It is an interesting title, I thought. ‘Some Day In The Future’, to me, suggests a wistful sort of existence, one that hints at the hope for a better future. As in, “We’re in a tough situation now, but some day in the future, things will be OK.” You can, of course, flip it the other way around (“We’re OK now, but some day in the future, things will be tough”), but this feels somewhat unnatural, somewhat lacking in a poetic sense. After watching the film, I can surmise that somehow, the director, Dharmasena Pathiraja, is a person who hopes for things to be better in the future.
A part of this is to do with the stylings of the film. The film itself has a certain graininess, a certain scratch here and there that made me think it was a film made in the 80s, early 90s if you really want to push it. You know how a film looks when you watch it years after it was made? An old film shown on TV or in the cinema betrays its age, and you get a sense of watching something that was kept exclusively in a vault for long years before being brought out again for a screening.
It was like that, for me. The colour, the setting, the locations in the film, the clothes…it seemed like the director had jumped into a time machine and made his film back in the 80s or early 90s. Imagine my surprise, then, when I looked it up in the festival catalogue and saw (2001) inscribed next to the title. I figured that Sri Lanka may not have as established a film industry as some of the other, more prominent film countries, so maybe the film conservation or the film stock available wasn’t as good or something more mundane like that, but I realise that perhaps there was an artistic decision that lay behind all of this.
However, first things first, for I am getting more than a little ahead of myself. The story in ‘Someday in the Future’ follows two men, Dhammika (Saumya Liyanage) and Lionel (Vasantha Moragoda). At the very start of the film, it seems like they are a bunch of misfits, just a couple of guys who have a tendency to joke and fool around as much as possible. However, soon enough, we realise that they can be cold and ruthless killers just as easily. Hired to assassinate a politician, though the objective was achieved, it became a bit of a messed up job. Forced to go into hiding, they stayed under the radar for a while, waiting for things to smooth over, at the behest of their (mob) boss. Left to their own devices in the boss’s, they soon get up to their mischief and lie, cheat and steal their way into dreaming of immigration to Italy.
I find it necessary to comment on ideals and notions of the two characters first, describing them as somewhat mischievous, because it is this notion of innocence that I find ironic. Ironic, because this is a film that is filled with things that you wouldn’t normally accept on a daily basis; Lionel, for example, is just as wont to go and dominate scenes with his cheerful and playful personality as he is to force himself unto women. His is a somewhat complex character, an underling who I think would relish being in the spotlight. He knows his place when his boss is around, but feels little compulsion at forcing his boss’s servant to cook for him. For his part, Dhammika seems to be the more docile of the two, and it is this somewhat-adventurous nature of the two characters (however big or small) that I find somewhat appealing.
Also ironic is the somewhat ridiculous notion of intended migration to Italy. They had just killed two guys and now they want to run off to Europe? It struck me as an innocent little ideal that is best left to dreams in the middle of the night, but the two of them has a strong belief in that particular ideal. Thus, within the two characters, I find myself wondering whether the director, Dharmasena, is trying to make a social statement about Sri Lanka itself: that while such dreams exists at the heart of its residents, they are often extinguished within the flames of harsh reality.
Not that it would be surprising. After having watched the film, I did a little research on the director and Sri Lankan cinema in general. I’ll admit to not knowing too much about the films of Sri Lanka, but I find myself being impressed by the director’s ideals and general direction throughout his career. Here is a man who is interested in change, but not the sort of change that one might associate with the normal use of the word in terms of social cinema: “One should not think of the artist as a rebel who is going to bring about objective change,” said the man often described as a ‘rebel with a cause.’ “The rebel is within you…This rebellion has to come from within one by way of confronting familiar truths.”
Change, however, cannot be analysed without looking at what was already there to begin with. Therefore, within the context of ‘Some Day in the Future’, what is the kind of change that Dharmasena hopes to inspire? Coming back to the stylings of the film, in that the film looked old, the setting of the film itself is set at the turn of the millennium. This is one (artistic) direction that particularly struck me, because there is a certain timelessness that Dharmasena appears to be saying: things may look old, but the story remains the same. Sri Lanka has a long history of violence, and it is a part of the history that is reflected here. However, the truth remains that it is also as big a part of the present. Thus, the idea of Lionel and Dhammika killing people while being somewhat likeable in a way is somehow frightening.
For me, however, the most interesting parts was when they pretended to be friends with the son of a family. This occurred as they were in hiding; they ran off to another part and pretended to have known the son of a rather cosmopolitan family. Quickly befriending them, the family had no idea of their actual identities, and welcomed them with open arms. As this happened, I find myself waiting for the moment in which their house of cards would fall down. I detected a sense of envy as they looked at the house, and the somewhat idyllic existence the family leads. In one, fell swoop, Dharmasena once again reflected upon the dreams and wants of a society, of wanting to escape and raise above the level and platform that they find themselves marooned in. For a moment, you’d feel that, as they slowly integrate themselves into the family, they might, just might, achieve that dream of somehow, someway, getting to Italy.
There is some danger to watching films in such a way. I had watched it with open eyes (duh) and an open mind (even if I was sneezing my ass off throughout the screening). I know not of the director or his previous works, but armed with some knowledge of Sri Lanka, I find that it is an interesting film that attempts to address the situation as it is. Reality for reality’s sake. After reading up on the film, the director and his other works, I realise ‘Some Day in the Future’ stands as a film that attempts not only to document, but also to inspire, as the director himself says, a force of change within.
The film itself cannot be taken as the message, somehow. The storyline and its ending is not particularly positive: the characters themselves want change, but what transpired was something that they did not quite expect. Yet expect it they should have, for they were the actors in a vicious circle of violence that they had helped to perpetrate, even if their roles in it were at the low levels. They, their ideals, and their dreams may be theirs to own, but it is not theirs to keep on having, no matter how much lying, cheating, or stealing they do. Perhaps the idea of Italy as a destination seemed ridiculous because it is ridiculous to have such dreams to begin with.
A little depressing, don’t you think?
The storyline also reminds Fikri of ‘In Bruges’.