‘This film is so real’ said my good friend about Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know. I do not think he meant exactly what he said. The film does not present an image of the reality we are used to. Rather he talked about the truthfulness of the pieces of a story that comes together in the narrative of the film. Miranda July does not show the stories that really happen, but the stories we really think of. I will try to illustrate this statement in the next few paragraphs.
Let’s start with a slightly more general point. Do we want the art to be as close to reality as it can be? The Established Artist in the film mixes his art with ordinary things of daily use to cast certain ‘glow’ over his exhibition, as he explains to an art curators who admire his real hamburger wrapper. But if the curator cannot tell the art from the rubbish, the difference does not seem to be there at all. If you do not want to be mistaken in the same way, maybe you would search for a kind of art that, on the contrary, rejects the reality and follows another trail than that of a false authenticity. Possibly the one based on unbound imagination.
Miranda July’s character, Christine, takes this way. The film starts with a scene showing her making her video-art. She is animating a postcard scenery of a sunset with her voice. Two people in love promise that they will live their lives concentrating on every moment and leaving their minds open to dreams. Christina speaks for both of them as if she played with little toys, and we see her talking to the microphone and turning the switches on the television. She constructs an imaginary reality for the camera in the same way as an idea appears in our head when we dream of something. Not only the vow the people in her story make, but also her way of work as we see it establishes Christine’s (and Miranda’s) attitude to creativity. To make art means to materialize the process of invention as it is going in our mind.
This attitude puts a strong emphasis on a present moment and on the state of complete focus either on the outer reality or you inner thoughts. Only when one of these processes wholly absorbs you, you appreciate the singularity of the time and space, or piece of art. These concepts very much blend into each other here. The scene with a fish on the roof of a car driving down the highway serves as a good example. We are waiting for the fish to fall down at the moment when the car accelerates and everybody involved experience the while as an extraordinary one. The fact that the situation cannot last long heightens the importance of the time and makes us concentrate on the beauty of it. The impression that art makes depends at least partly on the spectator’s mindset.
Such a mind-set fits mostly to the children. Apart from Christine the film mainly follows three characters that retain in some degree the qualities of the naïve imaginary thinking, brothers Peter and Rob and a little girl Sylvia. We gradually see all three of them in their private scene of dreaming. Peter, the older of the two brothers, lives through his dream as he is first experiencing the sexual act. Two girls are looking for someone to judge their skills and they choose Peter. He does not have to put any effort into getting what he probably hoped for, the girls come and arrange everything themselves. Things do not usually happen this way, though. The story can only seem appropriate when we find ourselves in a reality strongly formed by the characters’ wishes and imagination.
Sylvia collects her dowry and plans her future life as a housewife. She confesses her private wish to Peter when she tells him about the interior design of the house she want to have. As we follow the words, we get further into the incalculable stream of imagination which ends only with death. Certain cruelty of the dream very authentically illustrates the unusual logic of the free associations.
The perception of the youngest of the three children, Rob becomes a prism of the very last scene of the film. We are witnessing his vision in the moment when the sun rises and he finds the source of the strange sound he hears. Experiencing the reality through his senses, we get deeper into his mind than to Peter’s or Sylvia’s. The film shows the specific subjective vision Wim Wenders was crying for in his writings as for the most important quality of film. In the very last moment, the little coin works for Rob as a mean to move the sun. Both the attention of the spectator to a particular moment and his ability to enrich the perceived reality by his imagination come together in this view of a singular piece of time.
Miranda July shows that the illusion of reality stands very far from art. Her attitude presented by the film inclines towards the spontaneous process of invention that cherishes any perceived moment and transforms it into a specific experience. She bases her work on the realization of this process, similarly to character of Christine in the film. The resulting impression very much resembles the way how we all dream. The enchantment by the film comes from the fascination and nostalgia for our own imaginary journeys from the time when word ‘forever’ still had a meaning for us.