‘Homo homini lupus' is the famous Latin proverb that simply translates to 'A man is a wolf to another man'. Although coined centuries ago, modern history has a substantial amount of cases and examples to share that would deny or support the veracity of the proverb.
Why are human beings so keen on violence? This is the fundamental question that the filmmaker Wang Qunyuan asks in their short experimental film titled ‘Contrapunctus I'. This central dilemma is approached from many angles, but the interpretation and the conclusion per se are left to the dedicated audience.
The short film edits together a set of scenes that are essentially similar by theme but different by execution. The film opens with scenes of two or more people fighting in the streets. This might be the closest to violence many people get, and thus the filmmaker begins with them in order to build up the tension and catch our attention. The interpretation is that these fights usually occur because of banal traffic situations where all subjects involved are genuinely nervous and angry. Also, traffic accidents, reckless drivers, and irresponsible pedestrians are among the causes.
As mentioned prior, Qunyuan doesn’t intend to provide the audience with the epilogue of these scenes, if any. Instead, the composition smoothly transitions into scenes at sports events that are funny at first glance. They take a part of popular culture, but undoubtedly, they are as violent as the ones before or after.
The exciting thing about Contrapunctus I is the enhancement of suspense. For example, suppose the first few violent acts were executed simply, or there were no casualties or gore content. In that case, the midpoint twist quickens the pace and showcases massive fights, disarray, disruption in public, and damaging of property. Then, suddenly, the situations escalate immensely. The storyline uses this moment to approach the next phase – riots, protests, and revolutions. The past few years have changed the course of history irreversibly, especially the pandemic and the BLM movement that made more substantial progress than any before. The audience would consider these events that are still actual even today when they experience Contrapunctus I. The symbolism is undeniable, and in that sense, the film provokes us to think or stop for a moment and contemplate the Weltschmerz, the feeling of world-weariness.
Logically, the last act is war, and the filmmaker has chosen unique events to represent the subject. The difference in the montage is that the slideshows fasten as if the storyline wants to conclude before the violence ends, if possible. The end leaves a bitter taste in our mouths that could only be washed if we reflect on the world we live in and try to make it a better place against all the odds. In conclusion, Contrapunctus I is a mind-bending and engaging experimental film.