Friday, February 02, 2007

Question for Hollywood filmmakers

Why must virtually every film you produce, even those dealing with important political themes of the zeitgeist, include a romantic story line? In the world as it is presented by you, romance flourishes in war, during genocide, during Armageddon, in outer space, even where one of the bloody lovers is dead. The irony is that when all is well in the world, love seems to go tits-up, with the result that we must sit through ninety minutes or more of a wife bawling and clinging to her absent husband’s suits hanging in the wardrobe, while away in the next scene husband is busy shagging another woman, before both realise through these very different means that that they were destined to be together, it’s just that their love has “matured.” The final scene usually includes: a Labrador/children playing in a sprinkler, and the reunited couple holding hands fondly watching their antics. Decidedly absent is any mention of the fact that the only reason the husband came back is the missus’ first-class lasagne/blowjobs/both.

While I admit that if given a choice between watching a romantic comedy and boiling my head I would in most cases put the water on the stove, I do not object to romance as a genre per se, my objection is its omnipresence. It seems to be the tomato ketchup of film production: added to virtually any dish in order to make palatable otherwise difficult to swallow fare. I am thinking in particular of the film I saw tonight, Blood Diamond. The production and directing of this film was mostly excellent, and it dealt with issues of critical importance, namely the trade in illegal diamonds, the part this trade plays in funding civil wars and the role of foreign governments/mercenaries in this sordid business. The lead was played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is gradually wringing the last drops of Titanic out of his persona with excellent roles such as these. The female lead was played by the stunning Jennifer Connelly, who played a - guess what! – sexy yet intelligent journalist. When Connelly appeared my heart sank. because the film had until then been going great guns (geddit?) with its realistic and effecting scenes of civil war. Then these two met in the bar, he with his broad shoulders and blood hi-lites, she with her green eyes and well-formed bosoms and I heard the knock knock knock of someone trying to extract ketchup.

More horrific than any of the war scenes was the moment where DiCaprio is preparing to enter war-torn diamond country on a potentially fatal assignment and must leave the intrepid Connelly behind. We are subjected to a five minute dialogue in which he entreats her to settle down with a good man, while she replies that she has three sisters married to good men, and she herself prefers her life of roaming the planet searching for war zones in tank tops. Sorry, but who cares? And why add insult to injury by having Titanic-style pipes playing softly in the background? I was secretly hoping that Celine Dion and her heart which must go on would appear simply so that she would be shot by a rebel warlord.

To go from watching the deaths of countless (anonymous) Sierra Leonians and the forced enlistment of children in rebel armies to this hogwash was almost obscene. While the platonic relationship between the journalist and DiCaprio’s mercenary was integral to the story, the romantic element was entirely superfluous and annoying, particularly given that it almost compromised the film by risking making the civil war merely the background against which their love plays out.

How does it work then? When a script dealing with political intrigue/war etc arrives on a producer’s table, does he tell the script writer “well this looks great Bob, but I want you to go ahead and make the prisoner of conscience fall in love with a feisty gal from Brooklyn, preferably with big knockers”? Is it mandatory, in the same way that in 1999 it was made the law to include Hassan Hosny in the cast of all future Egyptian comedy films?

To be fair, you are merely part of a supply and demand equation, and it would seem that the audience like their war misery pizzas toned down with a bit of romance sauce. How sad however, and what a damning indictment, is the knowledge that for a film to succeed, the misery of an entire country - an entire continent - must be described using the stick figures of boy meets girl.


Forsoothsayer said...

i was wondering about hassan hosny myself. he must be holding a lot of people by the balls.

kan asdek afeecting wala effecting?

i like romance msyelf tab3an.

Amnesiac said...

Yes I did mean affecting. My e/a sound confusion is apparently a problem in both Arabic and English. Marvellous.

Everything's Eventual said...

Well the reason behind this is probably the same as what we say here, "el film da qessa walla manazer?" In egypt people are looking for the manazer. The love theme is essential in american movies because they crave it. Don't know why though.

Will E. said...

Another question, why is there always a villain in movies? Can't they just have the story without someone being greedy and evil?

Well, in war movies there can be no war without greed and evil, and there can be no good without a bit of love, not romantic love particularly, but just love which leads to good, that counters evil.

My point is that the world would not have wars or heroes if it were not for hate and love. It's hard to believe a bad man is turning good for the sake of love of the world, but the effect of love on people is a changing effect and in a 2 hour movie, it's very difficult to make the transition believable.

"People are neither good or evil, it's their actions that make them either this or that".. (almost).. so the motivation has to be believable unless you're watching a movie like Seven Years in Tibet which is all about a non romantically induced change of a man.

Amnesiac said...

As T.Turner said, "what's love got to do, got to do with it."

Surely it's a bit contrived to make a fleeting love affair the catalyst for an 180 degree attitude change in a war-hardened mercenary? Why couldn't his outlook have been altered by e.g. being confronted by someone whose leg he shot off.

Jester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jester said...

Haven't seen it yet but I completely agree, although I kinda liked Constant Gardner which also placed a romance at the center of an international racist conspiracy. Anyway, DiCaprio can kiss my ass, as for Jennifer, well, she can kiss whatever she wants really...eeeeeuuuuuhhhhh!

Amnesiac said...

The Constant Gardener should have been great, but it was SO bad!