To Tame a Lion

Whoever has watched “City of God” would agree that the Brazilian director, Fernando Meirelles, is anything but mainstream.

Then we heard the plot line and review of the new movie “Constant Gardener”, positioned to be an international blockbuster. It was nothing but mainstream: John Le Carré’s best seller spy novel, today’s Kenya, Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, pharmaceutical Company, the poor, the rich, conspiracy theory, murder, revenge…

So how did the two look together?

The movie started rather slow, but I saw traces of Meirelles in the unusual rich palette, colorful background faded out like an oil painting–strike of blue and green; interesting camera angle and motion; a lighthearted love scene conjured together in clean lines and high contrast.

Just traces of him, made me wondering whether this would turn out to be another mistake. Another disappointment in the making…

Then came Africa, the ghetto of Kenya, living along the train track, and suddenly the camera and music and Meirelles were all came to live, they were lashing out with full force, alive, passionate, color, heat, rhythm. As an audience, I could feel the joy of the light, the liveliness of every smile, raw and simple.

Then we came back to the main story line, everything suddenly went back to the dead quiet. All that life, which was there a minute ago, suddenly was drained away. I could almost hear the sucking sound.

To be fair, Meirelles did a marvelous job, telling a mainstream story the mainstream way. And to be honest, I loved the story. I loved Ralph Fiennes. But it was so plain for all to see, Meirelles’ heart was not in it. This was not the story he wanted to tell. Or more precisely, this was not the angle of the story that he wanted to tell from. He would have been so much better if he could tell the story from within, from the heart of Africa, from the heart of the ghetto of Kenya. Rather than what he was given, to tell the story as an outsider, as a few white men and a white woman.

That said, oh, how I love the story.

I love the love story in the story. I love the subtleties of the doubt Justin had about Tesa, despite that he still loved her, and in that love he suffered so. He doubted her because he doubted himself. His insecurity and his ordinariness seemed so pale and feeble alongside the glamorous and passionate Tesa. In this world, is there a couple that loves each other mutually and confidently in equal share? Or is there always one that suffers the evil of insecurity?

Only in her death, he found out that she loved him truly, fully, and honestly. He felt guilty because he had doubted her but she never him. He continued to finish what she left behind, initially out of guilt, latter out of his own motivation.

It was not a feel good movie. Thanks to Meirelles. The ending made us all feel sick in our hearts. Like one viewer’s comment on yahoo movies.

I work for a pharmaceutical Company. Though others would tell me that posting something like this would be irresponsible, I’ve seen enough to know the quiet truth…In places we don’t dig deep enough to compel ourselves to accountability.

This film asks us to query what we do and who we are. It more importantly asks that we, in the West, search the importance of what we overlook.
A Quiet Truth

I’m in doubt whether this will make as much money as the preview positioned the movie to be. Mainstream audiences don’t like to pay money to feel bad about themselves. But I hope this movie will make enough money for Meirelles, so he could go back to make the movies he wanted to make. Let a lion run wild, don’t tame him, please.

One thought on “To Tame a Lion

  1. Hi Jean, we saw this film this past weekend. I enjoyed several aspects of the movie – the relationship, the imagery of Africa, the contrast between grey northern Europe and colourful Africa. The shots of the shantytowns were amazing – the garbage and merchandise filled field that was parted like the Red Sea to make way for the railway. The contrast of the countryside with the dismal urban centers. Interestingly, I found watching them stroll through a dusty market reminiscent of walking through dusty streets in China even though Kenya and China are worlds apart. The one thing lacking was that the plot seemed a bit unfocused. I never really clearly understood what the whole big bad pharmaceutical company intrigue was about. I guess I was distracted by the images and watching the husband and wife interact with each other and interact with their co-workers and co-conspirators.

    Jean’s Reply:
    I’m glad you enjoyed the movie!
    Yeah, the director was distracted himself about the plot. His heart wasn’t in the main story line. :p

    I thought the big bad pharmaceutical company was using African shanty town residents as their experimental patient, and when the data didn’t come out the way they wanted, instead of going back to fix the drug, which will take them longer to get to the market and maybe miss lots of money, they went ahead to fix the “data”, i.e. eliminating all the bad data points, made sure their records stop existing.

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