work? Would an artist ever want to remove his/her feelings from the work? I know, Oliver Stone is a skilled artist. He surely has his own style and he leaves his mark on every movie he does, and this movie would be no exception. It was this thought of bringing this element of objectiveness that he attempts to bring to art, which is interesting and makes me curious. To what extend does he succeed in this? I haven’t seen the movie, but I think he has succeeded in it. Because intelligent reviewers have somehow noticed that.

James Rocchi on Cinematical says, “… could argue that what it lacks is a point of view…..”; While Patrick Goldstein in LA times blog says ” …“W.” feels flat and strangely passionless, as if it were directed by someone who makes documentaries…”, While Manohla Dargis in New York Times praises the movie in every way but still puts a remark that, “…because he (Oliver Stone) seems keen to weigh in as more evenhanded than usual…”.

Why so? Maybe they all wanted a scathingly critical depiction of man whose tenure as President has created more problem for the world than any other leader in our memory of recent past. Probably they all knew that Oliver Stone is one of the most eloquent critique of George W. Bush and his policies and they were expecting his movie to reflect his feelings rather than an empathatic account of his life.

What does Oliver Stone himself think of his ‘W.’? In the same article, he says, “.…But our film offers, ironically to me, a strange compassion for W, who is so hard to like…“! Maybe, that’s what the critics didn’t expect! But still an interesting experiment in objectivity by a talented artist!

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2 thoughts on “Artist & Objectivity : A Case of Oliver Stone’s ‘W.’

  1. Josh Brolin evidently tries to “make a statement” with his movies, such as in No Country for Old Men, which makes him pretty well suited for making ‘W.’

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