Reflections on a variety of films and topics - Don Quixote, We're no angels, War for the planet of the apes, Dunkirk, The African Queen, Babette's Feast, Dances with Wolves, The Prisoner (1967), Inherit the wind, humour in drama, nature of regret, the influence of multimedia, memoirs of a teacher of French.
Please scroll down or find on the right links to articles, pages of reflections on films, books, TV series (including "Don Quixote", "We're No Angels", "The African Queen", "Babette's Feast", "War for the Planet of the Apes", "Dunkirk", “Dances With Wolves”, “Inherit The Wind” and “The Prisoner”), and occasional pieces of flash fiction. These are additions to similar pages which may be found at www.stuartfernie.org .
A link to my YouTube channel with video presentations of a number of my pages.
Having retired from teaching fairly recently, I thought I’d write my memoirs, “What have I done?”, and present them online. Please find links to the various chapters on the right, though chunks of the text (but perhaps not all) may also appear below. If you suffer from insomnia, this may help!
Click on the arrows to access links to 2016 and then December.
I can be contacted through the comments sections or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reflections on “Don
Quixote” and its relevance today
When Miguel de Cervantes
Saavedra wrote “Don Quixote” (in two parts, 1605 and 1615), the literary vogue
was for exaggerated and romanticised tales of chivalry where knights indulged
in acts of derring-do in order to impress and win over fair maidens.
Cervantes states quite
clearly in his preface his desire and intent to produce a satire of these
stories of knights-errant. He wished to undermine, mock and destroy the very
basis of these tales and this he did by creating a hero so absorbed in
chivalric myth and perception that he sees everything brighter, better,
idealised and heroic. In short, he confuses reality with this embellished and
glamorised chivalric world. So immersed has he become in chivalric lore and
thought that his very perception of the world he sees around him has been
affected and skewed to fit his chivalric expectations. Objective reality ceases
to function for him – only his distorted perception and interpretation based on
chivalrous precepts feed his understanding.
Cervantes seeks to ensure
that this chivalric version of literature is revealed as a modified,
exaggerated and worthless copy of life in the early seventeenth century where
acts of so-called courage and derring-do might end in brutal death or painful
and life-changing loss of limbs (Cervantes lost his left hand in the battle of
Lepanto in 1671), where “castles” are in fact run-down and unclean inns managed
by petty thieves out to fleece their customers, and where “damsels in distress”
are more akin to prostitutes out to make a quick buck. In other words, reality
may bear little resemblance to Quixote’s gallant image of the world.
Of course, another way of
regarding his confusedly noble acts is to consider the possibility that he
recognises that his actions may, in the end, be futile, but he considers that the
principles on which they are based are nonetheless worthy and admirable. He may
be out of kilter with the sad and cynical world around him but his mindset and
actions may be the result of seeing base conduct and low moral standards and
wishing to introduce and act upon more worthy mentality and conduct which may
evoke admiration and aspiration. It may be that he chooses to perceive the
world in a better light. Comedy and drama derive from the distance and conflict
between these two worlds and approaches.
It might be worth
considering the possibility of parallels in today’s society and the distinct
possibility that Cervantes failed in his valiant attempt to warn us of the
dangers of pursuing fame, honour and glory at the expense of reason, sanity and
perhaps dignity to the point of delusion and self-deceit.
Is it possible to identify
a curiously Quixotic attitude among those who dupe themselves into believing that
spending excessive amounts of time focusing on reality TV, computer games and
devotion to celebrity are worthwhile activities?
Many choose to pursue a
somewhat skewed view of the world and see or attribute worth to artificially
created dramas or situations (claiming to be “real”) which indulge emotional
response and reaction. Worse, many aspire to emulate or become part of this
artificially cultivated culture and respond emotionally to the least
provocation whether in real life or on social media, following examples set in
the media by cynical, ambitious and manipulative producers. While this is
clearly far removed from the world of chivalry Quixote seeks to emulate, the
pattern of becoming immersed in and seeking to copy a style of behaviour falsely
established as admirable remains the same.
