The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), William A. Wellman

A western with no action or a play with cowboys, William A. Wellman’s 1943 The Ox-Bow Incident tells the sad tale of three men facing the possibility of execution by the mob, where reason and compassion are overlooked in the name of impulsive, angry and swift ‘justice’.

the-ox-bow-incident-2It is not a coincidence that Henry Fonda’s character Gil Carter in The Ox-Bow Incident represents the audience’s alter ego and challenges the mob rule mentality, as he would do the same fourteen years later in Sidney Lumet’s classic 12 Angry Men. Fonda as an actor is perfect as the cool and rational human being who is capable of seeing things as they should be seen. Note here, not necessarily seeing thing as they really are, for that would imply that society, and especially American society, is just, and yet human beings are sometimes misguided. Continue reading

Life of Brian (1979), Terry Jones

An unrepentant and caustic satire of belief systems, Terry Jones’ 1979 Life of Brian, with a reluctant messiah at the centre of its tale of mistaken identity, is not only extremely clever and funny, but also, intelligent and subtle in its critique of political idealism and credulity.

life-of-brian-2It is quite funny – actually, rather hilarious indeed!! – that in a film which supposedly intends to criticise religious beliefs, the best jokes are directed at other subjects. Through political commentary, cultural reference, psychological insight and philosophical discussion, Life of Brian – this laugh-out loud movie!! – has a go at every absurd aspect of the human condition. Continue reading

Triumph of the Will (1935), Leni Riefenstahl

Equally despised for its celebration of the Nazis and praised  for its technical artistry, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, a unique propaganda film, sits at the top of a controversial pile, indirectly questioning the very nature of artistic freedom and bias in art.

triumph-of-the-will-2Any reasonably educated person is well aware of the brutality of the Nazis and the unspeakable acts of barbarism perpetrated by the regime. The explosive cocktail of nationalism, racism and self-victimisation, instigated by Adolf Hitler, led to the destruction of Germany and the loss of tens of millions of lives across Europe. It is unnecessary to warn anyone of the evils associated with the National Socialist Party. However, Leni Riefenstahl’s astonishing documentary-cum-propaganda Triumph of the Will [Triumph des Willens] cannot be blamed for the atrocities derived from the ideology. Continue reading