All entries for August 2009

August 30, 2009

Hannibal

Is it because of Ridley Scott? Or is it because of Anthony Hopkins? Who made this film so fantastic that I forgot it is the sequel of another great film? Standing ovation for the person who dared to replace Jodie Foster with Julianne Moore... and for the 'pig scene'! I love when Lecter lifts up half dead Clarise (who notabene wants to throw him to jail) in the last moment and saves her from being eaten by people-eating pigs. Such scenes make a good movie: they show that there is no distinction on good and bad characters. Transcendency, multi-layer characters - this is what makes a human, even if we think that one deed (here, cannibalism) defines a person ('is he a cannibal? he must be mad!' - no, this is not how it works). Hannibal rescued Clarise and fought for the sake of world's esthetical purity (killing the guy from the orchestra who played cacophonically to make the sound more sublime? genius!): by uncovering those features, we re-evaluate him as a a person and our considerations on the punishment.

Dr. Lecter, the cannibal, escapes the punishment and hides in Florence to be a curator in one of the museums. In the meantime, one of his victims - the only one that survived: Mason Verger, builds a plan on how to take a revange on his torturer. What he needs is a decoy, an incentive for Lecter to come out the shadow... He uses Clarise Starling for that purpose. A woman who intrigued and amused Lecter when he was in jail. His love..? (I never know what did he mean when he said that he wonders how would Clarise taste - her meat or her... taste of sexual excitment) Verger finally manages to capture Lecter with the help of greedy policeman, Mr.Pazzi, and wants to enjoy this tortures (pig scene!) but Clarise (brave Clarise!), led by her inner sense of justice and the will to put Lecter on trial instead of meteing out punishment outside the court, breaks in in the last seconds, to save Hannibal from the shameful death. Then he saves her, they run away, in the mid-time Lecter eats the brain of some policeman and at the end... justice has to wait till the next sequel (will be?) because Lecter escapes. In general, this film's plot is about a chase: Verger's chase to get revange, FBI's chase to shut the criminal.  

From the legal standpoint, it brings one very important aspect I have never seen in film before: the case of denunciatory activities. This film shows a process of capturing criminals and how police involves normal citizens therein. Firstly, it exhibits how much work is put into it: rooms full of evidence, effort put into gathering data (Clarise co-operating with Italian police to get a recording), hours of individual and expert analyze, the importance of team-work and self-control during the action. However, the film also shows that it doesn't always fructify with seizing the criminal. That's why we have rewards for those people who help police, give a trace. On one hand, it is great, society sees that police engages all means available to make them save, they awake social mechanisms of co-operation, make people more sensible to what and who is around, but isn't giving rewards for trace just awarding spying, spreading fear? In the second option, we may think that government encourages people to be suspicious, anti-social, to remember all the time that somewhere among us, there is a very dangerous man who police failed to seize. This means that police is/was weak, cannot fully protect us, that it is unable enough that it asks unskilled civilians to help them. Furthermore, this resembles fascism a bit: a country wants to control its citizens by gratifying those who give them information about others. Should then the country pay for spying? Spying is yet one of the least desirable and liked features in the society... Where is the limit?

On the other side, doesn't police just mobilize people to protect ourselves against the crime? Of course, it exposes us to danger (yet, we should run away when we know a criminal is near by rather than to get in contact with him to get his fingerprints), but doesn't it link us more to police? We have the awareness, we know what to do when a criminal stands on our way. By giving awards for criminals we know that our taxes are really spent on society protection and crime reduction.

In addition, the film displays the difference between policemen's attitudes towards seizing criminals: for Clarise it is the case of justice and she doesn't care abour the reward, for Mr.Pazzi money is the main driving force to put Lecter into jail. To be trival: no group is homogenous, police is extremely prone to corrupt. However, is the fact that Pazzi had a young wife and needed money an excuse good enough for him to backslide his ideals - to seek a criminal and endanger the live of his informant for benefit rather than for professional satisfaction? Would it somehow change Clarise's choices if she wasn't single and had a starving family? When a policeman can claim additional money benefits for his work? Can he help to kill a wanted criminal if he knows that he will go to the jail anyway, just as Pazzi did?

--   

Before Madonna's concert in Poland, there was a vivid discussion on wherther is it permissable for a catholic to see this show. Somewhere on the side of this debate more intellectual discussion took place: can Madonna be classified as 'art' or as 'entertainment'? what is 'art'? One article on that amused me in particular. It was trying to convince that 'art' is when one needs to think over what one sees/hears, 'entertainment' is pleasure-making, squezeed off any reflection intellectual pulp who can be enjoyed by a person of average thinking ability. In spite of the fact that the author of the words periphrased used them to push that Madonna belongs to the first group (shameful!) I very much agree with the distinction. Moreover, applying this distinction to horror moovies in general I would say they are mostly to entertain. 'Painfully', but entertain. They are nothing more that to awake emotions, raise the level of adrenaline, so from the very onthological difference between emotions and 'hard intelligence' we are led to the conclusion that they do not inspire to think. Hannibal is a nice exception. Although it uses fear and disgust a lot, it is not based on emotions sensu stricto. It encourages to go inside them in an intellectual way. It grounds in logic, somehow spiritual, but still hardly mathematical - am I really against Lecter and what he does? aren't certain kinds of murder explainable? wouldn't I allow him to do it if I knew his motivations before? don't I actually like him..? - those are not only emotional because they entail some utilitarianism, don't you think?

