Archive for colonialism

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2017 by cdascher

Lawrence_of_arabia_ver3_xxlgIn Oxford England, home to some of the oldest higher learning institutions in the world, is the Bodleian Library’s Treasury, where they display important and historical books to the public. Among the blackletter parchment texts and First Folios, you can see the manuscript for the memoirs of a British intelligence officer from the First World War and Oxford alum, T.E. Lawrence. An archaeologist; like many of his generation his career was interrupted by service in the war. While certainly not the only literary figure to emerge from the Great War, writers like Siegfried Sassoon and Ernst Junger described an experience harder to attach a narrative: the misery of trench life and futile battlefield draws that went on for years. Lawrence served in the Middle East, aiding the Arab Bedouins in their revolt against the Ottoman Empire, taking not only  the role of battlefield commander, but adopting the Bedouins’ dress and aspects of their culture. He stood out as an almost swashbuckling figure, leading a small army of robed fighters on camels and horses across the desert. Romantic as he may have appeared, in no way did his dashing image insulate him from the horrors of war, and his role as a bridge between two nations left him in a deeply conflicted position.

Over the course of our project, I’ve realized that many Oscar winning pictures are about war. As someone who is a staunch anti-militarist, this was off-putting at first; however, as the daughter and granddaughter of veterans I am also grateful for it. If anything, seeing tell of the horrors of war and the individual lives impacted solidifies my convictions.

Lawrence of Arabia is a powerful film on a host of levels, not the least of which is its visuals. The film has gorgeous landscapes as our protagonist spans the globe; the scenes in the desert are stunning and made me wish I could visit soon. One error I think we made in watching this film was neglecting to find time and space to see it on the big screen. That’s a little hard to do with a three and a half hour film though, especially when you have a toddler. Continue reading

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OUT OF AFRICA (1985)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2015 by cdascher

out of africaFirst off, let me say there is no scene in this movie where Robert Redford teaches Meryl Streep how to drive, nor are there any scenes with people stuck in traffic. In fact, I don’t recall anyone uttering the titular line in the entire movie, although if Meryl Streep said it, I may have missed it through her impenetrable accent.

Chronologically speaking, this picks up shortly after our last movie, in 1913.  It  is the adaptation of Karen Blixen’s memoirs, with Meryl Streep portraying the author. From a wealthy Danish family, she marries a Baron (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and they move to colonial Kenya to establish a coffee plantation. After the marriage proves an unhappy pairing, Karen finds her real love is for charming rover Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). As she runs her plantation over the years, she interacts with the British colonial society as well as the native Kikuyu population. She lives through ordeals like the hardship of wartime and the unfortunate effects of her husband’s infidelity, but also experiences adventures with Denys and sees the beauty of the land.

My mother told me this was one of her favorite movies, so I was definitely interested to see it. I felt the same way when she told me Jane Eyre was her favorite novel – compelled to read it out of a deep and abiding love for my mom. Both are great works and worthy of exploration, but both also moved at quite a languid pace for my liking. In fact, it took me over eight years to complete Jane Eyre – even though I thought it a worthwhile story. Thankfully, it didn’t take me as long to watch Out of Africa.

Languid indeed. When we had finished this film, Mouse asked me how many years I thought the story had spanned. It was hard for me to gauge. I deeply admired Streep’s character – she has a good moral compass and seems to want to do the right thing, but was hampered greatly by the roles women could play in society at the time. Her pride motivates her to act in a number of ways that don’t serve her – in large part, to enter a marriage of convenience without love in which she experiences betrayal and humiliation more than once. It is more important to her to be married as a person of society than to be happy. Despite its origins as a marriage in name only, she and her husband do develop a physical relationship – perhaps due to proximity so far away from their native Denmark in Africa. Her philandering husband eventually gives her syphilis, and she is forced to go back to Europe for treatment. Thankfully, she is okay, but she because of this she learns she will never be able to have children. The realization seems to hit her quite acutely and quite painfully, and she throws herself squarely into her work on the farm to try to get a strong coffee crop going and for sale – something she is learning about as she goes. Continue reading

GANDHI (1982)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2013 by cdascher

Gandhi-posterOur timing for watching this film was really perfect for me. We wrapped the viewing up at the same time as I was going to Washington, DC for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, an event commemorating Martin Luther King, Junior’s historic civil rights speech. This was also my nephew’s first march. On the way down in the metro my mom, my nephew and I all talked about non-violence – and it was impossible not to bring up the man on whose life this film is based.

The film is ambitious, spanning from 1893 when Gandhi is thrown off a whites-only train in South Africa to his assassination and funeral in 1948. Ben Kingsley, fantastic in the role of Gandhi, exudes calm, conviction and fortitude – you can’t imagine the film with anyone else. Clocking in at over three hours, it definitely took us several slogs to get through and if the miniseries format had been an available delivery mechanism at the time, that might have been preferable.

On the other hand, this movie is epic – perhaps a miniseries would have robbed it of some of its cinematic breadth. It had been Director Richard Attenborough’s dream project, and he had failed twice before trying to make a film about the life of the lauded historical figure and civil rights luminary. In the end, Gandhi won 8 Academy Awards, was nominated for 3 more, and received wide critical acclaim. It’s also of note that according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the funeral scene in this film used the most extras of any film in history – 300,000.

Long, yes, but a beautiful film about the life of a fascinating man. Gandhi reminded me a bit of Lawrence of Arabia. Both are historical epics about single individuals, opening with the subject’s death, then flashing back to a pivotal moment in his life to begin the story. Both movies tell the tale of a figure who played a role in the story of British colonialism, each in his own way. But whereas T. E. Lawrence is known for leading a brutal guerrilla war, Continue reading