Like a host of other ‘historical’ films detailing periods of injustice (Selma, 12 Years a Slave, etc.) Suffragette hits the mark when it comes to pricking one’s consciousness and making one think twice about what it must have been like to live at a certain point in history. But is that really enough – what happens after the film finishes? Do we talk about the issues for a bit before moving on? Just how effective are big movie productions at stirring the public to action – or is it all just about how great Mulligan/Streep/Bonham-Carter/Duff’s performances are (and they’re all pretty good)?
The reason for such questions stems from the whole experience of being at the cinema, waiting for the film to start, watching the adverts/trailers that precede the film. Never one to turn up dead on time because of the tardiness of film showings, the screen is in darkness with an advert running that speaks of strangers coming up to you, stroking you (uninvited) and stuff, and then the hashtag #gropefreenights appears. Then an advert about broadband speed and inspirational women, with an Alicia Keys song (an inspirational one) playing in the background. Then, a trailer for a Tom Hanks film. Then, a trailer for a Maggie Smith film. Then, the trailer for He Named Me Malala (#henamedmemalala). Then, an advert with Jack Whitehall struggling to come to terms with tackling a ‘lady’ rugby player – both humorous and subversive, potentially.
So, in an age where it seems men have to be actively persuaded to stop groping women whilst drunk (the men being drunk), and where we have a case in the not too distant past of a young girl being shot in the head in order to make the point that girls should not receive an education, will Suffragette prick the consciousness of those whose consciousness needs pricking, or do we find ourselves in a hundred years’ time looking back at Malala’s story, ooh-ing and aah-ing, whilst ignoring real and present concerns – whatever they may be in a century’s time? Perhaps it is not the place of big movie productions to stir such emotion, but if that were the case you’d have to ask yourself if there is indeed any point making such a film in the first instance. The time is now – but when is that?
Recollected conversation with a significant other following the watching, for the first time, of CHAPPiE (on DVD):
“What if that [the thing that happens in the film] were the ultimate goal in human evolution – that we eventually manage to leave our bodies and exist only in consciousness, free of human form?”
“But would you be happy in such a form? How would humans continue to exist? There would be no children.”
“But what if the point of humans breeding is only to enable them to arrive at a place whereby breeding is no longer needed – where human evolution takes us away from certain death?”
“What about the children?”
“There would no longer be a need for children.”
“So you’d be happy being immortal? It wouldn’t bother you that there would be no more children being born?”
“What I’m saying is that the very idea of leaving the human body gives rise to the possibility that consciousness can continue to expand beyond its traditional limit, where it is always confined within a decaying body that will die within a set period of time, and thus (thus was probably not actually used but it fits well here) is free to explore farther and longer and in greater detail. Can you imagine that?”
“But what about the children?”
“Think about the possibilities instead. Journeying outside of our universe would actually become a possibility. That can never happen in our current form.”
“Humans need to breed. That’s what we’re made for. Humans crave children.”
Films with difficult subject matter should really be the subtitle to this post. Last night’s movie was Selma, charting the extreme violence levelled at those willing to risk personal injury to stand up for basic human rights. Tonight’s film was Kill the Messenger, another film based on true events, detailing the CIA’s links to the trafficking of drugs into the U.S. from Nicaragua, with the express aim of raising money to fund a war against pro-Russian forces in Central America.
As disheartening as these stories are, it is reassuring that we get to hear about them. The mechanisms of our current democratic systems, whether they be the U.S. or the European model, allow for such stories to be told, and although they may leave one feeling powerless, there is hope in the knowledge that people in office can be held accountable and that pressure can be applied to ensure that such things never happen again.
Of course, we must not be fooled into thinking that there will not be various other forms of scandalous behaviour committed by those in authority, by those who really should know better, but as the access to information increases in this age of unprecedented technological advancement, the ability for those wrongdoers to cover their deeds in secrecy and deception is ever decreasing. Perhaps this fundamental shift in power will serve to engage those who have become apathetic towards the very systems that govern our lives.
Perhaps a more light-hearted film tomorrow…