M for Malena

malena3 malena1

We love to gossip. Especially if there is a drop dead gorgeous, standoffish woman who turns every man’s head – we would so love to damn her to the deepest realms of hell! Men would love to fantasize her or fulfill their desire and flush her like some used toilet paper and women would be insecure by her mere presence and wag their tongue about what a tart she is.

Malena vividly reflects how a group of men and women can come together and collaboratively bring down a woman everyone desires secretly. And in the midst of it all is a young boy whose pubescent desires go all haywire. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore , Malena stars Monica Bellucci, Giuseppe Sulfaro and Luciano Federico.

malena2

Malena shows the Facist era of 1940 in Italy. While the townsfolk of Castelcuto of Sicily, are busy pledging for Mussolini, there is a young boy of thirteen whose only predicament are his raging hormones and the stunning Malena accelerates the frenetic goings on into an overdrive. Apart from politics it is the mysterious and lonely Malena that unites the towns people. Her husband is away fighting and she is left behind to take care of her father in law. She keeps to herself, dedicated only to the task at hand. Her grace, elegance and beauty becomes the talk of the town and she is the fodder for all the gossip. Everyone assumes that she must be having a relationship outside her marriage and it is the news of her husband’s martyrdom that makes the men believe that she is now available to meet their desires. Meanwhile Renato’s infatuation develops into an obsession and he begins to follow her everywhere and spy on her, which unwittingly makes him the sole witness to all her trials and tribulations.

malena4 malena 5

Renato deems Malena  a Goddess and in the four years that go by, he sees her elevated status defiled and marred by the lustful men and the jealous and despising women. Her beauty becomes her curse when a local lawyer promises to clear her name from a jealous wife’s lawsuit and demands his payment to be in kind. As shortages loom due to the war, Malena has to constantly barter favors to get one square meal and is soon forced into prostitution for her survival. When the war ends, the townsfolk take revenge on Malena – the women surround and pounce on her, beating her up and hurling insults until she is thrown out of the town.

malena 6 malena 7

malena9 malena10

But there is light at the end of the tunnel and the tables are turned. Malena’s husband returns and he seeks her out and asks for her forgiveness for letting her alone in the world full of merciless people. Renato who had suffered when Malena fell from grace was overjoyed with this last act of forgiveness that absolved all her faults and elevated her to her previous status of elegance.

Malena11

Malena is a yarn seen from Renato’s eyes. He is the narrator and it is his coming of age story that focuses on how his perception of her makes him comprehend the true meaning of love, lust, devotion and fidelity.

Malena explores themes of collaboration, bigotry, lust, guilt and the very human will to survive.They are all wrapped  into one moving and emotional film that feels epic in scale. It is almost a study of human behavior , behavior that cuts across borders, race, culture and rings true even at our modern age of open mindedness.

Malena12

I leave you with some of the best scenes of Monica Belucci as Malena 

Advertisements

L for Life is Beautiful

lifeis beautiful2LifeIsBeautiful 1

Whatever it is, wherever it is, whenever it is and however it is, Life is Beautiful. Life is beautiful in love, life is beautiful in war, life is beautiful in misery, life is beautiful in happiness, life is beautiful in despair, and life is beautiful in contentment. In all its absurdity, craziness, wisdom, reasonableness and paradoxes, it remains an enigma but above all else life is just simply beautiful.

Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful loudly and clearly tells us, that amidst the worse we can still find humor and keep the spirit high. Life is Beautiful or La Vida Es Bella, is an Italian movie directed by and acted by Roberto Benigni as Guido and has other star casts like Nicoletta Brashci as Dora, Giorgio Cantarini as Giosue, Giustino Durano as Uncle and Sergio Bustric as Ferruccio.

La-Vita-E-Bella

Guido is a lovable, goofy character who, wants to open a bookstore therefore works part time as a waiter  to save up as much as he can. In the mean time he meets Dora and after an enchanting courtship they get married and have a son they name Giosue. Slowly the movie moves forward into World War II and its imminence is succinctly brought about when Guido asks a man about his political views and he turns around to reprimand his sons as “Benito, Adolfo! Be Good!”

beautiful4

Though some critics are of the view that the movie somehow mellows and trivializes the grief and tragedy of the victims of World War II, on the contrary with all its buffoonery it points out to the abject absurdity of the situation. When Giosue wonders why a “no Jew or Dogs allowed” sign was on the window of a bakery, Guido tells him with an undertone of outrage that it’s a matter of personal choice and that “No Spiders or Visigoths” sign would make as much sense as the latter.

