300 and Others

Another foray into film reviews


Aficionados of impaling, dismemberment and decapitation were regaled recently with the release of "300," a film about the battle of Thermopylae. While there is no dearth of violence in the media these days, this graphic novel adaptation cannot fail to elicit a visceral response in even the most inured moviegoer or newspaper reader. 

You may read more elaborate descriptions elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that 300 gives us the hackneyed "good v. evil" scenario.  The Spartans are handsome, good and honorable and the Persians are evil, ugly and despicable.  Yawn.  It’s the same old, same old. 

Now, I have to admit, I enjoy a good impaling as much as the next guy.  I’m not squeamish.  And there is a certain appeal to the cinematic simplicity of solving complex problems with the expedient of violence, no matter the improbability of that in real life.  But it’s impossible not to take into account the context in which this allegory is taking place, namely the looming confrontation between the US and Iran.

As you are aware, or certainly should be aware, the first step in waging a war of aggression is demonizing the enemy.  Is it just an accident that this film is being released at this particular time?  We can’t answer that, but… it certainly seems suspect.  The Persians are, after all, the ancestors of the Iranians.  And the Spartans are, it is suggested, somehow our own ancestors, at least culturally — although perhaps the Athenians would better claim that title. In any case, the Spartans in the film are plenty American — ripped abdominal muscles, hooha, semper fi caricatures.

Frank Miller, the author of the graphic novel is fairly candid about how he views our current "clash of cultures."

"Our country… is up against an existential foe, yet we behave like a collapsing empire.  Mighty cultures aren’t conquered they crumble from within.  Americans are behaving like spoiled brats."  — Frank Miller

Miller sees the current events in the Middle East as a confrontation between the modern west and a "6th century barbarism."  He asks, "Why are people so self-absorbed?"  If anything, Miller is as bellicose as the Bushies.

At the very least, you have to question the wisdom of releasing such a film at this time.  Throwing gasoline on the fire in the Middle East hardly seems like a wise thing to do — unless what you really seek is to inflame passions, and cultivate a hunger for war.

Of course, one could read the film from another angle.  The story of a hegemonic super-power, intoxicated with illusions of divine right, greedy and corrupt.  Hmmm.  Remind you of anyone?  Meanwhile…

U.S. Opens Naval Exercise in Persian Gulf

But the overall effect of the film, regardless of speculations as to intent, is to advocate war.  Keep an eye out for more propaganda.  Watch the implacable machinery of war produce yet another monster.

The Lives of Others

The other film, and one I enjoyed immensely, was The Lives of Others. It *works* on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.  Just see it.  One thing to keep in mind is the vastly greater technological resources available to Bush’s American "Stasi."   It’s not just the real-time monitoring capabilities, impressive as they may be.  It’s also the archiving and data mining capabilities.  What you do now may be innocuous.  But if you were to ever join the revolution (nudge, nudge!) and were to come to anyone’s attention, your whole history would be available for instant perusal.  Your credit card purchases.  The web sites you visited, and which pages you viewed.  Groups you belong to.  The people to whom you have sent emails, and received them from.  Those whom you called on the telephone and how long you spoke.  And their friends, too.  The Stasi was able to tyrannize a country with much less.

As always, comments, retorts, rejoinders, and asides are welcome!