By Rohan Seth:
I’ve seen Martin Scorsese’s student film, “The Big Shave” (1967), a number of times. I was probably in my late teens when I saw it first and hadn’t started shaving by then (trust me, this is important to the context), and all that came to mind was –
A) It was a film about a dude shaving. Yep that’s about it. And the protagonist for some unbeknownst reason to me, self-mutilates himself. A cursory read over the internet told me that it was a metaphor for the self-destructive involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.
B) It was one of the early representations of Scorsese-esque blood and gore with misleading pleasant music – a consummate display of “irony”, one of the most potent weapons in a storyteller’s arsenal.
I saw it again recently and it had an altogether new meaning for me. By now, I must have shaved at least a thousand times. And what I did was, that I simply started mapping the way my life dramatically changed as I continued to set new shaving milestones.
My “big shave” or ‘first shave’ was in fact the moment when I signed up to be a part of the complex structures of society. I lost a bit of my innocence, nonchalance or carefreeness every time I shaved. I slowly descended into a world where I was accountable to people for my time. I was plunged into the labyrinth of placements, jobs, résumés, probations, appraisals, taxation, health insurance, fixed interest mortgage repayments, ‘responsibilities’ and ‘a market system’ which would suck me in and there would be no way out.
My big shave thus served as a huge jolt to my consciousness, to my individual peculiarities and in a way, it assembly-lined me, straightjacketed me, ‘self-mutilated’ me into a ‘working professional’, whatever the heck that means. We’re all regressing to a point, shave by shave, where there will only be numbness to contend with. I can already hear the ‘pleasant symphony’ as background music.
Watch the film here and let me know your thoughts.