Lost in Translation

Dramatically recommended, but not morally. This is the sleeper indie film of the year. A real milestone for Sofia Coppola, coming into her own as a writer-director. Great dialogue, great acting, humorous understated moments, and poignant cultural insights about people’s alienation and search for human connection. Just bad morals. The story is about a has-been 50-year old film star and a newly married young woman making a human connection in the midst of great alienation. Bill Murray is the bored celebrity, Bob Harris, boringly married 25 years, who has to do some whiskey commercials for a week or so in Tokyo and Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, a young woman, married two years to an entertainment photographer who is on assignment in Tokyo as well – and much too busy to spend real time with his beloved. Well, Bob and Charlotte meet in the hotel bar and strike up a friendship based on mutual alienation from the world around them. Everything in this movie very creatively communicates our alienation and our desire yet inability to “translate” or make real human connection with other people. Some of it is very amusing, and all of it is tragically poignant and true. Murray trying to understand the directions of his Japanese commercial director, who speaks for 30 seconds but is translated into a few English words; the differences of East and West culture; and even the tendency toward alienation in marriage. Charlotte’s husband’s world is vain emptiness as we meet one of the actresses he has photographed and her empty-headed shallow lifestyle. Bob is visited by a prostitute who is sent by the Whiskey company, who mistakenly thinks he wants or needs one. She can’t speak English so she plays a role of “being forced upon” all the while not realizing that Bob really doesn’t want to have sex with her. The whole lack of human connection in prostitution or anonymous sex is really spelled out well here. The movie does drag out a couple times with some overlong sequences that tend to bore. For instance, there is a karaoke sequence that is, oh I don’t know, about 5 minutes long or so, and it could have been a mere 30 seconds. Instead they croon on and on, singing their songs, long after the funny point has been made about the shallow false human connection we have with our own entertainment. Bob’s removal from so much of the shallowness and insanity around him is revealed in a great line when he says to Charlotte, “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less things upset you.”

Interesting that this is Scarlett’s second movie this year about intimacy without sexuality, the other one being Girl With A Pearl Earring (see my 2003 movie blog). I have to say that for all the clever moments, and all the great writing and acting, etc, this movie is unfortunately a story that celebrates emotional adultery. The very clever and unique thing is that the lead characters never consummate their relationship with sexual intercourse, and so the sexual tension is the essence of the subtext throughout. Of course, this is only a tension because we are brainwashed in our Romanticized humanistic entertainment culture into thinking that a deep connection must lead to sexuality, that the ultimate human contact is the sexual love of another person. Not necessarily true. But unfortunately, this story is a celebration of a human connection that is made in the midst of great loneliness and alienation. The bad thing is that this connection is not shown to be illicit, but redeeming. As the characters share their experience with one another, they find a connection that neither of them have with their spouses. Bob’s marriage of 25 years has degenerated into mere function, raising kids and being a father with an unromantic relationship with his wife. They don’t talk about missing one another, but about what color should he pick for the carpeting in his new home office. At one point, his wife senses he is experiencing the mid-life crisis when he says he wants to eat more healthy and be more healthy (the typical response of a man who has a newly discovered lust, I mean “love”). She asks him, “Should I be worried about you?” He replies, “Only if you want to.” He is so desperate for intimacy, and yet she glosses right over it by pointing out that his kids miss their “Father,” with an emphasis on that word “father,” stressing his moral responsibility. No mention of HER MISSING HIM. She stresses moral obligation over emotion, which is empty. This story is another “follow your heart over do the right thing.” Feelings over morality. Charlotte’s husband is insensitive and a workaholic, which also is a rationalization for her emotional infidelity. After they go through their experiences and fail to sleep together, Bob is on his way to the airport home, never to see Charlotte again. The tension of them wanting to be with each other is at its apex. Bob sees Charlotte walking down the street and stops his car, runs to her and shares an intimate kiss and whisper that we as the audience cannot hear. They then leave each other and there is a sense of satisfaction, of that verbalization of what they were both suppressing the whole story, and not really saying. They make the human connection. One almost has the impression that it gives hope for the future. Deliberately ambiguous to keep some openness, but the connection is definitely made, and it is a connection outside of their marriages, rather than a revelation pointing them back to their marriages. It is adultery of the heart, which Jesus said is just as serious to God as physical adultery. But rather than Charlotte’s and Bob’s experience leading to an appreciation and celebration or redemption of their own marriages, their “connection” turns out to be their little secret with one another that they cherish outside of their marriages. This is the Romantic humanistic selfish worldview, the easy way out. Rather than working hard and fixing your marriage, rather than “do the right thing,” the story suggests “follow your heart” and find connection elsewhere. These kind of movies miss the heart of what real love and intimacy is all about, changing one’s self through interdependency with another. Real love is often painful, because real love is as much about becoming a better person as it is making a human connection. Real intimacy and love reveals one’s selfishness and forces you to change yourself. Lost in Translation is wasted potential. An almost-great movie.