Later when the family is deported to the concentration camp Guido tells his son that this was part of a big game that they were all playing and points would be given at every stage and the winner would be awarded with a tank in the end. When the Jews are shoved into a dark train with no windows or seats Guido exclaims to his bewildered son “What, Seats on a train? Its obvious you have never been in one!” When they arrive at the prison camp and they have to wait in a huge queue, Guido explains that everyone is eagerly waiting to get in and start playing the game and win the prize. At the camp he volunteers to translate a Nazi officer’s command into Italian (and he knows not a word of German). He shouts out “we play part of the real mean guys who yell,” pointing out to the officers and he also translates some as, “don’t ask for lollipops, you don’t get any. We eat them all.”

beautiful2 beautiful1

At the camp Guido works in grueling, back breaking conditions yet never for a moment loses patience with the child and keeps telling him to play the part and stay hidden from the officers because he was close to winning the tank. At the very end, Guido is caught by the German soldiers and marched out, but he manages to hide his son and tells him not to come out until there was no one in sight. He knows that his son will be watching him from his hiding spot, and he creates a comic moment even as he is marched out. The viewers know the fate that lies awaiting for Guido but the child is blissfully ignorant about it. In the morning when not a soul was in sight, he comes out of his hiding and his jaws drop to see a big tank approaching him. An English soldier comes out of the tank and lifts him up onto it. His prize for winning the game, or the English winning the war, and just as his father told him he got the tank rather a ride on it.

beautiful6beautiful7

 

 

The movie in the end is a story of a father’s sacrifice in keeping his son safe. Guido had the gift of comedy and quick improvisation and that’s the tool he used to keep his son away from harm’s way, had he possessed a weapon he would have probably used that to keep him safe. Life is Beautiful is a moving tale of the dauntless human spirit.

beautiful11 beautiful10

 

Is Guido a brave soldier? Isnt he? He keeps his family safe just like the soldiers who give up their lives to keep the country safe. Guido is no less – he is a lion hearted, fearless soldier who keeps his son unscathed from the unspeakable crime that was the reality for months on end. A father who teaches love, a father who accentuates that no matter what, Life is Beautiful.

I leave you with one scene from Life is Beautiful

K for Kagemusha

kagemusha poster 3 kagemusha poster 2

Can a fallen man fit into a noble man’s shoes? Can he measure up to his standards? Or does he remain fallen for the rest of his life? Does our birth, color, creed, nobility decide if we can achieve greatness? What does his Karma have in store for him? Well, no one knows what we are destined to do or become, we all try to keep afloat as best we can!

Kagemusha or “Shadow Warrior” is a Japanese movie by the well-known Director Akira Kurosawa. Kagemusha is an epic Samurai movie, be it the emotions or the colors or the technicality, it out performs any others in these aspects. It is a movie that questions the Samurai Code.

kagemusha 3 kagemusha 1

Basically it is about a man who has nothing and is thrown into a world, which he has neither created nor he knows anything about. A petty thief is taken in custody by the Takeda clan for his uncanny resemblance with their dying leader. Soon after Shingen’s, the leader, death Kagemusha takes his place and starts impersonating him. But its easier said than done, he has to be coached by the people near to Shingen, to pick up every trait of his. The film depicts the constant dilemma of the Kagemusha’s role and his psyche. At times the viewers are led into believing that he is possessed by Shingin’s spirit but we realize as the story moves forward that he is not possessed by any ghost but he is haunted by the Shingen’s own legacy. Though the detractors are fooled by the imposter, Shingen’s horse isn’t. When Kagemusha tries to ride it, he falls proving to the world he was nothing more than a lowly subterfuge. He is replaced and the new clan leader wages a war with the enemy clan and loses leaving behind only carnage and annihilation. Kagemusha, the low born, common thief imposter, who cannot have an iota of loyalty and bravery, is horror stricken to see the gore around him. He in his last act of valor and fortitude, charges with a lance into the enemy lines to avenge the myriad deaths, and eventually dies for the Shingen and Takeda Clan.

kagemusha 4 kagemusha 5

The plot is simple but the story telling is replete with pathos and  poignantly portrays that all men are equal. What remains is the dying Kagemusha floating in the ocean and the tidal waves carry him further than the rest of the fallen Takeda Clan. It is for the viewer to analyse if its just ideas that move forwards despite time or tide or is it that we are all here to fulfill our destinies that set us apart from the others.

