This past week I attended the premier of Pria Viswalingam’s latest documentary Decadence: Decline of the Western World. I wasn’t disappointed. Although I’m broadly familiar with Pria’s basic thesis on the decline of the western world and share most of his views, I was still surprised by this extraordinary treatment.
Pria explores and lays bare much that a thoughtful observer would undeniably find cause for concern about a system that has passed it peak achievements. His critique, while damming in parts, is not a demolition of the Western way of life, rather it’s a call for attention to an approach that is slowly losing it’s democratic base; becoming numbed by secularism; streaming its educational approaches conferring the best on a few; mismanaging its financial systems; generating alarming inequities in the distribution of income; and creating an impulsive commodified cultural response that leaves its citizens stranded in consummerism.
Making a feature film length documentary is a challenging and daring task and Pria has clearly succeeded. He brings us a powerful work that easily holds an audience for the entire duration. His brilliant writing and beautiful imagery are the keys. They held my attention even when I realised that I’d heard some of it before, in one or more of our many discussions over the years. For the converted such as me there was still much to learn. For a younger generation of Westerners I’m hoping that this will be a major wake-up call.
The pre-publicity succinctly captures the approach when it informs us that Decadence recalls what we now take for granted – values that made the West the world’s pre-eminent civilisation for more than 300 years. But throughout history all civilisations rise and fall. Many a pundit has predicted the West’s demise but now we appear to have the evidence. Decadence asks whether it realises what it’s losing. It may even be a call to arms . . .
Decadence opened at the Roseville Cinema on 1 December, and will open at the Nova Carlton Cinemas on 8 december. Check for times and DON’T MISS IT.