Peter Weir was, sadly, too in love with all his scenes in “The Way Back” to take the pruning shears to the extraneous stuff. And so this story (word used advisedly) of people walking from Siberia to India to escape Stalin’s murderous regime risks entering tl;dw territory. And the Jesus iconography (crown of thorns, check; knackered feet, check; washing feet, check; ethereal beauty and selfless sacrifice, check and check) goes on for far too long – to quote Oscar Wilde on ‘Christmas Carol’ – you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh out loud…
Tragically, there’s this awful montage at the end of the film about the tyranny in Eastern Europe between 1948 and 1989. By this time the Stalinists had mostly done their industrial levels of killing/gulagging [that’s not to say there was anything praiseworthy in those regimes and that the suppression of human rights – and the massacres of 1953, 1956 and 1968 – were anything other than criminality], and if you really wanted gruesome mayhem you needed to be looking at Latin America (Guatemala, much?), Uncle Sam’s balliwick. But that wouldn’t fit the heroic narrative (which is pretty damn phony in itself) quite so well, would it…?
And the final reconciliation between two characters? Oh, pass me the sickbag, puhlease.
Charles Ferguson’s documentary “Inside Job” has just won the Oscar for best documentary. And it’s a pretty good film too. Matt Damon narrates a well-structured and perfect-length/perfectly-pitched look at the mess of 2008 and how “we” got into it, why those who were blind chose to be blind and so forth. Unusually for this sort of film, Ferguson doesn’t just dish out blame to the politicians, regulators and financial ‘whizz-kids’ (sic) but also looks at the economics departments of the prestigious universities and their cupidity, stupidity and complicity with all this. Will it change the world? On its own, of course not. But this is the sort of film that should be a part of anyone’s self-education pack. This, more than Michael Moore’s Farenheit 911, is a tool of cognitive liberation. But it only works if there’s a vibrant, growing, learning, organising and winning social movement behind it.
So we’re screwed then.