American Splendor

Ambivalent Recommendation. This is an interesting movie based on the real life, below average existence of pessimist Harvey Pekar, a file clerk who became a comic book legend (along with a couple of his coworkers). The movie is done with some very creative self-reflective storytelling. Though the film is a dramatic narrative, there is an occasional cutaway to the real Harvey Pekar in documentary style self-reference, commenting on the movie and interacting with the actors. Harvey even comments on how the actor playing him doesn’t really look like him (he actually does). The premise is the premise of the comicbook, namely that Harvey is inspired by his hum drum existence and pessimistic perspective to make a comic book about “real” life, about the insanity of normalcy, to combat the unrealistic flights of fancy that most people read about in comics (and the movies in this case). His mantra throughout is that people need to face “reality” and stop living in dream worlds. Interesting though that the film is self-aware that it is NOT reality with its documentary anecdotes and the comicbook style cinematography. Harvey gets cancer and we go through this part of his life as well, the “reality” of it being edited down to brief references. And that is the central deceit of “realism.” Whose “reality” is reality? To suggest that one’s own perceptions and interpretations of reality (Harvey’s being pessimistic) are the center of the universe, the “true reality” that others are missing, is perhaps the most ignorant and unreal self-absorbed arrogance. To claim privilege of perception is the prerogative of deity. So realism is actually more akin to original sin: pride. A better story would be for Harvey to grow up and realize that maybe there is a “reality” outside of his perception and negativity. That indeed, HE is the one who is blind to a world of possibilities outside of himself. It’s a fallen world, yes, but it is fallen splendor, a world created by God as “good,” with much pain, but much beauty. Wake up, Harvey. You’re in the Matrix.

Cheaper By the Dozen

Recommended. This is a wonderful comedy about a big family that elevates family as more important than career and personal ambition. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt play the fun-loving parents of twelve kids, who manage to maintain a controlled chaos. When Steve gets the job opportunity of a lifetime, to coach his old alma mater football team, the family moves, against the wishes of the kids, out of their rural life into Evanston Illinois. The tension is magnified when Bonnie has to leave for a couple weeks for a book tour for her surprise hit sale of a book to a major publishing house. Ironically, the book is called Cheaper by the Dozen. So Steve has to watch the kids right in the middle of important new job responsibilities. His job dictates more and more time away, until the home falls apart because he is not there as much as he needs to be. He ultimately chooses his family over career. I must say that big families will love this film, but I gotta say that with all the laughs, about half way through I started thinking that I certainly would not. But I loved it just the same for it’s goodness and wholesome view of life. Lovable realistic kids with problems and issues. But they all draw together in times of need.

