Being unemployed for the last few months has been great for my cinematic education. I have come across three beautiful movies in this time that I would recommend to everybody around me. They are: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and District 9.
Movie: Before Sunrise
Director: Richard Linklater
Year of Release: 1995
Before Sunrise is a love story. And it’s about love at first sight. Now before you dismiss it as some kind of run of the mill romantic comedy, let me explain. It is about an American guy (in his early 20s) who meets a French girl (also in her early 20s) on a train to Vienna. They impulsively decide to spend a day and night together exploring Vienna and exploring each other. The next day they part ways, the girl goes to Paris and the guy goes back to America. The movie is about the meeting and the exploring. Each time they speak it seems they are tentatively and hesitatingly digging deeper into each other. All at once you see confusion, excitement, curiosity, embarrassment, longing, love, desire, lust, intrigue and the all important need to define where next this relationship is headed. At last, when night arrives all these emotions are manifested in their conversation about whether or not to have sex. Should we do it? Perhaps not? Would it spoil this wonderful thing we have had all day? And yet, they seem to enjoy even this discussion of the possibility of having sex. Their comfort with each other is so complete. In the end, they realize they cannot really bid goodbye to each other and decide to meet again in the railway station at Vienna after 6 months. Obviously, we don’t know if they do.
Movie: Before Sunset
Director: Richard Linklater
Year of Release: 2005
Before Sunset is a sequel. It is set ten years on (quite literally with the same actors), when the characters are in their early 30s. They have both changed considerably. The guy who was a struggling writer in the first movie has actually published a book and as part of its promotion has been touring Europe. He meets the girl in Paris. The girl is working for an environmental organization. They hit it off once again. Obviously, someone stood someone else up 6 months after their first meeting. But that is cleared up fairly early in the movie. A very interesting and engaging repartee follows between them as they discuss politics, love, sex, work, marriage, children etc throughout the movie. There is less embarrassment and confusion. They are very different people now, but their changed selves are falling in love all over again. The audience now wants to know if this is going to be another transitory meeting like the earlier meeting or if it is the beginning of something more lasting.
Movie: District 9
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Year of Release: 2009
In contrast, the third movie, District 9, literally takes the heart out of your lung cage, plays ball with it, slaps it around, gives it a shake, irons it out, puts it through the shredder, stamps on it, and then, still beating, albeit faintly, puts it back in your lung cage. Admittedly this movie requires a mood, the mood to think and the mood to be bombarded with the realities of the world. If you have read Kafka’s Metamorphosis, this is very much like that. The story, set in South Africa, revolves around a man, an officer in the administration, who is given the job of clearing out an alien settlement, District 9, because they are ‘illegal’ immigrants and have created a lot of resentment among the locals. The movie starts out like a political documentary with sociology experts and the like giving their piece of wisdom to the camera. And quite early on you are introduced to the protagonist. The character has a comic clumsy side to him and the start is rather lighthearted, very deceptive of what is to come. In time, the protagonist comes in contact with some fluid that changes a human in to a ‘prawn’ which is the derogatory term for the aliens. Attitudes of people everywhere changes towards him. Why? His own attitudes towards the prawns, the people, his wife, and the Nigerian arms trading gangs are changing completely.
The one unnecessary element was perhaps the segment about the Nigerian arms trading gangsters. And ofcourse too much blood and gore for my liking. I firmly believe in the strength of a subtly crafted message. But I also realize it’s the times we live in; the more blood and gore the more candid the picture is perceived to be.
This is social satire and political allegory of the toughest, most hard-hitting kind. Interestingly, when I googled the movie, most reviews seemed to consider it in the category of sci-fi and evaluate it on that score. However, except for the alien bit, I think it has very little sci-fi and lots more of social commentary.
Be sure to catch these when you can. They are classics.