Many love the concept of
being a hero and computer games allow their players to feel like heroes,
committing acts of courage and daring without even leaving their seats and the
comfort of their own homes. Such games offer an alternative universe without “real”
discipline, commitment or consideration but gratify the players’ desire to act
out feats of daring and courage and allowing them to feel a certain
satisfaction, albeit in a virtual reality. Quixote was equally enamoured of the
concept of heroism, though he loses himself in his own virtual reality.
Cervantes railed against
the absurd and baseless admiration of heroes as laid out in the tales of
chivalry read by Quixote – details of their acts and quotations of their “wisdom”
are discussed and held up for adulation. Is this very different from the cult
of celebrity which underpins and reinforces our modern mindset? Actions,
attitudes and utterances gain instant approval and glorification simply because
they come from one who has become well known, even if such instances are
without particular merit in themselves. Surely this is an example of the attitude
Cervantes criticised in his book, though with the development of communication and
the media, many different types of “hero” are now held up for admiration and
receive unqualified adulation.
Of course, modern writers
go to great lengths to present their characters as human and flawed and they
may overcome challenges through positive qualities such as courage,
determination and intelligence. However, it appears there will always be an
obsessive section of the public whose desire to find and follow a hero means
that they are willing to hold up virtually every aspect of their character as
admirable and worthy of emulation. This can fairly be called Quixotic.
entertainingly captures the universal and enduring qualities of man’s apparent
need to believe in something (or someone) greater than himself and human delusion,
cleverly combined with mankind’s worthy aspiration to lead a principled and
laudable life. Although it was written in the early 1600s, it would appear
Cervantes managed to encompass various aspects of modern society, an
achievement of which he could be proud, though it begs a number of questions
about the evolution of society through the years ……
My thanks for taking the
time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.
based on the play “My
Three Angels” by Samuel and Bella Spewack,
which was based on “La
Cuisine des Anges” by Albert Hussan,
starring Humphrey Bogart,
Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov
A video presentation of this material is available here.
Just as I enjoy “traditional”
angel films, I also appreciate
those in which men act in much the same way as angels, perhaps having been “sent”
by some omnipotent string-puller who can organise the crossing of paths of people
in need and those who can help them.
This is a comedy Christmas
film like no other as three “wise men” arrive at a family home in the French
penal colony on Devil’s Island on Christmas Eve 1895 and set about helping the
family to resolve a variety of issues.
However, this is no
morally secure, reassuring and treacly Christmas fare, for our three “angels”
are, in fact, escaped prisoners (a thief and two murderers) obliged to spend
Christmas taking refuge with a kindly family of shopkeepers (the Ducotels) as
they await the opportunity to board a ship bound for freedom. Not only are our
three angels escaped convicts, but they are unrepentant, steeped in (largely
criminal) wisdom and experience, good-hearted and utterly charming to boot.
In terms of plot and
character development, there is no question of rehabilitation – our three
heroes do good by plying their criminal skills. The villains of the piece
(businessman André Trochard and his nephew Paul) deserve their comeuppance
though their deaths may be considered a trifle extreme, but that issue is
deftly avoided as the whole is treated with dark humour and a lightness of
touch shared with the audience from the very start. Our angels are defiantly
humorous and single-minded in their desire to see the villains disposed of and
the family benefit from their nefarious actions, but very cleverly they do not
actually cause the deaths, though they do nothing to prevent them and are very
happy to see the Ducotels profit from them.
They make moral judgments
but are willing to take direct and potentially amoral action to enforce these
judgments. The whole is a consciously playful and amusing (as opposed to
broadly comic) mix of genres as our three angels maintain a moral distance from
the family (skewed in this case toward criminal simplicity and inferiority
rather than principled and complex superiority) and they act to resolve
financial, familial and romantic issues using amoral methods more in keeping
with those seen in a film noir.
Comedy stems from their
unremorseful acceptance of their own criminal natures which they put to good
purpose while protecting the “good” who remain blameless, their almost gleeful
inflicting of punishment on the villains, and then there is their complicity
with the audience. There are numerous asides, the full import of which only the
audience will understand while other characters cannot, thus creating collusion
while developing empathy and sympathy.
