Thursday, August 06, 2009
I'm beginning to wonder what is going on in 'serious' American film-making at the moment. I found the moral core of two movies I watched recently quite sinister. First of all Doubt, supposedly tackling the question of clerical sexual abuse of children. (I understand this was originally a play.) There it was smack in the middle of what was being presented as a complex treatment of suspicion and guilt in such matters: the pernicious invention of a 'gay child' - his mother confirms his inclinations as being the reason why his father beat him - who is better off as the priest's favourite because it saves him from racist bullying. Equally objectionable is the invention of a black mother who says this is fine as it helps her son get through school. And now I've just finished watching the much-lauded The Reader and I'm equally horrified at the film's attempts to elicit sympathy for a clearly unrepentant Nazi, i.e. "I had to let the 300 women burn to death in the church as it was the only way to do my job and keep things orderly." (I understand this was originally a book.) Sympathy is insidiously elicited by making the former SS guard at Auschwitz a) fairly young, beautiful, sexy and often naked b) illiterate and ashamed of it (though not ashamed, for a moment, of murder!) and c) most pointedly, uneducated and working class. The latter's impoverished flat and then equally impoverished prison cell is deliberately and shamelessly contrasted with the fabulous wealth and artworks of the spacious apartment of a Jewish survivor, who also happens to be a writer (how's that for iron-fisted irony). Is this not a blatant if unspoken repetition of the specious rationalisation for the extermination of the Jews? i.e. they are richer, more powerful and superior to us? And how on earth did this movie get away with this stance? I repeat, what is going on in serious American film-making these days? Answer: moral decadence.