I leave you with the trailer of Kagemusha

J for Juno

junoposter junoposter2 

Teen pregnancy is not the most thrilling episode in one’s life and I wish no one such an ordeal. In real life it’s best to keep away from it, how you do it, abstain or use contraceptive, it’s your choice. I am not here to preach and neither does Juno.

In many ways Juno breaks a few stereotypes. A sixteen-year old pregnant girl should be scared and depressed, right? Her parents should be after her life, isn’t it? She should be rushed into an abortion! The urbane well to do hen pecked Mark and over zealous Vanessa should be banal and stereotypical city slickers? Well its one hell of a laugh riot that finally breaks the facades and lets us see the inner workings of each of the characters.

Jason Reitman, directs Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman in this quick witted comedy. Juno. The movie has no negative stance on teenage pregnancy rather it chronicles the journey of the 16 year old in these nine months.

Juno, is a smart talking, know all , cocky teenager, who wants to get away from the stigma of being a virgin. She talks her friend Paulie Bleeker into having sex with her, though he is not too keen about it, he relents to her experimentation. We have to remember Juno is a teenager and no matter how hyper verbal she is about everything in life, she makes a poor choice of sex without protection. And of course the price is she is, pregnancy. But hey, it’s Juno who is pregnant, hence totally unruffled and absolutely brave and matter of fact about it. To the surprise of the audience, her parents are also very mature about it. They think about the right course of action without pulling down and reprimanding the sixteen year old in any way.

juno1juno3

Though she contemplates abortion initially, she decides to go through with having the baby and placing her/him for adoption and surprise, surprise her parents let her choose (I cant even begin to imagine what could be the consequence of this grave issue in an Indian household!) Anyways, Juno finds a childless couple ready to adopt her own child, in Vanessa and Mark. The initial impression of the couple through Juno’s eyes is that Vanessa is uptight and materialistic and Mark totally henpecked. Yet behind this veneer, Vanessa is unhappy about her life and childlessness; she longs for a bundle of joy. On the contrary Mark is not all that hen pecked after all, he is a manipulative child man, who doesn’t want to grow up, who doesn’t even know if he is ready to be a father. He is in a time capsule of his pubescence and gets attracted to Juno’s youthfulness.

juno5juno4

In a crux the movie is all about Juno’s experiences that span across three trimesters and four seasons where she herself matures enough to understand that her know it all attitude masks ignorance and she has a lot to learn. In her pregnancy adventure she gets a peek into the lives of adults. She knows that her choice of adoption has given her the immense power into the lives of affluent people who she could bend in any which way she wants. It is a coming of age movie where the 16 years old fails in an experiment done hastily but finally succeeds in understanding the finer nuances of life.

Juno does not pass any judgements about any of the characters. Though many critics have voiced that this movie glamourises teenage pregnancy and anti abortion rights, it does no such thing. On the contrary, without being judgemental and surmonizing, it brings out the long lasting effects of a not well thought out and hasty decision.

Here’s the motomouth Juno for all of you

I for In Bruges

In-Bruges-Posterin-bruges_poster1

How many of you have heard of Bruges? I for one had never heard of it before I saw the movie and the sights and sounds make me want to visit this little town tucked away somewhere in Belgium.

bruges2Bruges-Belgium-night

In Bruges is the debut movie of Martin McDonagh and stars big names like Brenden Gleesen and Colin Farrel. The movie is a dark comedy and can be called a Noir Film laden with pathos and interspersed with many twists and turns. It gives a window into the mind of hitherto criminal who is inwardly torn apart by his guilt. Criminal and guilt, the two do not run parallel to each other, you may ask, yet the movie beautifully brings out a certain set of human rules and a tiny bit of humanity that still makes them humane.

Ray (Farell) and Ken are stuck In Bruges ‘the best preserved medieval city in Belgium’. Ray hates the sleepy, boring town and wants to run away to London where its more fun and entertaining. It seems both of them are waiting in Bruges, waiting for the next course of action or orders from the powers that be. The picturesque Bruges is a parable to Purgatory, where one is suspended before ones fate is decided.

