Films that Made Me - Franklin Jacob: Films should make you empathetic

A biweekly column exploring the films that inspired, influenced and shaped the cinematic sensibilities of contemporary filmmakers

author_img Franklin Jacob Published :  26th May 2022 12:37 AM   |   Published :   |  26th May 2022 12:37 AM

In this edition of Films That Made Me, Franklin Jacob, the director of Writer, speaks of five films that inspired his filmmaking and the way he infuses politics into narratives

El Violin (2005)

Written and directed by: Francisco Vargas

The black-and-white image of an old man holding a violin grabbed my attention when I first saw the poster of El Violin. It is set in a conflicted South American country and its portrayal of violence and resistance is haunting. Although the landscape is alien to us, I could connect to the film and its characters. The cruel gaze of the military officer towards the main character in the ending is what I tried to reflect in Writer through the character of the deputy commissioner. Moreover, the usage of violin as a storytelling metaphor amazed me. I feel films should transcend the craft and make us empathise with characters. El Violin is one such film. It’s one of those films I revisit while writing my screenplays or going through a low phase. 

Babel (2006)

Written by: Guillermo Arriaga

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Babel too is a film I keep going back to frequently. I first watched it during my days with Pa Ranjith sir, when cinematographer Murali G sir showed it to us and conducted a post-viewing discussion session. In Babel, a Japanese rifle is used by an Iranian kid to shoot an American lady, whose kids are facing a problem at the US-Mexico border. The way the film addresses racial conflict through the way the American officer looks at a Mexican woman at the border proves that one cannot present such sensitive themes without possessing lived-in experience and a comprehensive understanding of the political context. The film’s ability to merge sensitive international politics with profound human nature through terrific film language into a single, simple narrative makes me wonder if I can ever write something as good. 

Last Stop 174 (2008)

Written by: Bráulio Mantovani

Directed by: Bruno Barreto

We love and celebrate master filmmakers for the foundation they have laid. However, sometimes a small, unknown film comes out of nowhere as a shocker and sweeps you away. Last Stop 174 falls under this category. I have an inclination towards foreign films based on real events, be it biographies or ethnographies. Last Stop 174 stands out distinctively among all such films. Vetri Maaran sir once told me something beautiful: There’s a difference between truth and fact. Last Stop 174 is based on a true incident where a young boy hijacked a bus in Brazil. Here, the truth is that he hijacked a bus with a gun and got killed by the police. But the fact is everything that led him to this moment. The reasons include conditions of his upbringing, an estranged mother… I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a film and its portrayal of a lifestyle as much as I did while watching Last Stop 174.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Written and directed by: Stanley Kubrick 

When I watched A Clockwork Orange, I had so many questions. Why did Kubrick embrace such a theme? Why did he choose an insane protagonist like Alex? Is there a reason why Alex is behaving crazily? Why is his approach to life so objectionable? You just cannot expect answers to these questions because it’s the world of Alex and Kubrick presents the film from his perspective. Every shot in this film can be studied for the depth in it. 

A person is a product of his society, and when one exists in his own world, how does it affect him when the government tries to fix him? The film questions Alex’s worldview and our own perspective. Kubrick is one of those filmmakers who can make me look at a character from multiple angles.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

Written and directed by: Werner Herzog

I am a fan of Werner Herzog’s thinking. He understands people, their needs, and reflects them through writing, tone, and every other aspect of filmmaking. I agree that European filmmakers had access to advanced tools, but Herzog is a perfect case-study for how that technology can be used to portray humanity. 

With Aguirre, the Wrath of God, he proved that it is possible to retell a historic tale (from the 1560s) organically. To be able to achieve that is one of the finest forms of filmmaking. I’m not sure if I can ever achieve what he or the other filmmakers have. I’m trying to travel in that direction though. 

(As told to Ram Venkat Srikar)