Welcome to my blog!

Why Jacaranda you ask? In case you are reading this the other side of the world and are not sure, Jacaranda is the name of a beautiful tree, which blooms around Oct/Nov, mostly in the Eastern states of Australia. Its flowers are the most exquisite shade of blue-purple, the nearest comparison probably being hyacinth blue, so who could not be inspired to write by such a spiritual colour? When the jacarandas start to blossom, you know it's exam time, but you also know that Christmas is just around the corner. It is said that if a jacaranda flower falls on your head as you walk underneath a tree, good fortune is sure to follow, so guess who did a lot of walking under jacaranda trees! Watch this space for changing images of this lovely tree!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Violence begets violence

Warning: This posting contains a plot spoiler.

Yesterday, I saw the British film Harry Brown,
directed by Daniel Barber and starring Michael Caine. Gary Young wrote the screenplay.

Although critics have claimed this is one of Caine's finest roles, I found the film chilling and terrifying and have several issues with it.

That said, there is no doubt that it is brilliantly shot in the dingiest of colours and settings, which only adds weight to the sombre story. I loved the close-ups of:

- Michael's feet shot from behind under the bed as he laces up his highly-polished shoes, suggesting he is a respectable man who takes pride in his appearance (my mother always told me to check a man's shoes!)

- his breakfast toast, which he lavishly spreads with blackcurrant jam, implying a man who leads a normal, quiet if banal life.

The music which accompanies some of the more suspenseful scenes is spine-chilling. The dialogue throughout is brilliant.

However, the film is so terribly violent - yes, I know it's supposed to be - I had to look away several times or bury my head in my scarf, and it seems to glorify war, killing, and taking the law into one's own hands. Perhaps this was the writer's and director's intention - to question the validity of doing the latter.

The message seems to be that the police force is an incompetent, impotent organisation, which will falsely take the credit for cleaning up a violent neighbourhood, so it's okay to play vigilante. True: many good, innocent people, including dedicated police officers, die at the hands of drug-dealing/taking and gun-wielding youths who control the London housing estate where they live, which, in the end, becomes a peaceful, habitable neighbourhood.

However, I don't think that Caine's character - Harry Brown - should, or indeed, could have survived the whole ordeal. It was too happy clappy Hollywood for me. There is no doubt that he does not advocate violence for violence sake, he has served his country well in the Marine Commandoes, and acts out of the best intentions, the catalyst being when his long-time friend is killed by the local gang. The audience is also shown what a humanitarian he is when he rescues a young girl addicted to heroin, who is kept in a drug-induced state by her boyfriend pimp and dealer/addict for his sadistic and other's pleasure. One of Caine's lines which stood out for me was: 'In Ireland people were fighting for a cause. [Not sure which side he is referring to here - or maybe both.] To these people killing is just entertainment.'

I also have concerns that disenfranchised youth who might view the film think the youths in the film are role models.

Throughout the film I was reminded of Kristallnacht. On hearing of his family's expulsion by the Nazis from Poland (and I understood the rape of his mother), a youth living in Paris, goes to the German Embassy and in retaliation shoots a diplomat. This set off the incident of Kristallnacht , where the Nazi regime gave German youth licence to destroy, burn and loot Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues. While the young Pole's anguish and actions are understandable, his one violent act set off a series of much more violent and serious acts against his people.