At the very onset it is shown that, Ray cribs about the dull Bruges, and Ken tells him that had it not been for Ray, they would not have been in this god forsaken town at all. Ray cuts him off and rushes to the washroom where he cries and the distress comes out loud and clear. Something is not right somewhere and that is eating him up within, despite the bravado and smart talking façade. Soon we find out the reason for the two Irish hit men to be stuck in this little, sleepy hollow and Ray’s ever-increasing guilt. Ray kills a Priest in the church during confession and as the bullet pierces through the Priest’s body it hits a 4-5 year old child, who had his own set of confessions for God.

inbruges 6Film Title: In Bruges
At the very beginning it was quite obvious that Ken and Ray are poles apart, their likes and dislikes very different. While Ken loved the town and wanted to savor its magnificent sights, the cobbled pathways, the pristine architecture, the conventional churches, Ray loathed every bit of it and longed to back to the action at London. As the movie progresses we see the camaraderie of the two increases and soon the fondness for this little place sets in, especially for Ray. Though he never says it in so many words but his actions and expressions all hint in this direction.

inbruges5InBruges4
The much-awaited order comes from their leader Harry (Ralph Fiennes) over the phone – that Ken must eliminate Ray as the death of a child cannot go unpunished. Ken is visibly shaken and he pleads to Harry that Ray has been tormented by the event and his remorse would help him redeem himself since he was a ’good kid’. But Harry would not budge and according to him such an abominable act cannot go unpunished. Later on, in the movie, a fight ensues between the two and Harry manages to injure Ken. Ken frantically tries to save his friend Ray, and he rushes up the church tower and in a final moment of utter desperation throws himself off the ledge. Ray taken aback rushes to the almost dead Ken, only to be informed that he was in danger. Ken’s sacrifice goes wasted as Harry hunts Ray down and finally manages to get him.

In_bruges2inbruges3

The point of the movie that was at once, moving and sad, funny and poignant, tearjerker and dittzy, eventually drive home the fact that, circumstances can make someone a criminal, but circumstances cannot take away the finer human feelings from him.

In Bruges is a must watch film that will leave you wondering whose side to take and in the end you will be sympathizing with a child killer not the man who says the child killer should be condemned for life. Sigh! Human Beings are strange creatures and difficult to predict.

Here are some scenes from the movie

H for Herod’s Law

h1 h2

Are we born corrupt? Hell, No! Do we have idealistic and moralistic dreams of changing the world while growing up? Absolutely! Do we want to work for the upliftment of our society in our youth? Surely! Do we deviate? Most definitely Yes, yes and YES!

Herod’s Law (La Lay de Herodes) underscores that no matter how much the population looks upto the new man elected for their deliverance and no matter how much good he intends for the population; money and power makes all corrupt and exploitative, unscrupulous and treacherous. Entitlement somehow manages to keep the disenfranchised more incapacitated than before.

Herod’s Law is a Mexican Political satire, which made such a powerful impression on the society that it proved to be the major force to tumble the seventy-one years of PRI rule. Luis Estrada has directed the movie that stars Damian Alcazar and Pedro Armendarez Jr.

When a few non Spanish-speaking Indians kill the Mayor of the small desert town of San Pedro de los Saguaros , the provincial officer Lopez gets the junkyard custodian Juan Vargas as the Mayor. Vargas was Junkyard custodian but a quiet, naïve, loyal party member and Lopez thought he could use Vargas as a puppet who could put a lid on the problems of the villagers so then he in turn can become the Governor.

The New Mayor is all eager and wants to change the place, bring about a ray of hope in the villager’s life but sadly the coffers are empty; the money needed for development is not there. It can only come through taxes that the villagers are not paying up, neither are the townsfolk respecting him as the mayor. On the contrary the Doctor, who follows the rival party threatens to defeat him if he is not capable of shutting the town brothel. Even the town’s priest tries to shake him up. Helpless he turns to Lopez for some sound advice, and sound advice is what he gets.

Lopez tells him about the Herod’s Law, which sums to ‘Do them before you are done with’. He gives him a book and a gun and tells him to extort taxes out of the villagers. That is the turning point of Vargas. He becomes the gun totting criminal, ruthlessly extracting money out of the villagers and he actually manages to fill up the coffers to the brim. He also takes to prostitution, mindlessly exploits each and everyone around.

