Sunday, December 24, 2006
Film: "Blood Diamond", or, "Heart of Darkness Redux"
I saw "Blood Diamond" recently. Don't worry, I won't spoil the ending. It's about the trading in diamonds from "conflict" zones. In other words, it's about first world complicity in financing wars in Africa. At the end of the movie, a message comes on the screen just in case between your soda and popcorn you may have missed the 'moral' of the story: as a consumer we should insist that the diamonds we buy are conflict free; i.e. not dripping with blood.
Oh, gosh. First I had to chuck out the fur and now the diamonds! Really, a girl has no best friends left in this liberal age.
But I'll bitch about that some other day.
Now, I want to talk about my problem with the way Africa is represented on screen. The message we get from this representation is not that liberal, I don't think. I felt it was a journey into the "heart of darkness." Throughout the film I was sitting at the edge of my seat dreading that at any moment one of the African characters will burst out with "Mista Kurtz, he dead!!"
This is a very violent film. The most horrific scenes are African on African violence. Ok, whites are complicit and they are villains, yet the film is first and foremost a visual medium and visually the scenes that will be remembered, that make an impression, are of black on black violence.
We mainly see two groups of Africans: Africans as brutes against their own people and Africans as victims of their own people. The movie is even self-conscious of the limitation of its victim discourse, when the American journalist who is trying to break the story about European complicity expresses her frustration that she doesn't want to write another victim story. But unfortunately the film doesn't seem able to break away from this paradigm: the African main character, Solomon Vandi (played by Djomoun Hounsou), who is sharing significant screen time with the DiCaprio character is never allowed to be more than a victim. It's hard for him to be convincing in any other capacity when the script hardly gives him any dialogue (compared to chatter box DiCaprio or the American journalist). He is allowed a very limited range of emotion, as opposed to the "hero" DiCaprio who is made into a complex human being. Because Vandi's character is not built up throughout the film, he is not convincing at the end. Ironically, even in his role as a witness, he is not allowed to speak. The film ends at the moment he opens his mouth. But, hey, he was allowed to act in a big one.
As to the obligatory Hollywood love story, it receives an AG on my "Gag Meter" for "Almost Gagged". It's hard for me to be moved by the unfulfilled love or lust of two white people in Africa when the bodies and limbs are piling up for two hours. Romance in the midst of mayhem never worked for me.