It could be suggested
that the three combine to form the perfect angelic unit of assistance (spirit,
heart and action) sent from Heaven to help this good-natured family in their
time of need. Indeed, this is vaguely implied at one stage as our trio literally
look down from above (while repairing the roof) as they assess the situation
and decide on the appropriate action, but their unconventional methods rather
deliciously call in to question the whole nature of morality and justice.
In the end, our three heroes
are so disappointed and traumatised by this encounter with “civilisation” with
its underhand ways and complexities that they decide to return to prison where
they will feel more secure! Our angels are open, genuine and sincere – they are
what they are, accept it and act on their instincts, while some of the “honest”
folk they have met are duplicitous and downright cold-hearted, characteristics
they find unpalatable and unacceptable.
Humphrey Bogart (whose
film noir credentials are essential to both the amoral and comic elements of
the film), Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov play off one another beautifully and in
determined good humour as the well-intentioned criminals willing to put their
dark natures to good use, especially opposite Basil Rathbone who plays the
law-abiding but black-hearted villain with dismissive and superior gusto.
The script is sharp and
fast-paced and plays in an almost farce-like style which contributes to the
lightness of the atmosphere and makes good use of audience complicity and understanding
to achieve its unique effect.
The whole is carried off
with such verve and knowing playfulness that the rather confined staging and
sets which betray the theatrical origins of the piece go virtually unnoticed.
There are frequent
references to the angelic nature and worthiness of our heroes and there is even
a clear suggestion from Jules at the end of the film that they may, indeed,
have been Heaven-sent (confirmed by the appearance of halos above their heads
as they saunter off to prison), so what we have is a comical angelic
Christmas-themed film noir which reinforces the old adage that God works in
mysterious ways – who would have thought it possible?
My thanks for taking the
time to read this article. I hope you found it of some value.
by John Huston and James Agee, Peter Viertel and John Collier, based on the
book by C.S. Forester
Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn
A video presentation of this material is available
This is an apparently
straightforward tale of two ill-matched and unlikely escapees of German expansion
in Africa at the outbreak of World War One who set out to use a fairly decrepit
old river boat (the African Queen) to find and destroy a German gunboat
patrolling the lake at the end of the Ulanga River, thereby allowing an Allied
Along the way, we are
treated to some wonderful character development, an unusual and totally
engaging love story, observations on religion, social status, feminism and
tyranny, and we witness the result of the combination of spiritual strength and
physical ability. We are also treated to clever and cunning performances from
the lead actors and sly, multi-layered and brisk direction from John Huston.
The start of the film is
very important as it establishes situation and character. Huston is quite
brilliant in terms of managing to condense a substantial amount of information on
circumstances and character traits into just a few short minutes.
Our story opens during a religious
service conducted by missionary Samuel Sayer, accompanied by his sister Rose.
Their work consists of introducing Christianity (and European mores) to the
natives of a community living by the Ulanga River. Judging by the scenes in
which they attempt to sing a hymn with the villagers, it is fair to say this
well-intentioned and gentle attempt to impose European religion and culture on
this African community is failing somewhat.
Samuel and Rose appear to
be considerably more concerned by this failure than the villagers, especially
when they are distracted by the African Queen’s ship’s whistle, marking the
arrival of Charlie Allnut and any number of physical diversions from the stout
spiritual work being conducted by the missionaries.
After abandoning the hymn
as their congregation takes its leave (note we have our first hint of Rose’s
determination and strength of spirit as she persists in ending the hymn and
giving a full-voiced “Amen” even after her brother has ceased singing and
produced a rather perfunctory “Amen”), Samuel and Rose invite Charlie to have
tea with them.
Not only have Samuel and
Rose brought Christianity and hymn-singing to this remote African community,
they have also imported English afternoon tea complete with English etiquette
to go with it.
given the geographical, historical and social contexts, Samuel and Rose
nevertheless insist on fussy politeness and the maintenance of social standards
when serving tea.
