20 February 2006

Movie Break: Munich & Everything is Illuminated

Took a break from TV to watch Munich and Everything Is Illuminated, both films having Jew themes.

The first one, Munich, made me too depressed. The film is filled with rage and angst, you can definitely feel it. My favorite scenes were of the first 20 minutes of the film, showing how skillful a film-maker Spielberg is. He really knows how to tell his stories. And while Munich wasn't exactly a spectacular film to me, it could still be one of his best.

Spielberg did a very elaborate contrast between two groups: the terrorists and the victims, by showing it in the first 20 minutes of the movie. He showed one part where the families of the victims are crying on TV (for the safety of their loved-ones --- from the terrorists), then cut to another scene were the families of the terrorists are crying on TV (for the same reasons, the safety of their loved ones --- from the autorities). Spielberg also employed a clip of news (I guess this one is real footage) where the newscaster announces to the world the identities of the victims, one by one; then cut to the head investigator showing his men pictures of the terrorists and describing them, one by one.

I was moved by those scenes, the contrast, to the point where I broke down in tears (which I could not turn off even if I tried holding it back!). I got the message right there: In violence and war, there are no winners. And I gathered the message this film wanted me to pick: A war will forever be ugly and pointless. Even if you've successfully fulfilled your mission, what is the point? People have died so you can achieve it. And even then, you still have not achieved it.

As the dialogue in this film go...

Man 1: Will this never end?
Man 2: Does your nails grow back?

Ain't that super sad?

So depressed was I of this film (Munich) that I decided to look for something to make me feel better. I decided to watch something which I have been wanting to see for a long time...

Everything Is Illuminated Everything Is Illuminated is a book by Jonathan Safran Foer and adapted on the big screen. Someone tells me the book had a better storyline (ain't that always the case?) but having not read it, I found the movie quite a delightful surprise. For one thing, it's quirky and offbeat....something I've always found interesting. The treatment reminds me a tiny bit of Amelie. The jokes border on Mel Brook-ish (History of the World Part 1), that I thought, if this were a Regal Films production, I might find it utterly corny or even stupid. But fortunately, I was laughing out loud. The unfortunate thing about this type of movie is that when it shifts from comedy to drama towards the middle of the film it may have to undoubtedly fail to find its heart while getting the message across. But I didn't think this one had a problem because I liked the story's development and presentation. With the tragedy of the Holocaust as a back story, the movie worked at bringing comedy and tragedy together, effectively. For once, I didn't have to grieve over the victims of persecution even while I empathize with them. It's a light-hearted "holocaust" movie, if I may say so.

Favorite moments:
- the introduction of Alex's (a ladies man who loves Michael Jackson and hiphop and everything American) "blind" grandfather (he isn't, he just pretends to be one) and his seeing-eye dog (bitch) named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. (daughter of his grandfather's dog, Sammy Davis Jr, who already passed away)
- the arrival of Foer (Elijah Wood's character) to Ukraine, and to Foer's surprise, amidst a marching band hired by Alex (his translator/guide) to play the American Anthem.

Watch both films, if possible on the same day. One film to make you think and ponder or maybe even grieve and say, "Why Lord why?" (if you're feeling too dramatic!); and the other film to also make you see the ugliness of war and persecution and hate and race barriers...but it's not too heavy, you could even afford to laugh through it.