Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the Garden of Good and Evil

I happened across this extraordinary film - The King - on tv last Saturday night. Throughout it, I was not sure what the film was trying to be. And I don't say that in a critical way - part of its cleverness was to keep the audience guessing, to keep them on shifting sands, to keep them at least partially hoodwinked - because that's exactly where the characters were. Until halfway through, I thought it to be quite a charming story of clandestine love - the thoroughly convincing male lead, Gael Garcia Bernal, was the perfect rebel lover in his cowboy boots and 70s muscle car and his female counterpart, Pell James, was very much in teen-innocence-of-youth-Taylor-Swift mode with her 50s-esque full skirts and wide eyes. Then things took a staggering turn and without spoiling it, it became as dark a film as I could've imagined.

William Hurt, as head of the family, plays a pastor and so The King is heavy on religious symbolism and allusion - the return of the prodigal son is the main theme, but utterly twisted. Judgement, morality - both are brought into unrelentingly sharp and complex focus - and I was astounded to feel something like sympathy for Bernal's character even as the film reached its conclusion. The desire of both Hurt and Bernal's characters to "get right with God" by film's end leaves an enormous question mark in the viewer's mind as to what this has the possibility to mean and to me, again, it brought home the idea of good and evil, and the problems that this duality of thought can lead us to.

PS I should tell you that this trailer does have some scenes in it which are suggestive of both sex and violence.

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