Modern audiences are lazy. They want instructional videos to tie every idea up in a neat, labeled, easy-to-open bundle. I am above such foolery. I prefer to challenge my viewers, not insult them with drivel. And yet, judging by the one-star average rating displayed in the toolbar beneath the video, you pathetic plebeians have somehow failed to grasp this.
How to Take Care of Your Fish is not intended for the dull. For 203 minutes it demands your full attention, really requires you to think. Take the opening sequence, in which the woman drowns in a fish tank full of paint. Now think: is the whole scene happening inside the woman’s head? Why does the Bengal tiger looking into the tank from above dissolve into a cloud of ash as the woman dies? Is it a good idea to fill your fish tank with blue paint? I leave the answers intentionally ambiguous; each viewer must discover them through scrupulous introspection.
Can’t you see that the film’s whole point is that there are some things we cannot know? That fish care is so immeasurably complex it defies understanding? You’re supposed to come away from my film questioning whether it is even possible to replace a fish tank’s filter.
After all, what can anyone honestly claim to know about fish tank maintenance? Yes, we might speculate that cleaning implements are possibly involved, or that the activity potentially concerns fish in some capacity. But beyond this? It is folly. We mortals fret over choosing the right fish food. We wonder what temperature we should set the tank to. Why, we may as well wonder how to prepare an eggplant or fill out income tax returns! Such unknowable things, such sublime truths are, and shall forever remain, tantalizingly beyond the grasp of the greatest human minds.
That’s exactly the idea I was driving at in the part where everything turns inside out and the narrator starts talking in super-slowed-down German.
Don’t expect me to spoon feed my message to you. You’re not babies. I don’t want to waste my time making instructional films for babies. I refuse to look at babies, change babies, or have anything at all to do with babies. Honestly, I thought I had implied as much in my 2009 instructional film How to Play With Babies.
So please, tell me, what do you mean when you say that my film “should be more straightforward”? That not every character should have worn a clown mask? That the audible sobbing in the background of the entire film should have remained at a constant volume instead of fluctuating from whisper-quiet to outright deafening? Perhaps that there should have been fish in the video? Ha! Not every single instructional fish care film conforms so meekly to trite conventions like the inclusion of fishes or instructions about how to care for them.
In the end, I can only hope that my film conveys even the palest shade of the helplessness I feel confronted with fish care’s limitless subtlety. I seek to expose the human condition. To find that lofty elegiac vein that mirrors all our struggles in this whirling incoherent world. To wrestle with fish care and then transcend it! If that much wasn’t obvious, maybe you need to watch How to Take Care of Your Fish again. Try paying attention this time.