Hannibal bewitched me.

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http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/fugitives/fugitives.htm-- to keep You aware :)


August 09, 2009

Devil's Advocate

In my childhood my dad never knew how to treat me. Lots of men simply don't know what to do with a child when it cries. Of course, they can say (which they usually do) something like: stop crying,otherwise you will not get a candy. My dad followed a different path. He learned, that the only thing which makes me calm is to tell a story. Not suprisingly, fairy tails resouces he remembered dried up fairly quickly and so, he started to narrate movie plots for me. This is how 10 year old child knew almost all details of 'Indecent proposal', 'Basic Instinct' and was convinced that Steven Seagal is a worth mentioning actor. 'Devil's advocate' was, or actually, is the film I recall with some sentiment, then. It is not that I became piromaniac then but I still want to boil holy water by putting my finger therein... 

Let's settle one thing from the start - the title is misleading. The film in its two main plots doesn't need law to be what it is, it wouldn't change a lot if the main characters were e.g. economists. Kevin Lomax, the main character, needs not to be a lawer to make winning his obsession and devil, played by Al Pacino, to crave for antychrist. Mary Ann Lomax (Charlize Theron) could have been lonely in the relationship with her successful husband whatever profession did he perform, and so, could have been Kevin eager to betray his wife when he meets sexy lawer, if he wasn't a lawer. Nearly all the main problems in the film are not rooted in law and its performance but in difficoulties in relationships.

Law chamber and a court are just the background for never satisfied ambition of a young perfectionist, battlefield for desires. Why law then? I'd say: because it suits the popular idea that to win a case, a lawer needs to be specially gifted. Not everyone can be a lawer - it requires some inborn skill, tendency to manipulate others to conduct the ceremony of bullshit. This, on the other hand, is widely associated with some evil forces and so, a lawer is considered to serve rather evil than good. Furthermore, a lawer plays with the truth, sieves the doubt, ruffles minds, which are mainly demons' 'vices'. Moreover, in this film I see the reference to Dante's image of hell. Hierarchical structure of law chamber resembles floors of hell - more immoral cases you win, closer to devil you get. Modern law chambers work like corporations: you need to win, no matter the truth, to climb up the leather of promotion.

Nevertheless, the film shows one very important ethical problem, namely: is the defender's job to win the case or to do morally right thing? Of course, those two don't need to exclude each other but often they stay in opposition. Kevin says: "Lose? I don't lose! I win! I win! I'am a lawer, that's my job, that's what I do." With this approach a lawer can fullfill his ambition, be as competitive as he likes and no-one will blame him for his vanity. It works like a moral schield, he does need to spend time and burn himself emotionally to think about the amount of input he needs to bring into the case. On one hand, it speeds upproceedings and makes client-defender relations easier because purely professional, but on the other side, don't good lawers then have too much power on the justice administration? If they win a case without much moral consideration they become just robotes, machines to produce innocent people. However, isn't formalism inscribed into every profession? It would be just too hard make a spiritual connection with every client and also, isn't it judge's job to make a judgement? A lawer should start from tabula rasa,no bias and with the presumption of innosence. In addition, not getting too emotional about cases makes you get rid of guilt: yet, you never know if someone is really guilty or innocent and so, you don't mind so much being wrong. Nevertheless, although from the calculation formalism prevails with non-formal, emotional approach towards defended, the film shows that the right thing is to be moral and follow the will of the crowd who wants a pedophile to be sentenced. Eh, Hollywood... Perhaps it is somehow educational to indoctrinate people with the concept of lawers worshipping the 'higher good' but would they be happy if their lawer in their own case say "I will not defend You, it is not my job to serve the accused when I think society would not like it". I doubt people would be glad to hear it themselves, but when it comes to collective justice administration they prefer that lawers mirror the popular views and not represent the individual.

The other thing about this film (I have mentioned it before) is how it presents the profession of lawers. The best scene to ilustrate the demeaning character of the film in this regard is the one when John Millton asks Kevin Lowmax why, he thinks, is he 'that fucking good'. Later, he explains that it is not the skill he acquired, not the things he learned, but the inborn quality received with genes that made him win. This pretty much reproduces the stereotype that lawers need to bad guys not shaped by social circumstances and morality but led by internal drives which tell them to fulfill their need of power. What's even worse, a lawer (or actually: lawers, because John has also a daughter who takes commercial cases, as opposed to criminal, Kevin's cases) is a devil's child. Not only his lawer. Not only a subordinate with the possibility to change his mind and walk away from the darkness. The are connected forever which dramatically changes the situation and de-equibalances hell-heaven relationship. Hence, a lawer is somehow obliged towards evilness, defender needs to be a badass. Although, at the end, Kevin rejects father's proposals, he needs to kill himself for things to get better. It leaves the viewer with the impression that a lawer will not escape the dark side till he's dead. Unpleasant. 

It would be strange if the good wouldn't win in the film but I'd prefer it to win in more realistic manner. The film is generally cheesy and doesn't reach very deep. It delegates, however, devil to only one area of life - law, which is helpful if we think how many other issues could have been degradeted by him. He could have whispered into people's ears and suggest to committ sins. Instead he 'just' jurks off judges. 

Are law chambers the habitat of devil? Maybe, but it is all about free will then.    


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