Apart from being amused
and entertained by the scenes in which tea is served, we learn that Samuel and
Rose belong to a somewhat coddled and perhaps sheltered class whose lives are
governed by social niceties, rules and position. Charlie, on the other hand, is
seen as a pleasant, natural and open man used to industry. He is not afraid of
hard work but is equally happy to sit back and enjoy some relaxation. He is
willing – even keen – to discuss the embarrassment of his loudly rumbling
stomach (and thereby dissipate it), but his hosts are too schooled in manners
and etiquette to be able to cope with any infringement of such, and they may
even consider him their social inferior.
Samuel’s inability to
cope with challenge and difficulty proves too much for him when the Germans
invade the community, set fire to the villagers’ homes and, showing a complete
disregard for common humanity and human rights, bundle the villagers off for
the purpose of forced labour. This is in direct contrast with his gentle (if
unsuccessful) attempts to inculcate European values. He is struck, but Samuel
loses the place largely as a result of his inability to cope with such brutal
violations of his Christian code. He dies, but not before revealing several
truths about himself and his sister.
Samuel, it seems, was not
bright enough to shine as an academic and opted to pursue what he hoped would
be perceived as a worthwhile (if distinctly second rate) career as a
missionary. Rose appears to have been included in this “deal” as she was not
considered “comely” enough to attract an appropriate husband and apparently it
was uncommon for women to be expected to succeed independently. Africa was
perhaps viewed as a destination for “failures”, or at least as an inferior
career path for those unable to gain a place in Europe, and one wonders if Charlie
Allnut (willing and pleasant, but hardly inspirational) also fits into this
categorisation. However, Rose and Charlie will shortly display strength of
character, determination and courage which will prove these judgments decidedly
At the start, Charlie
might be described as something of a feckless wanderer - a man who drifts from
job to job happy to keep his head above water and displaying competence but no
real ambition or direction. He is friendly and at ease with the villagers and
shows no “side”. He is also natural, caring and polite – he is willing to make
the effort to get along with Samuel and Rose even though they show him scant
regard or respect. There is even a hint of innocence and purity in his actions
and manner as he shows kindness, goodness and generosity when he buries Samuel
and offers to take Rose to safety on board the African Queen.
As has already been
suggested, Rose is made of sterner stuff than her brother. Even from the little
we see of her at the start of the film, it is clear she is a woman of spiritual
and moral substance – persisting with the hymn and “Amen” despite the hymn’s
reception, her insistence on etiquette at afternoon tea and her polite diffidence
in persistently referring to Charlie as “Mr Allnut”. She is also, however, stirred
and distressed by the amoral and selfish actions of the enemy (her brother’s
death and their awful treatment of the villagers) and especially her brother’s “indictment”
or judgment of her as a woman. She wants to prove her worth and she wants to
hurt the enemy.
idealistic, Rose is highly spirited (and certainly not just in terms of
religious fervour), but she has led a sheltered existence and is relatively
inexperienced in the practicalities of life. Charlie, on the other hand, is
very well versed in the practicalities of life but lacks direction and drive.
Together, they make the perfect pair – Rose sees very clearly what to do while
Charlie sees how to do it. Consumed with the sense of duty to fight the enemy,
Rose conceives the idea to attack and destroy the enemy gunboat (the Louisa)
which is patrolling the lake at the end of the Ulanga River, and which is
preventing Allied advances. Charlie, somewhat to his own surprise and really
just to humour Rose, sees a way to achieve this using potentially explosive and
cleverly combined materials already on board the African Queen. Of course,
Charlie is convinced the sheltered and inexperienced Rose will abandon her
daring and idealistic plans as she encounters numerous practical hardships and
faces physical dangers. In the end, however, Rose is thrilled by their physical
encounters with peril and is much impressed by Charlie’s ability to navigate
the dangers they face together, while Charlie is equally impressed by Rose’s
spirit and resilience.
