The Pianist (2002), Roman Polanski

Poignant and to the point, Roman Polanski’s 2002 The Pianist, a truly modern masterwork that manages to blend the experience of millions of Jews into the story of a gifted Polish musician, delves deep into the core of Homo Sapiens, placing an awkward mirror in front of us.

the-pianist-2The horrific crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II serve as reminders of the human potential for evil. A potential, as Hannah Arendt understood, inherent in us all. For the Holocaust – or for that matter, any witch-hunt throughout the course of history – would not be possible without the willingness of good and ordinary people. Historical awareness might somehow give us the illusion of a distance between those people and ourselves, but it can’t prevent any of us from acting the exact same way if circumstances arise. Continue reading

The Thin Red Line (1998), Terrence Malick

A lyrical war movie to end all war movies, Terrence Malick’s 1998 The Thin Red Line, this epic and metaphysical film, asks the most essential of questions: Is war – such a primordial conflict resolution tool – as natural as the magnificent landscape shown on the picture?

the-thin-red-line-2Why does mankind need to reach the depths of despair in order to notice the precious nature of life and to contemplate what’s beyond the mundane? Perhaps, it is this paradox that makes war stories especially poignant, with such a rich array of feelings and emotions that seems to encompass humanity’s whole range of meanings. Thus the actuality of war poses a great conundrum to our species as it encapsulates primeval aspects of mankind’s psyche, and as such serves us with the tools to search for and reach the sublime. Continue reading

Battleship Potemkin (1925), Sergei Eisenstein

Communist propaganda disguised as art, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Battleship Potemkin – a truly iconic film in the entire history of cinema – must be seen and understood as a piece of film-making in itself, and not only as the product of a specific era, aimed to awe and persuade. 

battleship-potemkin-2Looking back to the past with the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing… Being far removed from the actions and the emotions of a certain period in time – especially if it is a controversial one – allows great insight into what once might have been taken for granted. With communism long gone, and the cold war consigned to the history books, the narrative within Battleship Potemkin [Bronenosets Potyomkin] can be finally understood allegorically – seen past through its propaganda veneer. Continue reading

The Deer Hunter (1978), Michael Cimino

Sandwiching the horrors of war between two dramatic opposites within a three-act story, Michael Cimino’s 1978 The Deer Hunter – a truly compelling tale of friendships gone awry – is the film which surely helped to propel the careers of its superstar actors to the stratosphere.

the-deer-hunter-2By the end of The Deer Hunter, when these close-knit friends sing ‘God Bless America’ around a bar table – longing for the safe haven of the past – they have been through a poignant arc in their lives. Though the three men who left for Vietnam somewhat return home, only one of them stays halfway sane; the other two are either dead or reduced to a traumatized child. During the movie’s three hours, these people mature so dramatically, almost becoming different men and women, as to infuse the picture’s last scene with so much ambiguity. Continue reading

Paths of Glory (1957), Stanley Kubrick

A cynical perspective on military motivations, Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 Paths of Glory, with its themes of moral corruption, undisguised hypocrisy and absurd vanity, astonishes and outrages in equal measure, for its outstanding storytelling and unbearable injustice.

paths-of-glory-2Usually understood as an anti-war film, Paths of Glory seems unduly reduced to a moralistic and doctrinaire tale. Colonel Dax, the audience’s alter ego, is indeed an honourable and dignified man, who nevertheless remains a military man to the very end. He even becomes outraged when his superior suggests that his quest for justice is in reality an artifice to get a promotion. However, as dignified as he may be, Dax never questions the bureaucratic structure or the raison d’être of his organization. The movie fights through some very dense philosophical issues. Continue reading

Gone with the Wind (1939), Victor Fleming

Thematically controversial and visually arresting, Victor Fleming’s 1939 Gone with the Wind, isn’t exactly the most accurate of motion pictures, but the scope of its storytelling, and the psychological insights it displays about a flawed but compelling heroine, are admirable indeed.

gone-with-the-wind-2How does one defend a 75-year-old movie that sugarcoats aspects of a nasty legacy in American history? Obviously, one doesn’t – one can’t! In fact, the film does not need defending – unless one, not only has a chip on their shoulder, but lives and sleeps with one at all times. Well-educated people will know that slavery was actually brutal (12 Years a Slave, anyone?). Why does a work of art must agree to certain degrees of accuracy? What kinds of responsibility does a picture bear towards the truth? Is it really so insensitive to love the film for those dresses, those vistas and those characters dazzling in Technicolor? Continue reading