Tuesday, December 30, 2008
It is written . . .
I took the afternoon off and went to see "Slumdog Millionaire."
One word: Wow!
Okay, I DO have more to say (but you knew that), but I'm still working it through.
It's not that it's the best story in the world. It's an old story. In fact, it's a couple of old stories: It's a love story. It's a rags-to-riches story. It's the story of two brothers. It's a love triangle. It's a story that grapples with the question of destiny and fate.
It's just that all of these stories are told from the unexpected setting of India. It's because it is told within the context of a game show that is known by many Americans ("So, you want to be a millionaire"), but in an Indian version, that it gives the story an exotic feel that is, at the same time, a perfectly natural setting to be thinking about destiny and love, and the meaning of wealth and the evil of poverty.
It's also one of the best told stories I've seen on the screen. I see a few movies, but I rarely feel compelled to write about them. This one is the exception.
Danny Boyle, the director, is positively brilliant. Authentic. Enormous integrity. He obviously was powerfully moved by his experience of being in India and wanted to be true to the setting of the story.
The movie opens with the image of Jamal Malik, the 'slumdog' who is one question away from winning 20 million rupees, and the question is asked, "How did he do it?"
1. He cheated.
2. He's lucky.
3. He's a genius.
4. It is written.
(I know. The trailer says, 'It is destiny', but that's not what's in the movie.)
When you answer, you have no life line, no 50/50 and no phone call. You have to answer for yourself.
The story is told with the violence and rawness and color that is part of the fabric of India. Some of the scenes are not for the squeamish, of that there is no doubt.
No one walked out of the theater, however, because first of all, the violence is not gratuitous. It is honest and, well, appropriate. And, because that is true, the story is even more compelling.
You find yourself caring deeply about the characters, so you absolutely must know what happens to them - how the story ends - or, at least, how the story continues to unfold. It is fast-paced without being confusing, even with the occasional English subtitles.
In the end, it is his honesty that saves him from being tortured to death. (He is not believed to be telling the truth because he is poor.)
It is the authenticity of his love that drives him to find it and reclaim it (Even though the object of his love, Latika, is hardly "pure", but even she is changed by love.)
It is his poverty that sets him free to take a risk and lose it all. ("Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.")
Of all of the very subtle themes that weave themselves into the delicate intricacy of this story, the one that has been haunting me is the inextricable interconnection of the web of life.
Ultimately, it is everything he has learned in life - through serendipity or formal education - however brief, through gain and loss, pain and joy - that is not only his best education, but the most powerful vehicle of salvation, transformation and the fulfillment of his destiny.
It's a Very Powerful Message.
Plus - and this is Very Big for me right now - it has a Very Happy Ending.
If any of you have seen this movie, I'd love to hear your reactions to it.
Ms. Conroy and I have a dinner date tomorrow night and then off to see the movie "Doubt". Can't wait. What a great way to end 2008 and usher in 2009.
It is written . . . .