Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Film: The Motorcycle Diaries

Lowdown: What makes a man?
I don't know much about Che Guevara. What I know about the guy is mostly that he's dead and that tons of people who know even less about him than I do wear his figure as a fashion icon, totally unaware what the person who they think would make them look cool was really like. Motorcycle Diaries tries to make amends by showing us what made Guevara become the person that he ended up becoming.
To be fair to the film I have to say that we saw it on off the air TV. Due to constant interruptions, mainly due to the baby of the house, we missed bits here and there. Given that the film talks Spanish, all it took was a minor distraction for me to miss out on something. I don't know, therefore, if I'm eligible for reviewing the film, but I'll have a short go at it anyway.
Motorcycle Diaries tells the story of Che in his early twenties, which probably places it around the middle of the 20th century. As we start, he sets off on a motorcycle trip with a friend of his from his native country of Argentina across South America to its top (assuming we're using a north oriented map!). The friends start with mischief and adventure on their minds, but as they progress all sorts of hardships hit them and quickly enough the word "Motorcycle" in the title becomes redundant. They start conning people to help them, but as they meet others in trouble and as others help them out they become more and more sympathetic. You can clearly see the changes going through them, and you sort of understand how Guevara became a freedom fighter, at least according to some people's views. From a philosophical point of view, the film is basically about how life's experiences can shape a person, and how - with the right person - they can turn a "normal" guy into an idealist. I guess this lesson can be applied to anyone driven by ideals regardless of the specific ideals they're motivated by and regardless of what the viewer's opinion on these ideals is.
I have found Motorcycle Diaries to be a fairly interesting film, but I thought it was a bit over pretentious. It was hard for me to understand how Che has changed from the character we see in the film to a character that kills people for a cause (the film ends long before we get to that point in time); I don't think the film has provided adequate explanation there. Many people witness bad stuff, but only a few become Che Guevaras. Another problem is that the film seems too pretentious: it is far from objective in the way Guevara is portrayed. You watch the film and you think the guy's a saint and that you should rush off to get yourself a shirt with his face on.
Best scene: A rich company selects miners to work in its dangerous mine with total disregard to the people offering themselves to the dangerous job. Capitalism at its worst, that's one scene that could explain Guevara's communist tendencies. I don't know how true the setup is, though, just as I don't know how much fact is behind the rest of the film. That said, the scenario does not look that unlikely; it is repeated on a regular basis in modern day Australia, for a start.
Overall: A fairly interesting film that is worth some attention but not that much of it. 3 out of 5 stars.

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