Monday, March 01, 2010

Times of War

I recently watched Persepolis, The Reader, and Hotel Rwanda, each in their own way about living through war and the things we do to survive. How much would you do, what would you do, most importantly, what would you do to survive.

Persepolis is the story of a girl/young woman, growing up in the aftermath of the fall of the Shah. At the beginning her liberal parents are full of hope for the new regime, but it is soon clear that the western freedoms enjoyed under the Shah are gone. They fear for their daughter's outspoken protest, and yet, it is at their knee that she has learned to speak up. Our heroine is packed off to Vienna where she gets into the kind of troubles that a young woman alone in a strange city might be prone to--fights with landlords, as she puts them, banal love affairs. Hers is an easy war, even when she returns, until one of her friends is killed running from a mixed (illegal) party. The war is a background to them until it collides with them and they live as if it is a distant thing as much as possible. Persepolis is animated, by the way, in a glorious black and white that echoes the book.

What can be said about Hotel Rawanda, beyond the obvious--this is a heart and gut-wrenching movie of personal bravery in the face of unbelievable odds. Could I be capable of such bravery when it would be so easy to bribe a few people and save my own family? The most telling line:
'You're not even 'ni**ers' you're Africans.' In other words the West has no reason to help you and they're not coming.

The Reader is a harder question if not a harder movie to watch. Boy has affair with older woman that shapes every relationship he has after only to find that she was a Nazi. He has info. that could get her a reduced sentence--that she is illiterate--which she is too ashamed to use in her defence and does not use it during the trial, but then sends her tapes of him reading--as they did when he was her lover--through her incarceration. We share his sympathy with her, and yet we are stuck with and lost with her crimes--that she sent women to their deaths repeatedly, many whom she had read to her. Her final act and his final question leave the watcher, as lost as he is.


Brown Belt Librarian said...

I haven't seen "The Reader" yet, but I agree with you about
"Hotel Rwanda." I don't know if I could have had the same courage that Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle's character)had. I would have probably been too busy saving my family's skin, and I probably would have left it at that.

We do live in a bubble as Americans. We learn about atrocities second hand, and though we were all shocked and horrified by the events of 9/11, I sometimes think that they only felt as horrifying as they did because we don't deal with this kind of thing day in and day out.

The scope of cruelty in such places as Rwanda and Sierra Leone is just beyond comprehension. It's difficult to contemplate, and it's even more difficult to watch even when it's a Hollywood film as opposed to a documentary.

By the way...great to see you writing again!

musingwoman said...

I recently watched The Reader, as well. I'm still processing it.

Brown Belt Librarian said...

Oops! There was a typo in that last sentence I wrote in my first comment, and it made me sound like an idiot! I meant to say:
"It's difficult to contemplate, and it's even more difficult to contemplate when it's a Hollywood film as opposed to a documentary."