Films seen in March 2010

I’ve seen the following this month:

The list features a lot of foreign language films. Waltz with Bashir, Khadak and Gomorrah are respectively Hebrew, Mongolian and Italian language films, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley is  an Irish film. It’s not that the American films lack quality in any way, but it’s liberating to see something different and evade the American cultural domination.

Rachel Getting Married is a very good film. If I had to summarize the film in a proverb, I’d say ’once a thief, always a thief’. In it’s essence the film explores the question if we should keep condemning persons for past sins or forgive them. It does that skillfully, and ends happily with a wonderful wedding day party which is a wonderful experience. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a good comedy, it’s an excellent advertisement for visiting Spain. I’m still not convinced that Barcelona in particular would interesting to visit though. Into the Wild had a surprising ending for me, if you want to be surprised too, don’t look it up on Wikipedia or read the book. I keep thinking how I would have dealt with the river with the strong current. Assuming there weren’t any safer places to cross it, I think I would have risked crossing it by swimming, but I’m saying that with the wisdom of hindsight.

The Last King of Scotland was the only film I didn’t rent, it was broadcast on TV (not sure if it was in March). Whitaker does a awesome job depicting a madman like Idi Amin, and definitely deserved the Academy Award he received as best actor. The film got me thinking about the authoritarian regimes and low quality of government in Africa in general, is it all caused by European decolonization, or are the Africans themselves too blame as well? It’s sad to see that so many people followed Idi Amin and executed his orders for their own gain, even though they knew Amin was mentally ill and all he did was bring misery to Uganda. Of course ‘civilized’ Europeans also suffered from this in the first half of the 20th century, and considering that Europe had a longer history of development and never experienced decolonization the Europeans are the ones who deserve to be blamed most of all.

To keep true to the theme of proverbs, when I was watching The Wind That Shakes the Barley I had to think of an aphorism written by Nietzsche. ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.’ The British are the oppressive monsters, and in fighting them the Irish lose their ideals which they were originally fighting for.

Waltz with Bashir is an eye catcher because it is an animated film. Do not let the fact that it is animated fool you, it’s far from child’s play or rubbish. The animation is excellent. The film is a journey towards the past, the truth which is reached at the end of the film. The distinction between dreams and reality is fluent in this film without being confusing, unlike the next film.

Khadak was a challenging film to see. The distinction between reality and dreams was blurred, which makes it difficult to make sense of the film. It demands much interpretation, it makes a heavy use of symbolism and long silent scenes. The cinematography is awesome with shots of a huge, flat and empty Mongolian steppes covered with snow, depicting only a shepherd and his horse. Certain shots are very impressive, such as the old nomad who doesn’t want to break with his traditional way of life sitting on a chair, with two government officials lifting his chair to drag him to a truck so he can be transported to the ‘civilized’ world. To summarize the film I’d say that it is criticism on the encroachment of the modern world on the traditional nomadic way of life in Mongolia. The first half progresses very slowly, I got frustrated and had to convince myself that I wanted to see it to the end. When I finished the movie, I was glad I had done so, I felt rewarded.

Gomarrah was a disappointment. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not executed good enough. The film uses an ensemble cast, which is not a problem in itself, but it does become a problem if the cast is large and the story lines become confusing because there are too many and they ‘switch’ too often. It was difficult to understand what was going on, my father was watching too and read the book the film is based on. He easily understood that the film depicted illegal toxic waste dumping and illegal garment factories, I didn’t understand that so easily. After having seen half of the movie my father got bored and wanted to see the sports news, I had to agree with him that it the film wasn’t really going anywhere. The next day I watched it to the end alone. In the second half the murdering begins and many people including part of the cast end up dead. The film doesn’t feature much of a plot, it mostly depicts mafia members pursuing all kinds of illegal activities, the bottom line is that the mafia are bad guys. This film – even though it is quality – didn’t deserve to be on some critics top ten lists for 2008, which was the reason it was on my list of films I wanted to see.

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