Big Fish

Not Recommended. This is a story that showcases the worst that postmodernism has to offer. It’s a story about a son, Will Bloom, played by Billy Crudup, who is trying to establish a relationship with his dying father, Ed Bloom, played by Albert Finney. Turns out the father has been a teller of tall tales his entire life, so much so that the son feels he does not know who his father really is. Everything from his father’s birth, to his courtship and marriage and everything in between is a fanciful magical fantasy story that hides the real life of its hero, Ed. Will complains that Ed is always telling stories, the same ones over and over again, and he doesn’t know who his father really is because he can’t tell the fact from the fiction. We are treated to these fantasies in a playful and light-heartedly signature Tim Burton way: A huge catfish the size of a man (The notion of “big fish” is the cliché notion of fishing tales), a giant, a circus with a werewolf ringleader, a mysterious happy town called Spectre and many other tales fill the story with magical imagery. All the while, Will is angry because he considers his father isn’t being genuine telling lies, isn’t being true to who he was and reveals his own unhappiness with his real life. His father was bored with the real people in his life, and had to live in his fantasy world because of it. Ed yells back that he has been nothing but truly himself his entire life. This struggle goes back and forth the entire film in a rather touching way until the end when Ed dies and finally Will tells his dad the story of his dad’s own death as a magical tale of taking him to the river and dumping him in until he turns into a huge catfish and swims away. And now Will understands his dad somehow and embraces who he was and how his stories were “true” to him. He accepts the fantasy tales and even recounts them to his own son. He says at the end, “A man tells his stories so many times, he becomes his stories. In that way, he becomes immortal.” Because the character arc of the protagonist’s worldview is one from realism to postmodern storytelling, we can only conclude that this theme is not a cautionary warning (that one I could whole-heartedly accept) but a proscriptive ethic (which is morally repugnant). Well, though this belief in story over truth is the “Precious” of history revisionists and other multicultural postmodern Gollums, there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Yes, we have a tendency to embellish and this is a danger. But we do not become our stories, no matter how convinced people are about lies. A story making a hero out of Hitler does make Hitler a true hero if it is told often enough. The goal should be to find the truth, what really happened, just like Will originally intended. Pity, he gave in and failed as a hero. BTW, This is precisely the claim that has been made against the metanarrative of Christianity for years, namely that Christians just told the stories about Jesus and kept changing them until Jesus “became” this Son of God, God incarnate, immortal. As if we created who he was to fit our needs. This is a fantasy speculation itself that has no factual support. So Bible critics think that if they tell their false stories about the Bible long enough they’ll become immortal too. It’s funny that that which has been used to discredit Christianity in the past is now being held up by postmodernists as legitimate “truth.” Truth is no longer important, just story. It doesn’t matter if the stories (or mythologies) are true, what matters is the meaning it gives our lives. Well, hey if it ain’t true, the meaning is fraudulent. Saying one thing and doing another, we used to call “hypocrisy” Now it’s a virtue? I think not. Look, let’s get this straight, folks. If its okay to tell lies big enough and often enough until we believe them, then Joseph Goebbels was right. And so was Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy and Stalin and Hitler and on and on. Serial killers, child molesters and genocidal megalomaniacs all tell their lies big enough and often enough to believe them, to justify their atrocities, and become immortal, but that does not make it acceptable. It’s true that human nature embellishes and exaggerates, and that’s why this should have been a cautionary tale of how we fail to know one another if we do not know our real choices and experiences. The fact is, at the end of the story, the son was a total failure and never did know his father truly because his father never revealed his true experiences and choices in life. The story rang hollow and empty of human connection because of this. BTW, this does not apply to all fiction, but only to fiction that is portrayed as non-fiction. Big difference. We understand fiction to be parabolic or metaphoric. It is just that simple little annoying absolute dictum of our Creator, “Thou shalt not lie,” that delineates between acceptable fiction and unacceptable fiction dressed up as non-fiction. Let’s keep the facts straight, okay?
For more on postmodern movies see my book, Hollywood Worldviews or my article: Postmodern Movies.

Monster

Recommended with Extreme Caution. This movie is on par with Se7en, one of the most powerful movies about the nature of depravity. Charlize Theron WILL win the Oscar this year for her acting in this film. There is nothing else even close in any other movie. She is absolutely brilliant in her portrayal of white trash Lesbian prostitute serial killer Aileen Wournos. Every move, every word, every gesture and look is superbly acted by Charlize. This is based on the true story of her killing spree back in the 80s, and her relationship with fellow traveler/”lover” Tyria Moore (In the movie, Selby Wall, played by Christina Ricci). It is a brilliantly written script that captures Aileen’s decline into murder from her abuse as a child and from the destructive world of prostitution where women are not merely dehumanized through objectification but through violent treatment. And writer/director Patty Jenkins carries us through the process with incredibly written voice-over narration by Aileen throughout the film. I do not buy the modernist argument that environment creates us, but I do acknowledge that it certainly influences us, has a major hand in shaping us, depending on our personal response, which is the ultimate category of responsibility. And this film certainly has a pretty good balance in showing the effect of our abusive society on women without negating Aileen’s personal responsibility. It theorizes that Aileen had a fairy tale fantasy of being loved by everyone and becoming a star some day that drove her to do what she did, even from her early days where she would pull up her dress for the boys to see in order to get a few dollars. The film then chronicles her real world experience that crumbles that fantasy, while she holds onto it in utter denial. It paints her picture as a human being turned into a monster, which is only fair because this is basically true, even considering the fact that we are born with depraved natures. She is portrayed as a heterosexual who is driven into lesbianism because of the male abuse of her as a prostitute, which again, is fair enough, though not universal, and I don’t doubt it’s what really happened. But even though there is a female sympathetic understanding of Aileen, they do not seem to fall into the all-too-typical Hollywood agenda of denying Aileen’s personal evil or responsibility. They don’t capitulate to propoganda, and because of this, present a pretty even-handed drama. And that is the power of drama. If done well, it can be one of the most powerful forms of argumentation for a viewpoint. There is no such thing as a neutral drama. All drama is crafted by the storyteller to prove a particular worldview or viewpoint and this film is no exception. The filmmaker no doubt used quite a bit of artistic license to make changes to fit her deliberate theme. But to tell the story in such a way as to ring true to the human condition and to the spirit of the persons involved is the goal. Jenkins’s interpretation of Wournos is clearly an interpretation but it is done very persuasively. The scenes of prostitution with the “johns” is so poignantly portrayed as pathetic that one can only be repulsed by it all. This is not titillating stuff, it is depiction of depravity the way it ought to be, as despicable, not desirable. Very much the way the Bible depicts evil. It shows Aileen’s “first kill” as an abusive killer himself who was going to kill Aileen and cut her up into pieces with a hacksaw. This is an obvious appeal to justification and sympathy and I doubt was the fact of the case, but it is certainly within the parameters of that world. But Aileen is not merely depicted as defending herself in every case. She becomes addicted to the killing and ends up even killing innocent men who are trying to help her as well. And she is also portrayed as sometimes NOT killing a man because of his innocence. By the end of the film, Aileen is caught and her companion confesses and is used by the FBI to trap Aileen into confessing to some of the killings over the phone. Aileen recognizes this with her street smarts, and in an act of sacrificial love, accepts complete and total blame for all the killings, in order to save her “lover.” Of course, the film portrayed Selby as completely innocent of any killings, but certainly a knowing accomplice. I think the title then is intended to be ironic. The film shows Aileen as a human being driven by love, albeit a confused love, who is made into a “monster” by a loveless cruel world. But I think it also fairly displays Aileen’s own rebellious inability to face reality in favor of her fantasy. So I think there is sympathy without negating responsibility. Excellent, powerful, persuasive drama. By the time Aileen is carried away to her execution, she has given up all her fantasy and has embraced the nihilistic conclusion that what they tell you in life, “All you need is love. Faith will move mountains, everything happens for a reason. [Laughs] Well, they gotta tell you something.” The transformation is complete. A true warning for our postmodern generation that ignoring the real evil in this world will crush you in its grasp.

