Movie REviews REviews by scripture reviews by alphabet
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"Children Of Men" &"The Last King Of Scotland" & "Perfume"

 
            All are apocalyptic.  All are based on novels, one set in Uganda a generation ago, another set in France 25 generations ago, and the third in England, a generation into the future.  All convey a startling skepticism not only about the abuse of power, but the devastating effect of random atrocities on hapless individuals and hopeless societies.  And none of them offer any laudable characters.
            In "Children of Men," the year is 2027, and all the people of the world are infertile.  There are no children.  It's a dark, desperate, time, teetering precariously between fascism and anarchy.  There is open rebellion, seething violence, and armed gangs roaming the streets.  There's no fun, no spontaneity, no innocence, no naiveté, and no faith.  Imagine the reaction in such a context when a woman actually turns up pregnant, except she doesn't know who the father is, and everyone is desperate for the fruit of her womb.  The only other childbirth so heavy with expectation resulted in a Messiah for the whole world, his death bringing life to all.  This birth could, at most, produce only one lonely baby who would grow up watching everyone else die.  A depressing, gut-wrenching tale, with no hope for the future.
            In "The Last King of Scotland," Forest Whitaker plays Idi Amin, the ruler of Uganda who seized power in 1971.  It's told from the standpoint of his personal physician, a young Scotsman, who just happened to be visiting the country, after graduating from med school, by literally closing his eyes and putting his finger on a map.  He thought he might have a little adventure before deciding whether to settle down to a small-town family practice with his father.  But he arrives in the middle of a coup, and through a series of coincidences finds himself close to the inner circle of power surrounding the new dictator.  Idi Amin is portrayed as a man who is larger than life, part savvy politician, part paranoid racist, part megalomaniac, and self-proclaimed "man of the people."  He seems to have an affinity for Scotland, for American cowboys, and for siring children by multiple wives.  He bellows about loyalty, and quickly disposes of those whom he suspects of betrayal.  The economy plummeted during his authoritarian regime, but his personal charisma and charm, and his stranglehold on military power, insured a bloody reign through the 1970's.  Forest Whitaker is a commanding presence in this role, but nobody escapes his pure wrath, not even himself.
            The same holds true for Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), an ironic name, indeed, for a serial killer ("The axe is lying at the root of the trees," Matthew 3:10).  In 18th-century France, Grenouille is orphaned as an infant, and raised in a crowded orphanage where first the older children try to smother him, then the headmistress sells him as a child slave.  He toils thanklessly in a tannery shop presided over by a mean, abusive foreman, until he finally escapes in order to exercise his truly unique talent, which is a sense of smell more advanced than any bloodhound's.  At first he puts his talents to good use, working for a famous perfumer (Dustin Hoffman with an uneven French accent), but then the darkness of his soul emerges when he finds himself so obsessed with the "scent of a woman" (yes, Al Pacino already did the movie by that name) that he stalks her, finally killing her so he could luxuriate in her unique smell at his leisure.  (Necrophilia as an olfactory indulgence?) When he saw how easily he could get away with that, he began doing it some more, then "distilling" their unique smells from their hair and skin and saving the little bottles in his private collection.  When he is finally tracked down, however, the story takes a very strange turn, indeed.  It would spoil the "shock and surprise" to give away the ending; suffice it to say it is neither for the prim nor the squeamish.  There is plenty of nudity in this film, but most of it is not so much erotic as clinical, vulnerable, postmortem, and even farcical.  Parts of the story line are ludicrous, and the closing scenes are highly unusual, so this one should be considered only by moviegoers who are very adventurous.  The "Mother Church," as usual, comes off as pompous and boorish and full of itself, but in this case they may have been prophetic in denouncing the demon in their midst. 
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)  Is the Christian faith pessimistic about the future?
2)  What is the Christian response to a Head of State who is evil?
3)  What is the Christian response to anyone in the society who is evil?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas