On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Those Sad Movie Characters

Recently I've seen two different movies with lead characters that simply made me feel sad. The first movie, Breach, was about FBI agent turned spy, Robert Hanssen. Hannsen not only was an FBI agent, he was an apparently very devout Roman Catholic who attended Latin Mass, was a member of Opus Dei, sent his kids to Catholic school, and actively tried to bring others to the Church. He was also guilty of giving secrets to the Soviets that betrayed men who were cooperating with U.S. intelligence, that undermined U.S. security, and that may eventually have been sold to nations like Iraq. How could he have been both things at the same time? The movie doesn't attempt to show Hannsen as simply a hypocrite. It leaves the conclusions to the viewer.

The second movie, The Devil Wears Prada, stars Merrill Streep as the boss no one would ever want. She is not only demanding in a good sense, she is demanding in a spoiled two year old fashion. For example, she demands her assistant get her a steak within fifteen minutes and then when it arrives, lovely, hot, and on an artfully arranged plate, she simply announces she is lunching elsewhere. We see only brief glimpses of her home life, but it's clear things are not well. Ultimately, when everything is in disaster on that front, but she's managed a major coup at work she turns to her assistant who is questioning whether she wants this lifestyle, "Don't be ridiculous, Andrea, everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us." You'll have to watch the movie to see Andrea's response, but mine was emphatic. I never wanted 'this,' I never wanted to be her or anything close to what she is. However, I felt incredibly sorry for the character and people like her because they have built their lives on sand. I wondered which circle of Dante's Hell someone like this would be placed in.

In both these movies the character was someone who seemed very in charge of their own lives, who had contempt for people of less ability, intelligence, or drive. Yet they left disaster in their wake. They shattered lives around them without seemingly a second thought. Hannsen, ultimately was caught and convicted and now spends his days alone in a prison cell. People whom the character of Miranda were modeled on continue to spend their days running fashion magazines or other corporate entities receiving the acclaim of the world to their face and the contempt of their subordinates behind their backs. I sincerely believe that both Robert Hannsen and those corporate dragons really desperately need our prayers because they are missing the point on so many levels. Intelligence, ability, power, money are not the ultimate point despite the fact that we are so often seduced into believing that they are.

These are both incredibly well done movies. Just don't expect to leave them laughing. While there are comic moments in The Devil Wears Prada ultimately it was tremendously sad on several levels and while there are action scenes in Breach ultimately that movie is also sad on many levels, even sadder than The Devil Wears Prada. Watch the movies and think about the lies that the lead characters were seduced by. Then go back and re-read The Inferno.


At 6:38 AM, Blogger Karen E. said...

Thanks for the great reviews, Liz. I haven't seen either one, but would like to now.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger shenyuen said...

aunt liz-
you HAVE to watch the prestige!!!!!
or better yet, wait for me to come up and watch it WITH you!!!!!
(maybe i could come for auntie's bday??? hmmm... a thought ;)

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Liz said...

We'd love to see you. I've never heard of that particular film. Bring it up and I'll watch it with you. I'll even provide the popcorn.


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