Why?

I just got home from a preview of A Mighty Heart. All the way back, I kept asking myself why: why do I watch a movie like this? Why do they make such movies? Why do people act in such movies? This is my first movie “based on horrific recent event”. I did not watch the Oliver Stone movie, nor the Paul Greengrass movie. Don’t get me wrong, A Mighty Heart is a very god movie. Strong narration, good acting, solid cast, excellent score. It is also surprisingly dignified. And yes, it’s lovely to see Irfan in another movie. And no, Jolie doesn’t wreck the movie. 

But I believe there is no winning with such subjects or their treatment. The better they are, the worse they are, aren’t they? This question of whether such a movie is tasteful is so not the point. Is there a tasteful way to tell the story of a person who was beheaded and cut up into ten pieces? Is there a dignified way to watch such a movie? No. And yes, all of this ranting comes from a person who did indeed just watch this movie. Much of this anger is directed towards myself. I tried to defend myself to myself by recalling that a) I’d never seen one of these movies and b) I’d read good reviews. But come on! Seriously.  

At some point during the early part of the movie (before I was too caught up in the story), I felt like Edward Norton’s character from The Fight Club – when he visits all those support groups. These movies feel like the worst possible form of voyeurism. No one wants to be in Mrs. Pearl’s shoes. But clearly, at least some of us are curious to find out what it must’ve felt like. Since the incident was all over the news, you don’t walk into such a movie expecting an education. No, the real motivation is to find out what it feels like to get emotionally shafted, by watching someone else get shafted. 

The same accusation could be made of someone who read Joan Didion’s last book (guilty again). But at least with a book, you have the opportunity to get analytical. You react, and then you measure your reaction by comparing it with others from the past and so on. With a movie, such a luxury is absent. You only have enough time to react and then it’s time to react all over again. 

I thought about whether these movies would be any easier to watch if they waited for some time before they release them. They really can’t, can they? They have to get the movie out before people forget the incident. I understand that. But I still don’t understand why suddenly there are enough of such movies for them to warrant their own genre. Heck, there are enough variations on the stories for there to be subgenres. We’ve had The Queen, United 93, World Trade Center, Black Friday. But we return to my original question – why? Well, no more for me. Some of them are fine movies, and more power to them and all that. But I am through with them. 

PS: When I look at that list, I have to sheepishly admit that I’ve watched 2 of those movies (Queen & Friday). But they don’t really fall in the same class as A Mighty Heart. The Queen is dramatic, not traumatic. And Black Friday is a fine procedural. And yes, these are lame excuses. Gah!

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