Friday, January 25, 2008

Movies, Literature and Politics

Oh right, like we're going to actually talk about politics. :)

But yes, I've been thinking (something I tend to do a lot). I don't know where to put this, but I think this crowd seems thoughtful and smart, and this relates to the film as well. So here it goes.

Obviously when Upton Sinclair, Cormac McCarthy and Ian McEwan wrote their respective books, they didn't have the Bush administration in mind (I'd say McEwan probably didn't even think about the US at the time). Still, the great thing about art and literature is that we can all take what we can and relate and associate them with our lives and reality, and they're so universal that you can apply to anything, including current affairs and politics. These three Best Picture-nominated films: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Atonement are all "thinking person's film." They are also adaptations from best-selling literature. Their meanings, to me, go deeper than the surface story. And that got me thinking...

The stories, even if they were written years ago (Sinclair's Oil, for example, was published in 1927), tends to have a strong relevance to our world today -- and it may be more pertinent as they are made by contemporary artists in the year 2007, when we're are deep in a war, in a state of paranoia, and with a volatile world economy. So where am I going with this?

First, in There Will Be Blood, the themes of oil, capitalism, greed, ambition, corruption and moral degeneration/spiritual dishonesty seem to really strike a chord with me about the current time. You may say, "Dude, those things happen all the time since the beginning of civilization." Still, I can't help but think about how it all relates to the current world, and if Paul Thomas Anderson is making an allegory of sorts.

As for No Country for Old Men, I think the message is even more obvious. It's not just about good vs. evil, but ultimately how unfair the world is, and that we're trapped in something we have no control over, violent, ruthless, and we're helpless. Even the good guys can't do anything about it. It's indeed no country for old men.

As for Atonement, obviously there's a great sadness associated with the war and suffering, deaths, and loss of innocence. But at the same time, I can't stop thinking of the central story: how a lie, however innocuous and righteous it may seem at the time, no matter how justified one feels about telling it, can indeed be wrong and can send people to war and peril, and ruin lives along the way. And how can we atone for that? Would we become so deep in that hole of denial that we just can't dig ourselves out? And even if we recognize the original lie, do we just shrug it off and say, "Well, the harm's already done. What can we do about it?" Or should we try our best to atone for it, to fix the wrongdoing? (You do know what I am talking about, right, as far as current affairs are concerned)

OK, I will leave now and we can resume our normal programming... unless anyone of you would like to comment on this. Again, I didn't mean to make it a political chat. Just some thoughts on the themes and relevance of the stories we read or see.


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