They form the perfect
team as each complements the other to allow them to achieve things neither would
have considered or been able to do alone. Mutual admiration leads to
appreciation and love, inspiring both to even greater acts and achievements.
Of course, what matters
in terms of appeal and entertainment is that all of this is accomplished with
charm, humour and affection.
Katharine Hepburn plays
up her image as a haughty, difficult and aloof woman (her career came close to
an early end precisely because of this image) who transforms into a loving,
caring and touchingly sweet devoted partner. This transformation is tinged with
a youthful innocence and happiness which is playful and appealing to the
audience and is in direct contrast with our initial view of Rose, and indeed
Miss Hepburn’s own public image.
performance is a masterstroke of comic underplaying and playing against type.
His excessive politeness and gentleness in the face of danger and provocation ran
contrary to public experience and expectation and is crowned by the occasional
grimace or reaction of outraged shock (emphasising his innocence and sincerity)
cleverly shared with the audience before facing other characters.
The consciously playful interplay
between the two leads, combined with the growth and development of the two main
characters as they learn to appreciate one another’s qualities of spirituality
and physicality, is a joy to behold.
Clearly, the suggestion
is that in the right circumstances and with the right chemistry, apparent “losers”
can be transformed into glorious winners, and that applies equally to the
African Queen herself. This tired, worn and seemingly insignificant little boat
provides a metaphor (in essence a mechanical mirror of those who sail her) for
apparently spent or worthless forces rising up to fight tyranny and oppression.
At various points luck
intervenes to support our pair’s efforts and help them on their way. These
moments include the dazzling of the sniper as they pass the fort, the sudden
rains that transport the African Queen the last few yards through marsh-land
and of course the chance striking of the upturned and armed African Queen by
the Louisa, saving Rose and Charlie from execution. Little is made of these
strokes of luck, but there is certainly room for several possible interpretations
– God working in mysterious ways, karma or just blind luck. I dare say viewers
will opt for whichever interpretation best suits their outlook.
dated to modern audiences, the film is superbly co-written and directed by John
Huston and is principally memorable for the comic yet touching development and
evolution of the main characters. Bogart and Hepburn deserve the highest praise
for their performances and I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
My thanks for taking the
time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.
Written and directed by
Gabriel Axel from the short story by Karen Blixen
Starring Stéphane Audran,
Brigitte Federspiel and Bodil Kjer
This is the story of two
elderly Danish spinster sisters (Martine and Filippa) who devote themselves to
the principles of a religious sect founded by their father in Jutland, and
their housekeeper Babette, a refugee from revolutionary Paris, who insists on
providing and preparing a high-quality French dinner for friends of her
benefactors when she wins 10,000 francs in the French lottery.
The film quickly
establishes the pious superiority of the spiritual over the physical in terms
of the sisters’ rejection of relationships and pursuit of ambition (and
development of talent) to focus instead on good and charitable works within the
confines of their small religious community which embody the teachings of their
beloved (though long since deceased) father.
Perhaps because of the
absence of their righteous, idealistic and domineering spiritual leader, cracks
are beginning to show in the spiritual love his “disciples” display to one
another as past deeds and wrongs are recalled and old feelings of resentment
and anger are evoked. It seems that focus on the spiritual alone can lead to
obsessive and mean-spirited behaviour when there is no balance based on
experience and compassion.
Babette’s feast, with its
emphasis on food, drink, taste, smell and sensory pleasure surely represents
the physical side of life and suggests we should indulge our senses and
appreciate what sensory delights life has to offer.
After the feast the
villagers are far more content, understanding and tolerant, despite misgivings
and a determination to remain true to their principles by refusing to recognise
or discuss what they experience during the meal. This suggests that a person is
complete only when he/she recognises and accepts both aspects of his/her
existence – the spiritual and the physical. In this way he/she will know
fulfilment rather than simply deny half his/her nature.
We may require the “soul”
(or that which is spiritual) to exercise control and reflect upon our actions,
but indulging the senses and gaining physical experience lends knowledge and
perspective to the spiritual, and encourages understanding and compassion. It
is, after all, easy to adopt a haughty moral or spiritual stance if you have
never acceded to the possibility of physical temptation – such a stance
requires no strength if temptation is not even recognised or if it is avoided.
