All entries for September 2009
September 03, 2009
This is not the kind of film you would see in every cinema. Directed by Helena Trestikova (former Czech minister of culture) won Leipzig Dok Festival and got the prize for the best documentary film from European Film Academy. Such films don't make global careers. I am not saying that alternative productions, nisze film projects are somehow better and that I watch all of them. Hell no. I just wanna say, that it is so easy to screen 'Prison Break' or another action film about a convict without going in depth into how is it like to be a criminal, what does it feel like to be in prison, what does live outside a cage mean for someone imprisoned...
When we see penology mostly in american films. Orange uniforms, prisoners who fight for domination in jail's hierarchy, conspire to escape from prison: this is how we know the prison form inside. Rene is a film which shows more realistic proportions - the victory of stagnation over action.
It goes on about Rene Plasil, a boy from pathological family, who at the age of 15 is thrown to prison for the first time. The story line is simple as his life: the periods in prison are temporarily 'suspended' for the times he is released. Released to commit another crime. Why? Because he does not know how to live differently. When young he had no authorities, parents didn't want him. Rejected, Rene wants to prove that he is worth loving and so, seeing no other way of 'earning' money he starts stealing. This cannot end up well. Continental legalism (so well shown in this film) shuts him for even smallest punishable deeds - e.g for stolen sticker worth 8k - which just confirms that he is not a bustard, but a scared rabbit among the woolves. He doesn't kill people or rape children, we cannot call him a cold criminal, however full-time one. Nonetheless, we somehow don't like him. We don't like him for all the opportunities he didn't use, for the fact that he doesn't want to change. We care about him because he seems to be somehow similar to us. He doesn't constitute the general, grey mass of criminals - he even doesn't like them, just as we don't enjoy being next to bad people. Rene is intelligent, characterized by analitical mind, can speak eloquently and understands the situation he is in. In the prison he writes two books, doesn't hang out with fellow convicts, enjoys writing and thinking on the windowsill. We find him similar and therefore, we regret all the unused chances for him. 'He could have done better' we think when we look at him.
Rene presents the very common phenomena among small criminals, most often robbers. When you go to the jail once, it will make you somehow like it. At the beginning you may consider being a convict a disgrace and shame but as the time flows, you get used to that. You cease to feel the lack of freedom. You go into a new environment and a new world: without gas and electricity bills, where everyone's alone (even if someone has a family outside, he still cannot enjoy it phisically in prison, so actually, he is lonely) and no-one is better than you. It resolves many problems which 'normal' people need to face in real life. However, this simmingly easy world addicts. The film shows that Rene was not planning a spectacular break-out - inversly, he was fully passive and closed for people. Everytime his sentence finished he had no plan for living, he wasn't attracted to decent job because he assumed that nothing good can happen to him. Subconciously he wanted to be back in prison, where he could write and not care. It didn't last long till he was back in prison...
To me, the film shows how a prison is closing its 'guests' in senselessness and reproducts the people to be its constant inhabitants. How a prison can be the escape, not the place you would like to escape from. It doesn't teach those people how to live outside, it just suspends their existence in the normal society but doesn't help to come back to healthy living. It even makes the situation harder: e.g. they allow convicts to make tatoos, which will be looked down upon by a emploer-to-be in a 'future' live.
What makes a criminal? Sometimes the incapacity to live like other people. What makes a prison are not only those who have no morality but also social runaways who committ crimes just to find themselves in jail.
The film, from the legal point of view, should be 'applied' to judges. Punishment for small deeds is not always the best solution and we should scrutinize the reasons for perpetrating certain deeds. that's why I favor 'motif' as an influential factor in delivering the sentence. Although I am fully aware that then more people living on the verge of substistance would start stealing and then excuse themselves that they had no other option... ect.