The Priest is as corrupt as the Mayor, who by day talks of God and by night gets entertained at the brothel, The Mayor has no conscience at all he infact kills the lady running the brothel and her goon and coerces the townsfolk’s to pin the blame on the doctor. Also there is this American engineer who comes to the town to build roads. He is shown trying to help the mayor bring about progress but then taking advantage of his wife. Its almost a parable of America itself, where they infiltrate to work but use up the area’s resources. The only place where there is some humanity is the Brothel. Here it reminds me of Mandi a Bollywood art house cinema that shows that though the ladies of the house partake in sinful practices yet there is more soul in them than the entire town put together.

Juan Vargis starts as a simple man but his character escalates into a rogue with the dangerous combination of money and power that it is difficult to relate this to be the same man who started out for San Pedro. But than money and power corrupts the most erudite of us, then why should it be any different for Vargis. The movie kind of highlights how corruption and degeneration is imprinted in our DNA. I would like to think not, but then have we not seen this Mexican story repeat time and time again!

I leave you with a trailer of this movie..

G for Gone With The Wind

gonewiththewind1 Gonewiththewind2

When a friend asked me to write about Gone With the Wind I could not say ‘No’ because no movie list is complete without its mention.

It is more than 70 years now that Gone with the Wind was made but it still has the same appeal for the moviegoers, young and old. The story represents a sentimental view of the Civil War in the Old South and it shows the rise and fall of petulant and capricious, willful and maneuvering Scarlet O Hara. Infact the Civil War seems like the only way to bring Scarlett to her knees. While watching the movie one has to keep in mind that the era it represents is fundamentally different from ours, when segregation was still the law.

At this time and age, the movie and its ethos might be frowned upon because it talks of a ‘civilization that has gone with the wind’. A civilization that bred on the sweat and blood of the slaves, a gentility nurtured by the hard toil of the slaves. “There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.” Heck but then who is asking the slaves? Though no remorse is shown towards the African American population but to the credit of the movie they are treated with humanity and complexity.

Scarlett o Hara’s character has been perfectly played by Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown British actress. She has breathed in life and poise into the role of Scarlett and no one other than her fits into the shoes of Scarlett. Of course Margaret Mitchell had Clark Gable in her mind when she penned down Rhett Butler who perfectly compliments Vivien Leigh. Scarlett and Rhett seem perfect for each other.

gone7??????????????????

Scarlett is a haughty, tempestuous   and an opportunistic protagonist, the flawed heroine, who has a huge ego and believes that whatever or whoever she fancies will be hers. Her conniving and manipulative ways leaves her lonely, desolate and loveless even with three marriages. She first marries Charles Hamilton because she can’t lay her hands on Ashley Wilkes. After Hamilton is killed in the war she lies and schemes into marrying Frank Kennedy with whose money she builds and runs a successful mill and shames Ashley to join her as an employee. Soon she is attacked by hobos and in the fight that ensues Frank is killed. Shortly after that she marries Rhett Butler, nevertheless pines for this one man she cant have, Ashley.

Rhett is a reprobate, unscrupulous opportunist whose life revolves around womanizing which makes him a social pariah. He overhears Scarlett’s advances to Ashley on the day of the Barbeque who was shortly to marry his cousin Melanie. Rhett admires her willfulness and her nonchalance to societal impropriety. Even as a widow to Hamilton, Rhett encourages her to dance during the mourning period and Scarlett deriding and ignoring the rules of polite society encourages her firebrand self to befriend Rhett. Much later when Melanie is dying in her arms, she realizes that her love for Ashley was just a childish obsession, she actually loved Rhett, she rushes over only to be slighted by him with the blasphemous but now famous words, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

gone10Gone3

Gone With The Wind has won 10 Oscars and of course one was awarded to the leading, lady who brought in so much oomph and charm into Scarlett o Hara, Vivien Leigh. The Film also boasts of the first Oscar for an African American, Hattie McDaniel in a supporting role.

Seen it or not, the movie has been heard by all as a time capsule of a period that is looked with no prejudices, of a Civilization that is long Gone but definitely not forgotten and will not be forgotten for generations to come.