Nature and all its gifts should be appreciated and, combined with reflection
and consideration, is a source of socialisation, tolerance and kindness.
The sisters (and indeed
all of their father’s congregation) seem to be driven by a desire to evolve
spiritually, but with the physical playing a minimal role in that evolution.
Yet their lives are enriched by contact with the world outside their small
Jutland village, especially by those who visit their community. Lorens, Achille
and of course Babette all add something to their lives – Babette’s everyday
preparation of food for the poor and infirm is much appreciated by her clients
and indeed they are sorely disappointed and upset when Babette takes her leave
for a few days and their food is once again prepared by the charitable but less
talented sisters. Despite their insistence on the superiority (and perhaps even
the sufficiency) of the spiritual, their rather restricted lives are clearly
enhanced by encounters of a more physical nature.
That said, after the
French dinner, as Lorens is saying his farewells to Martine, he makes it clear
that true love does not require a physical aspect to blossom and endure.
Toward the end, as
Babette has used her entire lottery win of 10,000 francs to fund her French
dinner, it is pointed out to her that she will remain poor for the rest of her
life, to which she replies “An artist is never poor.” Presumably, this is to
suggest an artist is spiritually rich in talent and skills, talent and skills
which lead to fulfilment and a sense of completeness, especially when shared
with others. Babette appears to have sacrificed her future for her fellow
villagers, but in so doing she has also gained spiritual joy and satisfaction
for herself in exercising her artistry with food which, in turn, brings to the
fore humanity and a sense of spiritual well-being in others.
Of course, there is also
the existential link connecting the main characters – each has an influence on
others, though each acts of his/her own volition.
Martine and Filippa
devote their lives to caring for the weak and the poor, and to maintaining the
principles established by their pastor father. They deny themselves
opportunities to cultivate life-paths or careers that might conflict with these
principles, though they appreciate and savour their “foreign” encounters with
Lorens and Achille in particular. In a sense, these encounters only strengthen
their resolve and affirm their faith, but they are nonetheless touched and
affected by these meetings and potential life choices.
Achille knew considerable
success but this has now faded, and with it his celebrity and position. His
greatest achievement, however, may have been to direct Babette toward the
sisters’ home (due in no small part to the affection and admiration he
developed for Filippa as he shared his talent and skills with her) at a time
when Babette’s world crumbled around her. This act of thoughtfulness and
consideration undoubtedly saved Babette’s life and positively influenced the
lives of all those in the Jutland village. It also provides further
illustration of the principle that an artist is never poor when he/she shares
his/her talent, and this leads to a spreading of humanity and compassion while
allowing the initiator to feel a certain fulfilment and satisfaction.
Lorens becomes a
celebrated and influential General largely due to the apparent impossibility of
a relationship with Martine, though in the end he appears to value his enduring
love and devotion for her above his career and all he has achieved.
At one point in the film
it is stated “We take with us only what we give away”, suggesting perhaps that
what we do for others is all that matters, and this is borne out by the actions
and attitudes of the main characters.
Much has been made of
religious connotations in the work – Christian forgiveness at a last supper
attended by 12 disciples etc, but I would suggest that the film’s principal
strength is in its fundamental message to embrace the duality of our natures in
order to achieve fulfilment, while bearing in mind the existential influence we
may exercise on others in our dealings with them.
My thanks for taking the
time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.
Criticism of human
character and nature is maintained and even sharpened right from the opening
scenes of “War for the Planet of the Apes”. Humans initiate and escalate
aggression and violence in a furtive attack on an Ape encampment, the purpose
of which, it transpires, is to divert the apes’ attention while their Colonel
infiltrates Caesar’s home and kills Caesar’s wife and son. This happens shortly
after Caesar has released some human soldier prisoners as a gesture of good
will and has offered peace on condition the apes are left in peace in the
unprincipled act virtually amounts to treachery in the face of Caesar’s act of
mercy and his reasonable stance in offering terms. This is compounded by the
fact he appears to neither know nor care about who he has just murdered, but
simply assumes he has killed Caesar.
