Beer without alcohol: | Sunday Observer
Film review

Beer without alcohol:

17 May, 2020

‘Beer without Alcohol’ a Zoom-short film by Asoka Handagama made swirling waves on social media the whole of last week, especially among art enthusiasts and artistes who have been severely affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the entertainment industry has been paralysed for the past two months. It was the very first industry to shut down due to the pandemic and also the least attention being paid in terms of re-opening. Therefore, Handagama’s attempt has been well received by its audiences while reaching many thousands of views within a few hours its release on Youtube.

‘Beer Without Alcohol’; the name of the film is a direct influence of Slovenian philosopher, Salvoj Zizek’s over-used metaphor ‘Coffee without caffeine’ or ‘Beer without alcohol’ and therefore, the name itself opens a passage for the viewer to peep into Handagama’s imagination behind making of his latest artistic venture.

Although I'm not much of a fan of art pieces which narrate to support philosophical theories, Handagama holds a name for such successful, believable attempts throughout his cinematic life and ‘Beer without alcohol’ is another promising effort by Handagama of his cinematic endeavour. The film is also a parable about the phrase ‘falling in love’ which gives the literal idea of ‘falling’ over someone you love.

The narration of ‘Beer without alcohol’ is based on a zoom call between four friends (Nadie Kammallaweera, Samanalee Fonseka, Indrachapa Liyanage and Rukmal Niroshan) who have been restricted in their houses due to the pandemic.

The entire story gravitates on a ‘gone girl’ (Shashini Gamage) - who left her husband (Rukmal Niroshan) just before the day of curfew and while her husband reveals his ‘less-dramatic’ mediocre life, where he found his wife on a chat room, and they got married without any conflicts like everything else in his average life.

However, the sudden disappearance of the wife was due to a rumour about the husband’s true moment of ‘falling in love’ with another woman and the Zoom conversation is continuing with his other friends who tend to reveal their ‘true’ moments of ‘falling in love’ in life.

In the movie a specific question is repeatedly asked by the character played by Nadie Kammallaweera; ‘Did you fall in love?’, opening an avenue for its viewers to dive deep into what it meant by ‘falling in love’?

Zizek sheds light on the philosophical idea of ‘falling in love’ on a Youtube video - ‘Our fear of falling in love’ and he says:

“Imagine you are living a ‘happy’ life as you have your dream job, you have a bunch of perfect friends to hang out with, you follow the latest fashion trends and you have money to afford the same, and people admire you for your talents and beauty. Isn’t this the idealistic happy life one can think about? Surely it is.

However, one fine day, when you walk down the road, all of a sudden in a totally contingent way you stumble and fall on the street and somebody helps you to stand up and that particular, spontaneous encounter will change your entire life. The life that you spent thereafter is not going to be the same life that you spent before. In metaphorical way that’s what is called ‘falling in love’.”

Besides the reality, there are ample examples you can find in literature, films, songs, poems which describe this particular ‘true’ moment in life that you ‘fell in love’. Although it might sounds cliché, living in an era where there are more dating apps and chat rooms that assure you to falling in love ‘without really falling’; it takes out the essence of ‘falling in love’ and prevent you from getting hurt and feeling the pain. In this context, ‘Beer without alcohol’ reminds us the beautiful humane feeling of ‘falling’ over someone truly. The true moment you lose yourself and there’s no longer an existence of you without the presence of ‘the other’.

Although there was loss of emotion in some of the dialogues delivered where there wasn’t an organic sync between the characters, Handagama’s atypical talents in penning highly sophisticated philosophical ideas into soothing lyrical words could secure the entire mood of the film.

Samanalee’s extremely honeyed voice supported by Indrachapa’s melodious strings on the guitar, could build the perfect magical mood for the film where you end up being trapped in an echo which resonates over and over in your ear: which brings you the nostalgic magical memories of ‘falling in love’ over and over again.

Although today life is in such uncertainty, the post-Corona world substitutes that fear with an uncertain hope of a new era of consciousness and new opportunity for life with new hope of conscious thinking and creativity.

When speaking of the Sri Lankan cinema, ironically, there’s no industry to talk of and no investors with solid industrial know-how and there's no audience to appreciate Sinhala cinema anymore.

Presumably there'll hardly be a change in the situation in pre-Corona to post-Corona state of Sri Lankan cinema. Also we shouldn’t neglect the fact that none of the developing countries in the world have solid industrial based national cinema.

Therefore, making films is restricted to one’s personal pleasure and desire and those who still have a passion for making films, it’s paramount to think alternative formats of film-making and distribution mechanism should keep the passion alive.

In that sense, Handagama always sets the example and is still capable of igniting his cinematic desire and keeping it alive. It reveals his endless ‘falling’ in love with cinema and to quote his own lyrical words:

"…When there is no such thing in it-self

Why did you appear like a truth?

It is only a painting I drew in my mind

I was captivated

That is the wonder…"

The wonder of ‘falling in love’ over and over with cinema… Bravo, Handagama! You did it again!