European Film Festival - Hotel Rwanda and Enduring LoveHotel Rwanda
So you've seen films about humans in conflicts, how some of them with rare courage end up saving the lives of many around them despite faltering along the way. These stories have been set among warring Bosnians and Serbs, Hindus and Muslims, Indians and Pakistanis, Jews and Nazis, Russians and Germans, etc. etc. - the appellations change but we've seen it all before. So why should we watch a film like most of these set in Rwanda?
One, because however jaded the theme can get, these stories need to be told. We need to learn about the Hutus and Tutsis as well, precisely because these are so easily transplanted elsewhere. They can plant a seedling of caution. It also helps that the film has been made well, with some good performances from the likes of Don Cheadle in the main role as the hotel manager whose conscience forces him to abandon his me-and-my-family-only stance to (reluctantly at first) care for as many as he could. These tales apart from being about uncommon bravery amidst all too common stories of woe are also a reminder of the fortuitousness, the random arbitrary hand of chance and the occasional inability of the powerful to be fully evil. This may have happened a decade ago, but that the world saw most of it and still couldn't or wouldn't do much is not something I knew.
If you have been watching movies for a while, there'd have been one film that shook you out of your naive belief that they all have happy endings. Mine was "Von Ryan's Express" where I found it extremely hard to believe that they'd kill Frank Sinatra after all the trouble he went to getting those soldiers out of the Nazi clutches - I became a little suspicious of stories from then on. The reason why I'm talking about it here is that the way the film has been narrated is not always the most predictable - they've left in the little snatches of humour and sadness that makes up life as we usually know it.
This isn't the greatest psychological thriller you'll ever see, but I will remember this for a long time for I was brilliantly set up for this movie.
So you're in a lush green field in one of those made-for-cinematography bright English days with your girlfriend. An out of control hot air balloon punctures this picture of serenity. It has a small boy in it. You rush to help as do a few other passersby. A few spectacular shots later, one of them is dead - dead by plunging to his fall. You were among those who let go. It begins to haunt you. You're Joe.
Or you were one of the others. When you saw the body, you knelt to pray. And coerced Joe to do the same. And when he did, you felt a strange kinship spring between both of you. And you continued to see meaning in everything he did from then on. How harmless are you really? You're Jed.
You're Claire and you continue to be puzzled at what Joe's been thinking - why does he blame himself so? It's come to a point where one of you has to make a decision.
Enduring Love doesn't lift into a higher gear at any specific point, not even when it could have - but I found the meandering more menacing, more irritable, more intriguing. Throw in neo-Darwinian discussions on the ethics of love, the quest for meaning when none probably existed, on finding it complicated to keep it simple - the adaptation of a Ian McEwan novel had all this to offer. In the end analysis, it comes up a little short, but if you're in the right (or wrong) frame of mind, you might really like it.
That the film was directed by the man who made "Notting Hill" will explain the presence of actors like Rhys Ifans (Hugh Grant's Welsh roommate) and Bill Nighy (the wannabe banker). Samantha Morton, I've seen in similar scenes of psychological trauma in an episode of "Cracker", while this was my first glimpse of the new Bond, Daniel Craig.
I sort of lost enthusiasm for the rest of the festival, but will be heading to watch Mani Ratnam's "Kannathil Muthamittal" on the big screen for the first time. There were a couple of minor factual errors in the brochure regarding the plot - wonder who ctrl-c/ctrl-v-ed that from where.