Gone4gone6

Leaving you with some memorable scenes of Gone With The WInd

F for Fireworks Wednesday (Chaharshanbe Suri)

fireworksfireworks 2

This time I have chosen a film that is not too heavy but more closer to home. It explores the eternal question of what is marriage? Is it lifelong bliss or does it come apart when the dreams we had woven when we first stepped into wedlock seem to disintegrate and crumble like a sand castle. Though I am calling it not too heavy this Iranian movie is  intense.

Fireworks Wednesday is an Iranian movie, which is an intimate and personal portrayal of a fast eroding sanctity called marriage set against the Persian New Year. As the story moves forward it also brings to the fore the strained gap between the upper and lower classes of Tehran. ‘Chaharshanbe Suri’ or Firworks Wednesday on one hand has the literal meaning as everyone is gets ready for new year with their fireworks and on the other it’s metaphorical, as the drama hit a crescendo just like the fireworks. The film is directed by Ashgar Farhadi, and stars Hedyeh Tehrani, Taraneh Alidousi and Hamid Farokhnezhad.

MCDFIWE EC002fireworks 3

Though the entire city celebrates the New Year, there is no respite for Rouhi. She has no holidays and has to come to work for her new employees . The movie starts with a young girl, Rouhi, riding the pillion of the bike. Her fiancé is dropping her off at her work place. Their casual, carefree and loving banter is endearing and full of love, not in a physical way though. She comes to work for a couple with a young son, a family waiting to explode. Rouhi finds herself to be a pawn in the couple’s endless confrontations, which conclude with a final scene of fireworks of New Year

.

Mozde is the ever-depressed wife who constantly suspects her husband, Morteza, of having an affair with the next-door neighbor and a salon owner. She is driven to such a state of distraught and hysteria that she tries to listen to conversations at her neighbor’s house through the water pipes, of her bathroom, which seemingly acts as a voice carrier. The accusations and suspicions take such proportions that the apparently loving husband, going about with his business is forced into violence. Amazingly the viewers sympathize with Morteza. Even the neighbors find Mozde losing her mind and empathizes with Morteza.

In the midst of this imbroglio enters Rouhi and inadvertently becomes Mozde’s spy. Learning of her impending wedding her employer sends her off to the salon to trim her eyebrows. But this is only a façade; she wants Rouhi to spy on Simin the floozy, salon owner. Throughout the movie the viewer’s sympathy shifts from one character to the other unable to make a fix as to who really is the wrong doer.

MCDFIWE EC004fireworks5

The movie passes no judgments as it unfolds. Until the end the viewer is left suspecting if the circumstances are the main villain. But we do get to know the reality. Morteza once caught has no qualms saying that he can cheat because his wife is not the best housekeeper. Well isn’t that how human minds work? When caught, shift the blame so that you are not responsible for the consequences no matter how dire it is.

In the end it is the story of a young, cheerful woman with a lot dreams, who sees the murky dissolution of a marriage – truth, lies and deception that the institute of marriage constitutes.

As the ground reality hits her, she goes back at the end of the day as a more matured woman, whose dreams are more practical. Her initial shyness and her conservative attitude also come off as her Chador comes off (because it is used for a different purpose by Mozde) at the end of the movie.

Fireworks Wednesday is a movie, which ha been seamlessly intertwined with the fireworks and celebrations outside that resonate the fireworks of family life and strife, inside.

I leave you with a scene of the movie.

E for (The) Experiment

experimentexperiment2

Will we look up in respect at an army march-past in sweat pants? Or will we even want to look up in reverence at nuns and priests who are very liberal? Does our perspective change when we look at the fire fighter without the uniform on?

The Experiment, (Das Experiment) is not a movie that will bedazzle any of you by its sheer technical brilliance but it will surely overwhelm you with the dark realms of human psyche that it explores. There are two aspects that the story highlights, first the inner self that takes over in  dire circumstances and second, how uniform changes our attitude.

The movie is based on the novel The Black Box that was inspired by the well-known ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’. It was an experiment in role playing and one of the scientists penned on its website “Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.”

I am sure you get the plot of the movie by the quote above. The Experiment is directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and has Moritz Bleibtreu as Tarek Fahd, one of the inmates and Justus Von Dohnanyi as Berus, one of the guards.

