Sunday, November 22, 2020

Why Watch Foreign Films: A Man Called Ove

This was a Netflix DVD viewing. Back when I was still on Facebook, this was suggested as a good foreign film for my project. Having read another book the same author Fredrik Backman had done, I actually have this novel on a list somewhere as a to-be-read and recognized the title. I was a bit annoyed with at first, to be honest. How many stories are there already about crabby old white men, and do we really need another one? The early half of this film was very sour, very depressing (if you do end up watching, TW: suicide[s]), and overall didn't do much to engage me other than to remind me of a very similar crabby old dude, Norwegian not Swedish, who used to come into the Blockbuster Video I worked at in Uptown apparently just to leave his car directly in the through area of the parking lot and to yell at everyone. However. The film definitely shifted in mood and depth once Ove's younger years were explained, and I ended up in a puddle of tears by the end of it. 

A Man Called Ove
, 2015
. d. Hannes Holm

Written by Hannes Holm (screenplay) and Fredrik Backman (novel)

Starring: Rolf LassgÃ¥rd, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg

Summary: Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife's grave, has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors. (via IMDB)

Like I said, we've all experienced stories of crabby old people being crabby, having crabby interactions with other people who just sort of tolerate the crabby person's crabbiness as some sort of endearing quirk, and honestly, I do feel like it's overdone (see: All Clint Eastwood). The bigger picture here of course is that many people also live lives that have been ripe with disappointment and loss, and that while we (as viewers) may not agree with someone's constant crabbiness and mistreatment of others, we are able to understand that disappointment and loss will shape someone's worldview and learn not to judge so quickly. Hand-in-hand with this, we also see the negative effects of isolationism, learning that while we may never be able to stop the disappointment and loss that is inevitable in the human experience, we can embrace togetherness through relationships in order to help each other through these events. 

Shorter reaction: Ove (Rolf Lassgard) is unpleasant and treats people badly, but we eventually forgive him for this once we understand him better. Our getting to empathize with him coincides with Ove's own gradual thawing through his relationship with his neighbor, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars). 

The story itself isn't necessarily rooted in Swedish culture, it could well have taken place anywhere, really, but there are little bits of time and place that do stick out, adding to the viewing experience. The Swedish countryside is beautiful, shown several times during young Ove's car trips with his father, and the obsession over Saabs (NOT VOLVOS) is relatable for car folks, I'm guessing. The time and place makes a big difference when considering Ove's wife Sonja (Ida Engvoll), and her experiences as a special education teacher. There weren't any ramps for those who needed them and it was difficult for children to get their needs met before medicine and education recognized what those needs really were. It's good to see attention brought to the struggles of people who are disabled, just as it's good to see some visibility on immigration and homosexuality (despite his many other issues with people in his residence community, Ove praises Parvaneh for her strength and resiliency in having fled her native country and provides shelter for a young gay man whose father has kicked him out). It seems Ove's heart is good, he just would rather not show anyone. 

It's a wholesome, emotional story, perfect for a quarantined Thanksgiving. Give it a try. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

LOST: It Wasn't Purgatory, Season 2, Episode 11, The Hunting Party

On-Island Events: Jack awakens in the hatch to find Locke knocked out on the floor. Michael, having assaulted Locke, holds Jack at gunpoint and informs him he's going out after Walt, alone. Jack, Locke, Sawyer, and Kate take off on Michael's trail but Jack is adamant that Kate not accompany them. Locke tries to engage Sawyer in a conversation about his alias, stating he discovered his legal name "James Ford," on the airline manifest, but Sawyer refuses to comment on the matter.

While following Michael's trail into the jungle, the men hear gunshots ring out. Against Locke's advice, Jack pursues the sound. As darkness falls and the men discuss their next options, an unfamiliar voice calls Jack out by name. When the man emerges from the jungle, Sawyer recognizes him as the bearded man who took Walt off the raft. The man lectures Jack, Sawyer, and Locke about their disrespectful curiosity toward his home, stating, "This is not your island. This is our island. And the only reason you're living on it is because we let you live on it." When Jack refuses to treat peacefully with the bearded man, the man orders his people to show their presence by lighting up a ring of torches around the group. The bearded man demands the group's weapons, Jack again refuses. In response, the bearded man reveals a bound and gagged Kate, who his people have captured as she followed the men (against Jack's wishes). The men surrender their weapons and return to the beach. 

Kate attempts to make peace with Jack but he remains aloof and standoffish. He later meets Ana Lucia on the beach and asks her advice about training an army.

Flashbacks: As Jack reviews a patient's spinal x-rays with Christian, the patient's daughter suggests Jack might be able to perform a miracle in fixing her father. Jack agrees to try. Later, Jack and Sarah have a polite conversation about Jack's schedule. Sarah reveals she took a pregnancy test that was negative. Jack's surgical patient dies; Jack comforts the patient's daughter, Gabriella. 

Later, Jack returns home and admits what happened to Sarah but expresses a desire to fix their relationship. Sarah announces she's been cheating on Jack and that she's leaving him. "You will always need something to fix," she says in parting.

Greater Meaning: Locke's inability to sway Jack toward a more rational line of thinking early in the episode sets up an ongoing examination of the problems with Jack's leadership: his feelings of responsibility toward the survivors cloud his judgement and often result in stubborn, misguided decisions. As shown in the flashback (and going on what we know about Jack's actions with Sarah and later Boone), Jack won't back down from these challenges or seeks them out, even. Michael left the beach in search of Walt, why can't Jack let it lie? As a father whose son has been taken from him, Michael is not only well within his rights (there are no island laws, are there?) but within rationality itself to try to recover his abducted son. Does Jack feel the same sense of urgency in recovering Walt? Of course not. Michael's his father. Michael wants his son back.

Is Jack's problem with Michael leaving one of control (I'm in charge and I didn't authorize you to leave!) or more of a personal guilt trip (I allowed you and Walt to leave on the raft way back when and shouldn't have therefore I was unable to keep Walt safe and it's my fault he was taken)? Jack has already shown many times just how seriously he takes his position as leader (Boone, Charlie, Claire, Ana Lucia); the philosophy at work in his actions truly seems to value not only the group, but each individual person within it. This is at odds with a utilitarian approach (do what's best for the greatest number of people within the group) which would be fitting for anyone in a leadership position, island or not. Jack doesn't seem to have any awareness at all about why he does what he does, shown in his refusal to consider Locke's point of view in allowing Michael to do as he pleases without intervention. Overall we see a drive in Jack, a near obsession, in saving or in fixing, which seems to be leading the survivors into a dangerous situation with the bearded man and his people. What if they don't want to be in an army? What if they just want to chill on the beach and stay out of trouble? 

Further Questions: 

1. Will Jack trespass the line in the jungle and start a war with "the others?"

2. Who are "the others?" Where do they live?

3. Why did they take Walt?

4. Is Michael safe?