30 August 2009

District 9

I rarely go to movies. I suppose in the last 40 years I may have seen 20 movies.

Today I saw District 9.

I saw trailers for this some weeks or months ago and was, really fascinated. The South African accents interested me as a linguist, it is true, but I could see in the basic idea of the movie elements of a powerful modern parable. I thought I would get my son Eddie to go to see it - I can't recall any time I have had the patience to sit through any movie except with someone I have some relationship with.

So I asked Eddie, and then thought that my close friend from work Marko Blagojevic might go as well. In the event I went with Susan, with Marko and his wife Rachel, with Eddie, and with Varoon, another friend from work. Marko did an unforgettable barbecue lunch for us at his house and we then went to see the movie.

Sue and I got home a couple of hours ago. I am still stunned.

The movie is a powerful story of conversion and of the Cross. You may already have seen it. You (whoever you are who read this) may not wish to see it - it is very violent. It is gut-wrenching. It is not a usual movie. It is not to be forgotten. It is well worthwhile seeing, nonetheless.

Do not, however, take your children!


Anonymous said...

I agree with you about district 9. I thought it was a fascinating piece of work. I certainly don't recommend children for that movie, but for those who love sci fi will love this movie. Five stars from me:)

John Thayer Jensen said...

I sent this to a friend this morning, about the movie:

Susan and I were stunned. We hardly ever go to movies, actually, and when we do it’s mostly kids’ movies that we take the grandchildren to. We talked about the enormous amount of action and violence, and I said I thought it was probably necessary to engage modern attentions. I was impressed there was no gratuitous sex – no sex at all, in fact. Wikus is shown loving his wife as wife.

And of course the surface parable on apartheid and general treatment of ‘the other’ was obvious. Some other things, too, were marvellous: the mention of ‘aborting’ the alien eggs, for instance.

What struck me deeply was, I’m sure deliberate, modelling on the Cross. Had Wikus and Christopher (Christopher – Christ-bearer) been able to get away together and get Wikus fixed, that would, no doubt, have been good, expected – and boring. What happened instead, of course, is that Wikus is converted. At first he will help Christopher in order to achieve his own ends; at the end he knows he cannot do that. And Christopher, too, is converted. He wants to save his son. At the end, he must help Wikus.

And Wikus is, therefore, now on the Cross. And he is ‘dead’ (being completely made into ‘the other’ – he is, in fact, in the tomb – not for three days but for three years.

But there is a Resurrection promised – and so the little flower – and there is a Second Coming. Christopher will come back.

I wept at the end.

It was a modern fairy tale. C. S. Lewis points out, somewhere, that whereas the actors in the classic fairy tales are total fantasy to us, to those who created them, wicked stepmothers, witches, good rulers and bad, were very real. For us today a world of technological death and violence – which those who watch television see portrayed regularly – are very real; as, indeed, are the other elements of the film. And the aliens represent very much for us what elves, dwarves, and fairies did for those in the middle ages.

I thought it a perfectly done movie. Rotten tomatoes gave it 89, which Sue says is very high. The focus on the development of the only two real characters – Wikus and Christopher, with Christopher’s coming later and of course much trickier to make – was just right for a story as limiting as a movie. In two hours – particularly two hours filled with so much action and event – you can do very little.

I was really overwhelmed.