Sunday, December 13, 2009


2009, US, directed by Clint Eastwood

Although the canvas is large - the creation of a new political identity in a country with a terribly troubled past - much of Eastwood's interest lies in the negotiations between individuals, the mundane but critical work of establishing ties to those with who we interact each day. It's a theme not dissimilar from that of last year's Gran Torino, and in some ways the growing trust between black and white South Africans - at least as depicted in the film - is as unlikely as that between Walt Kowalski and his young Hmong neighbours given the weight of the past.

Thus Eastwood spends much time depicting the relationships between Mandela's mixed-race security team, or recording Francois Pienaar's astonishment at the idea that Mandela would have emerged from prison and forgiven his gaolers (with whom, at least in later years, he apparently enjoyed very cordial relations). Although he occasionally takes a step too far - the resolution of the relationship between the Pienaar family and their maid seems unlikely and forced - it's generally a powerful strategy, reminding us that behind change at the national level lies a vast network of minor but cumulatively critical interactions.

On an entirely different level, I was impressed by Eastwood's fluent depiction of the excitement of the 1995 World Cup, and of his ability to depict the most critical aspects of rugby for an audience - I saw the film in the US - not generally familiar with the sport; a scene in which the Springbok players visit children in a township functions both as a symbol of the work needed to begin the process of reconciliation and as a nifty introduction to rugby for the US viewer.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States