Sunday, 21 October 2007

Irrfan Khan is Captain in A Mighty Heart and he's not a nice man. The torture scene shows a man with a beard hanging from the ceiling of a room. Captain is coaxing information -- in this case names -- out of the hanging man. At one stage he looks to the left a bit, at which point the hanging man screams. The implication is blatant but the filmmakers, intent on not offending the Pakistanis (staunch allies of the Coalition of the Willing), keep it out of frame.

Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl is a cardboard-cutout figure and the husband, Daniel, is a bland, vanilla figure. He gets no sympathy because he is not a player in the drama. Jolie's faux-French accent is incredibly irritating. If these are journalists, then it's no wonder the copy we are given to read about the conflict, is so dull.

This film demonstrates the theory of Richard Stanton, which I wrote about yesterday. Daniel Pearl's kidnapping is the 'local' angle and as a result the imagining of Karachi is dead-on convention.

What do we see? We see a bustling, chaotic metropolis comprising highly-ornamented buses, almost-defunct taxis, men in white garb wandering across the road. It's a typically Western take on Asia: there's no meaning because there's no attempt to understand the structure behind it all. We can see the same thing as soon as we get off the plane in a large, Asian city. To do this kind of thing requires no intelligence and no skill.

To underscore the 'chaotic' nature of the community, we also get a whiteboard covered in names linked by black lines. These are the relationships between those responsible for Daniel's abduction. Again, there's no structure. There's no attempt to give meaning to the series of interconnected lines.

There's no empathy. The jihadis are imagined as a canonical 'other' and the 'system' in which they exist also has no meaning for us. On the other hand, the rich Pakistanis who dine at the Pearl's house are just like us: middle-class, well-dressed, fond of wine, conversation. But there's no effort needed to imagine these people.

The result is a lazy movie that panders to the same political ideas as the right-wing opinion writers in any daily broadsheet. They can kiss my ass.

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