On top of this, turncoat
apes are used by human military forces as informers and trackers but are
treated with condescension and contempt while Caesar spares the lives of
captured soldiers, showing mercy and respect for life – all life.
There are few shades of
grey or signs of inner conflict such as we witnessed in “Dawn”. Lines and
characters are clearly drawn from the outset of the film and a final conflict seems
inevitable from the beginning. The principal antagonist is not even named – he is
known simply by his rank, symbolising authority, position and attitude.
Having lost his family in
such an underhand and brutal attack, Caesar finds, despite his previous (but
untried) insistence on forgiveness and “letting go” of the past, especially in
his dealings with Koba, he cannot contain his hatred and his desire for revenge.
He, accompanied by a select few supporters, sets off on a mission to seek out and
destroy his enemy, the Colonel, as his fellow apes decamp and seek another
Along the way there are
numerous references to the original Apes film (including horse rides along the
coastline, crucifixion scarecrows, the gift of a human doll and the name “Nova”
given to the little mute girl they pick up on their travels), as well as an
explanation for the spreading mutism and simple-mindedness among humans, an
element essential to the original film.
Many themes are touched upon
or revisited in the course of the film, using apes to represent any race or
minority group under threat from those willing to ignore or neglect others in
an attempt to establish their authority and ensure their own survival. These themes
include animal rights, mankind’s fundamental untrustworthiness and willingness
to sacrifice others (belonging to other races, but also his own) to ensure his
own survival, racism and slavery, and the need for compassion and forgiveness
in the face of hatred and the desire for revenge.
However, the outstanding
theme is that of anti-fascism.
installation is set out rather like a Nazi concentration camp and incorporates
forced labour, crowded internment facilities or cages and sustenance inhumanely
withheld until completion of the task set. Columns of soldiers cry out praise
for their Hitler-like leader who arrogantly presents himself for their acclaim on
a balcony high above them. The Colonel is even aiming for the purification of
his race by getting rid of the weak and infirm, and is willing to use other
races to this end before eliminating them as well.
The message regarding
dictatorship and how easily mankind turns to a leader who offers solutions in
times of crisis (regarded by some as extreme), is clear.
Caesar, in contrast, acts
in the best interests of all his race and is even willing to put his life on
the line to defend his people and insist upon their rights to fair treatment.
It should be noted his fellow apes are willing to endure harsh treatment in
order to save his life. Their mutual respect and admiration is in direct
contrast to the dictatorship endured by the humans.
Subtlety may have been
lost, however, when Caesar refers to the Colonel’s pointless building of a “wall”
(as opposed to “defences”) to protect against the influx of enemy soldiers.
Once again, there is
sterling work in terms of writing, direction and performance. This is the
darkest of the three films but this is perhaps inevitable and logical given the
development of the overarching storyline and the increasingly pessimistic tone,
though this was lightened by occasional humour, especially from the vaguely
Dobby-like Bad Ape.
I have to say I was
totally engaged and didn’t notice time go by, and there are few higher
recommendations for a film.
This would appear to be
the final volume of a trilogy, but I would suggest there is ample scope for a
further trilogy. These three films have set the scene and laid the historical
groundwork for a further series of adventures which would see the return,
thousands of years later, of the astronauts who set off into space during “Rise”.
They would return to a planet inhabited by intelligent and talking apes
alongside silent and weak-minded humans.
The astronauts might
eventually make their way along the coastline and encounter archaeological digs
in a forbidden zone which covers the site of the Colonel’s military
installation, handily buried, along with the vast majority of the nation’s
fighting forces, in a deluge of snow and nature …..
They may even discover
that Caesar’s exploits and principles have been enshrined in sacred scrolls
handed down through the generations, scrolls which form the basis, and
establish the fundamental values, of Ape culture.
I look forward to seeing
such a second trilogy …..
My thanks for taking the
time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.