Monday, February 09, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I love Slumdog Millionaire.

I love the protagonist. I love that he's honest. I love that he doesn't accept the Host's false answer, the one that is "written" on the bathroom mirror, and goes with the truth instead.

I love that he's loyal. I love that he comes back to Latika again and again.

I love that as a boy, he doesn't sneak a look when he's handing her her towel after her shower.

I love that even Salim is redeemed. That we have the theme of redemption in this movie.

I love how it's not money that Jamal is after, but rather, a life with Latika, whom he loves, and what's more, a life that is good for Latika. Not one where she is abused and beaten and handled as an object.

I love how when Jamal finally meets Latika, he kisses the scar on her cheek, the scar he inadvertantly caused when he asked her to meet him, as though to ask forgiveness, to apologize, and to tell her it doesn't matter to him, and he still thinks she's the most beautiful woman in the world. I love that it's a tender moment, not a lust-filled one.

I love that he doesn't kiss her on the mouth until she asks him to, that he doesn't take advantage of her, but only wants to help her.

In short, I love the fact that Slumdog Millionaire is a fairytale that upholds all the morals and values that any person could desire.

And I love the fact that all of America is in love with an honest, decent, sweet protagonist, and that the message of the film is that good people can get ahead, too. That it's not all about money. That there are things that matter more.

I hope Slumdog wins best picture. It deserves it for its color, vivacity, brilliance and beauty. In fact, it deserves it because it depicts a world we all desire to live to see, where the good people get their due, where the sinners repent, and where love is not a lustful, possessive exercise, but a demonstration of tenderness.


Aaron said...


MS said...

It's an extremely powerful movie, and an important one. Quite aside from anything else, it's a vivid redefinition of what poverty truly is.

Do you think Jamal knew that the answer the host fed him was incorrect? My interpretation was simply that he didn't want to win by cheating, and went with the "wrong" answer intentionally.

Gavi said...

If you are not in love now, I offer a beracha that you experience it...

Having been married for a while, and having a new son, I am starting to understand what this "demonstration of tenderness" actually means - and it's great!!

Anonymous said...

Projection is a wonderful thing - perhaps he was smart enough to not know, but to guess, based on the host's possible motivations.
Joel Rich

The Cousin said...

Slumdog was an excellent film.

In my opinion, it is far, far more deserving of the Best Picture nod than "The Reader".

dman said...

I have not seen "Slumdog Millionaire". After reading this review, I really don't want to.

Elster said...

It was overrated.

Chana said...

See, dman, it's interesting you make that point (or rather, the woman who wrote the piece makes that point.) She's completely correct that the film is filled with savage, brutal scenes, and with what she likes to call poverty porn. But I think she is ignoring the glory of the overwhelming message (which I would not classify as comedy so much as hope.)

I think the accusation she renders against this film can stand against most any film. Part of life is suffering; part of life is pain. We are given our lot and must suffer through. But I think what is brilliant and fascinated is the quick-witted response of the slumdogs, the way in which the kids run away and tease the police officer, the response to corruption, which lies in quick wit as opposed to despair. It's the same response you see in the street-children of Oliver Twist. They cleverly exist outside the law, and despite the poverty that covers Oliver, you are rooting for him.

Or what about "The Fiddler on the Roof?" Persecuted as they are, with the Cossacks setting the wedding afire, still Tevye and the other Jews find the ability to carry on and to hope. In the end, "Slumdog Millionaire" is about just that- hope. The fact that a slumdog can win 20,000,000 rupees. That he can be with the woman he loves. That despite the fact that life seems to have handed him the worst it has to offer, with his wit, sense of survival, sense of humor and ability, he is able to move beyond.

Of course, Marx would laugh at this theory and find it ridiculous. He would say this is the typical lie being fed the poor to keep them content. And perhaps he'd be right. But I think it's a good message, a pure message, to say that yes, there's violence, filth, dirt, prostitution, evil men...but there are also the choices we make. The fact that Salim does not give up his brother to be blinded, the fact that he later repents and lets Latika go (following a convention in literature, by the way, of letting the heroine go- a convention one sees in "The Phantom of the Opera," for instance, by Erik.) The fact that Jamal does not forget Latika and goes in search of her. The fact that they survive and come back in time to rescue Latika from prostitution. All of this. There's the hope amidst the squalor, the triumphant human spirit hidden beneath the offal.

The point the lady who wrote the review you mention has been stated before, by Ivan Karamazov. She would have done well to begin her article by citing him.

""Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. I am a bug, and I recognise in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level- but that's only Euclidian nonsense, I know that, and I can't consent to live by it! What comfort is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and directly, and that I know it?- I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven't suffered simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That's a question I can't answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I've only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It's beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers' crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn't grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child's torturer, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! It's not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother's heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket."

What Ivan forgets is the brilliance, the power, even of those very children to survive. The hope that sustains them, their pluck and integrity, the fact that they take joy even in their sorry lot, and that they are not utterly passive, existing only to be pitied. Even they, the children, may have a role, and may take an active one, in the world God has created. By thinking of them as only creatures to be pitied, he denies their brilliance, their cleverness, their tenacity on life, their ability to survive, their quick wits. He denies everything they are, choosing only to see them as objects to be pitied. And the lady who so denies the power of this film does the same.

Stern student said...

It did win the best picture! Excellent prediction on your part! Perhaps you should consider writing movie reviews in addition to being an EIC of The Observer. Well done!