Monday, November 09, 2009

The Pacifist and the Warlord

  • Lord of War (Andrew Niccol, 2005): Nicolas Cage acts as an illegal gunrunner, and this film is a nihilistic look at humans' propensity for violence. Not at all preachy, dripping with irony and black humour (some of which may be found repulsive by compassionate souls), and with some stunning cinematography, the film is not a glorification of Mr Cage's character, but is rather a perplexing treatise on harm and malice. The gunrunner is not malicious at all, but he is engaged in helping others carry out their malice. "I don't want people dead, Agent Valentine. I don't put a gun to anybody's head and make them shoot. But shooting is better for business. But, I prefer people to fire my guns and miss." And further, in a wry moment, he remarks: "They say 'Evil prevails when good men fail to act.' What they ought to say is, 'Evil prevails.'"

  • The Mission (Roland JoffĂ©, 1986): A completely different kind of film from the above: serious, sincere, poetic, a polemic against violence. Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons, in a standout performance) is a Jesuit priest in opposition to the colonial powers in 18th century South America. He refuses to resist the violent aggressors, and leads his mission to martyrdom. One wonders at the end if his attachment to pacifism was also in part responsible for the horrific violence to the people under his leadership. One also wonders if peace and love can ever be taught without recourse to divinity. Very often, the religious claptrap is justified because it serves ostensibly noble ends. The film is rightly cherished for its great scenery and lilting music and won the Golden Palm at Cannes. (And it is rather peculiar that a film about the horrors of violent aggression shows a warrior on its poster, rather than, say, a face expressing love and kindness)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't watched The Mission (this is the first time I've ever heard of this title, actually). Will have to check it out now.

I did watch Lord of War and loved its dry, dark humor (reminded me of Nicholas Cage's other movie: Weather Man.. different movie, different theme, but similar dry, distant characters...)

And yes, I was quite ecstatic when I heard A R Rahman's 'Bombay Theme' in the background. Given the pacifist message of the movie, this was quite an apt choice, I though.