A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab and for two weeks 20 participants were hired to play prisoners and guards. Amongst the 20 there were 12 prisoners and 8 guards. The prisoners had to give up their rights and the guards were not supposed to use any violence against the prisoners. At the onset it’s a friendly game for which each would get 4,000 Marks (1700 USD) but soon the prisoners under the leadership of Tarek begin to defy the authority of the guards. Though the guards are role – playing and have donned fake uniforms, they feel their ego and power are at stake. Soon Berus, the guard who was laughed at for body odour, takes charge when he suggests that he had read somewhere that humiliation is the best way to subjugate and secure obedience. The prisoners are stripped naked and are pissed on, which rattles all of them. When Berus’s tactics become successful he becomes the unsaid leader of the guards yielding a lot of power.

berus

As is expected the guards become overtly sadistic towards the prisoners and the prisoners try to defy the guards at every instance and in a final showdown, two get killed, three of the participants are severely injured and the lead scientist behind the experiment along with Berus are booked for multiple homicides and unethical experiment.

experiment4experiment6

It is often said if your want to find out what someone thinks of himself or herself, examine the uniform well. Behavior, most often than not, is in sync with what we wear or the uniform we have on us. Two weeks is not too long a time and the 20 participants could have played their part and earned their money and gone home happy but they could not harness the the darkness we harbor inside us when provoked.

To answer the questions asked above,no matter what the circumstances, uniforms do yield a kind of aura of dynamism and vigour, fright and domination. We will never know how our own attitudes will change donning a uniform. We talk of millions of war crimes and look down upon the perpetrators in horror but are we sure we wouldn’t be one of them doing the same atrocious deeds had we be wearing those very same uniforms?

I leave you with the trailer of the film

D for Dogville

dogville1dogville2

You can love it or you can hate it but you can’t take a middle ground for Dogville. It is a potpourri of various aspects of story telling wrapped under one banner. Though, it is at once experimental and innovative, philosophical and absorbing, provocative and exciting, dull and boring, ugly and hell rising, gripping and mind numbing, yet in the end it remains a stupendous observation on human behavior.

The film has heavyweights like Nicole Kidman playing the character of Grace, Paul Bettany as Tom Edison, Patricia Clarkson, Stellan Skarsgaard and the list is endless. The movie offers no distractions of fabulous locales and poetic sceneries. The entire movie is shot on a sound stage where the street-plan, houses, even the dog and its resting place are marked by a white chalk. There are very few props like a bed, chair perhaps a table. The actors express opening of a door or stepping into the neighbor’s house since there are no doors or houses, even the barking of the dog is a mere sound effect.

dogville scenedogville street

Chased by gangsters Grace comes to hide in this little town near the Rocky Mountains. The film is set in the era of the great depression and there is always a morbid mood lingering therefore. Then villagers are suspicious of Grace and are not willing to have her hide in their village but Tom, an earnest young man, persuades the villagers to give her a trial run before taking her in. Tom is taken in by Grace’s easy charms and is besotted by her, even the villagers start liking the pleasant Grace, she is almost like the sunshine in their lives and made them “smile like a prism of light”.

dogville scene2dogville nicole

However the relationship built with the seemingly decent and simple village folks that was increasingly pure and uncomplicated in the beginning becomes excruciatingly exploitative by the end. When wanted posters appear, the stake on Grace staying on is increased too. The very same “good, honest people of Dogville,” who provide her with a haven against the gangsters, lock her up, tie her to a bed and use her as the unpaid prostitute of the village. Even Tom, who is so much in love with her and is always on principally high grounds, succumbs to the villagers’ wishes and colludes with them. They used her till every shred of humanity was torn to shreds.

dogville tieddogville tied2

In a shocking twist of events, we find that the gangster chasing Grace is no other than her own father. In her angst, pain and wrath especially at her own lover Tom and the family with kids, she passes an apocalyptic verdict that ends in violent brutality.

dogville with Paul

Little did she know that such darkness resided in her – she, who was running away from brutality and violence of a gangster’s life.  Her inner hollowness, in the few days she spent in Dogville, alleviates with one dictate from her.

Dogville has been portrayed as America critics say, but it is universally true in any society that provides for the weak yet takes advantage of them in terrible ways. It makes us realize that human beings are capable of impalpable abomination, which is covered by seemingly polite façade. We find some sort of consolation and redemption when the narrator says “And if one had the power to put it to right it was one’s duty to do so – for the sake of other towns, for the sake of humanity. And not least for the sake of the human being that was grace herself.”

(I leave you with two  emotionally numbing scenes from Dogville)