Monday, January 4, 2010

Monster 2003--of thieves and judges

Aileen Wuornos, an ex-hooker, was convicted of seven murders of her clients commited over several years around 1990. She was in jail for twelve years, and finally executed in 2002. The convicted woman has been captured in an unforgettable portrayal by the South Africa bred actress Charlize Theron. This performance, rated by Roger Ebert as among the best in the history of cinema, has been compared to that of Maria Falconetti as Joan of Arc.

Criminals are not a breed apart, genetically  wired. They are us, in different circumstances. They are natural by-products of society as it is constituted. Going by the film alone, Wuornos, due to lack of education or parenting, drifts into a livelihood of prostitution, which, at a point of sadistic abusiveness at the hands of her client, results in his murder. She decides to give up her profession for a job, but finds doors closed, mainly due to lack of education. Thereafter, she commits a series of murders, mainly for money to support a gay teenager who has become dependant on her, and for whose sake she is impelled into the series of crimes, and who is the one to finally betray her.

We see a human being, deficient in inner equipage and anchoring sucked by a powerful maelstrom of environmental forces into a trajectory the responsibility for which cannot be laid at a single door. The film is a compassionate study of the downtrodden  and an indictment of present day human society. One is reminded of Gandhi's famous quip when asked his opinion of modern civilisation. He replied he thought it was a good idea. The law of the jungle still rules our world and it is a war to death between the haves and the have-nots.

Theron's portrayal of the tragic character has the  momentum and inevitability of a natural calamity. Loose limbed, overflowing her clothes, like a river in spate or a  log racing downstream, her flight towards doom is swift and  preordained. It has been said that weakness is the greatest sin.

A deeply humanistic film.

*I would not have seen this movie but for it's inclusion in Ebert's new list of ten best films of the decade. ( Link below. )

Roger Ebert's review
Wiki article on Aileen Wuornos
Ebert's best films of the decade


Harmanjit Singh said...

It was a great film, and moreso because it contrasted a criminal having a good heart and a "normal" person being self-centered to the hilt (the monster's girl friend).

I recently saw two films with similar themes (though only one of them involved a criminal):

If you live in Chandigarh, maybe we should meet sometime. :-)

S. M. Rana said...

@Harmanjit Singh

Thanks for visiting. I have visited your blog many times and admire your intellect and writing.

I would look forward to meet you, but presently, for a variety of reasons, may be impractical.

I have seen 25th hour but need to see it again and Wrestler definitely excites my cinematic salivaries.

Seongyong Cho said...

While I was captivated by Charlize Theron's tour-de-force performance , I also focused on Christina Ricci's multi-dimensional performance. Her character is as monstrous and pathetic as Aileen. Shelby is stupid, annoying, untruthworthy, and maybe more horrible than her lover. Observe how she ignores something terrible about her lover. And then observe how she deliberately pushes her lover to serial killings.

Nevertheless, we understand this despicable woman just like we emphasize with Aileen. At the end of story, like Aileen, we don't get mad about her. We accept her nature and her betryal. So does Aileen. Shelby is her angel who gives her possibly only light in her bleak life. And she is also her demon who drives final nail into her coffin.

S. M. Rana said...

Yes, perhaps Shelby is the more deserving of the title of Monster. In fact, come to think of it, her character is almost inexplicable--how for the fulfillment of shallow desires, one can push another person into an abyss. It makes me think of the psychiatric condition called folie a deux, madness of two.

The film is understandable only in terms of the pair--like a grotesque four legged organism. Maybe this is overboard but your comment certainly enriches my perspective on the film.

Incidentally, I tried automatic translation of your blog, without success. I have seen no Korean film. I know little about South Korea, beyond that it is on par with the developed countries in terms of the HDI.