Due to the long filming period the film was shot on many different video formats, standard Beta, SP Beta, DV and HDV. About 178 hours were filmed during the 10 years. See more »
Ignore the quality and enjoy every part of the film
Act Normal (2006) is a move directed by Olaf de Fleur showcasing the story of life of Robert T. Edison who at his age of 18 decided to become a monk. Robert was born in Leeds in Yorkshire, north of England, and grew up in a family of middle-class English parents. Having gathered small amount of money for the flight tickets, he moved from Britain to Thailand in the search of Buddhist teachings. However, after approximately a 10-year period he decides to disrobe and get married to a Russian girl from Kazakhstan. This is the time when he completely alters his lifestyle and priorities in life.
It can be immediately noticed from the opening scene that the producer will touch upon various topics concerning Buddhism as a whole. One of the most significant topics discussed in the movie is the monkshood and sangha. The producer tries to convey the actual lifestyle of the Buddhist monks in modern life through the collection of interviews taken from Robert who talks about the everyday obligations and routine in the sangha. In addition, the producer depicts the role of Buddhist sangha in the society especially thought showcasing food donation process and its significance both for the population and the monks. Other direct Buddhist contexts shown in the movie are core Buddhist concepts such as suffering, the Noble Truths, Dharma, Buddha, anatman (no sole) and topics of attachment and love. The protagonist shows a deep understanding of all these concepts and hence is able to share his knowledge and experience. Hence, it can be claimed that the documentary movie would be most impressive and beneficial for the individuals about to become the Buddhist monks.
The main advantage of the documentary film is that it contains and demonstrates almost complete picture of the protagonist, monk Robert. The film is focused only on one topic: the life of an English monk. It gives a chance for the watching people to feel the main hero's feelings and may make them as much sympathetic as possible (probably there are still exceptional cases). The second side of the coin is redundancy of flashbacks throughout the whole movie. Return-Backs were not a successful idea for it is highly uncomfortable for the audience to construct right order of chronology and ultimately the complete plot of the movie. Although the interviews are accompanied with the information on the year they were taken, it would be better to keep everything in order or to reduce the number of flashbacks. Despite this disadvantage, the main idea still remains clear and the audience may easily make conclusions for themselves.
Even though documentary films are not supposed to be criticized according to quality criterion, it is worth to mention that, in this particular movie, low quality played a significant role in understanding the movie as a whole. To be precise, the quality of montage and the shooting process itself makes it quite uncomfortable for the audience to focus only on the protagonist. Moreover, in some parts of the movie it seems that both interviewee and interviewer are not well-prepared, which may show a quite unprofessional approach to the movie. Nevertheless, low quality of the film may still be justifiable taking into account small experience and probably restricted financial opportunities of Icelandic Film Centre, established only 3 years before shooting the documentary film.
To conclude, Act Normal (2006) by Olaf de Fleur depicts both privileges and hardships of Buddhist monk life in the modern society. Not only it lets audience to get acquainted with Robert T. Edison, his life and his feelings, it also provides thought-provoking information about main Buddhist concerns and concepts. The movie would especially be recommended to watch for those who want to get involved in monkhood community.
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