Thursday, April 21, 2005

Vengeance Is A Lazy Way To Grieve

That was probably my favourite line in this movie, The Interpreter. It was not what I expected, actually not even close. I liked that it was about an African dilemma, and that Nicole Kidman, especially at the end, takes the woes of Africa's children to the temple of the Evil Dictator, and says, 'Are you responsible for this?' I wish someone would do that to Mugabe, for one.

The movie was also interesting because of the dynamic between Kidman's and Penn's characters. Both are grieving, both are defined in large part, by their grief, both are called by their work, by altruism - but the heart seeks a resolution, and brings strange coincidences for both characters, materialises strange new people into their lives.
Penn's role in the movie was simple, but delivered powerfully. This, coupled to Kidman's mysterious ailments, resonates with the underlining theme of Africa, the misery, the heartache, confusion coupled with powerlessness. Their interest in African affairs seems sincere, and Africa's relevance to Kidman, touching.

I do wonder when we will see a movie about an African country that actually exists. Is there a law against referring to an actual African country in cinema, especially a troubled one? Are we so petrified of the Dark Continent not to dare speak of (gasp) a real place and wake the terrors that drift there?

So Kidman's accent is appropriately anonymous, neither South African - though one or two words in the film seem to have inflections borrowed from the beloved country - nor, at first appearance, anything else. It seems strange, nonetheless. As an African, I would have suggested adopting one of the South African English accents, especially since these, while definite, are often untraceable to foreigners. Otherwise the rest is neutral, some British 'testing' s and t words, a few American 'yeahs'. The voice is starved of vitality, and punched a few times to lose color, to gain a neutrality. Is that how to achieve an accent that doesn't exist?

Some of the horror of Africa is shown with stark clarity in the leafy suburbs of America - the danger, the potency, the lack of remorse, the cold blooded cruelty. But right beside it is the long lost love and beauty, which has that ring of truth, because if this is true of any continent, this bittersweet tension, it's Africa.

I walked out of the cinema wanting to go home, and wondering why on earth I wasn't STILL in South Africa. It took a long while to remember. It's the title of this blog, and it has brought me here, before it will take me back.

It is ironic, and good, and clever, I thought, that Kidman's statement came back to haunt her in the end. The movie had a gritty hardness about it, strayed sometimes towards the sacchrine side, but had a genuineness, illustrated perhaps more by the fact that there is not a single kiss in the entire movie.

Watch out: The one and only explosion in the movie is ferocious enough so leave you quivering in your seat.

I wonder if publishers and filmakers are about to look toward Africa, and then the world. Let's hope it's Africa's time at last.

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