Cold Mountain

Not really recommended. You know, after the moral atrocity that was The English Patient, I didn’t know Minghella could actually appreciate true virtues. Or at least try to, as he tries in this film to do so. Unfortunately, it ends up being the same old Romantic worship of individual feelings over higher values that The English Patient was. First of all, Nicole Kidman is brilliant, playing the Southern Belle waiting for her man, Jude Law, to return from the Civil War. Renee Zellweger is also great as a woman who teaches the aristocratic Kidman to learn how to fend for herself with pragmatic knowledge. This is a great and typically American critique of aristocratic high culture. Kidman can name the constellations in the night sky but doesn’t know true north to navigate. She can arrange flower displays, but doesn’t know how to grow flowers. She can play music, but doesn’t know a thing about a farm. And when her father dies and she is left alone to fend for herself and tend the farm, she is a failure until Renee shows up and teaches her like a student while she forces her to milk the cows and plant the crops. It’s a great critique of useless knowledge for status sake in favor of knowledge of how to survive. Aristocracy versus the working man – or woman. Unfortunately, Jude Law is completely soulless in his portrayal as the Confederate soldier who deserts the war to go back to his beloved to marry her. What was great about this film was how it elevated the honorableness of two lovers saving themselves sexually for each other, especially the man, through temptations and trials. Nice to see that such “antiquated” values are still elevated in some movies, surprising though it may be in a world filled with fornication to excess (although they usually have to take place in the “distant” past). This is something that was a noble part of Southern culture, respect for women and politeness toward them. Even when the lovers consummate at the end, there is an attempt to validate it through impromptu marriage vows, AFTER Jude says he will wait for the wedding ceremony even after all these three years of searching and finally finding her. Now, that is virtue. Virginity as virtue . I was grateful for the balance of viewpoints in showing both Northern and Southern soldiers as capable of goodness and evil. It is so typical and pure bigoted prejudice to always show the South as all wicked and evil people and the Northerners as heros. Two other movies that break that bigoted mold against the South are Ride With the Devil and Gods and Generals. Since it is an updating of the Odyssey, Cold Mountain plays with the idea of fate, as one character says, “There’s a plan for each and every one of us. We all got a job.” Sad to say, the true living God is ignored in this understanding, in a way that violates history, since most Southerners were very strong Christians. Of course, Christianity does get it’s stereotypical riddling in the pastor, played well by Philip Seymour Hoffman, guilty of being the secret wanton sex addict. Predictable stereotype. But at least Kidman’s father was an authentic man of God (a pastor too), so there’s some balance there. The real violation of this story is that it is another Existentialist war movie. It denigrates higher causes and elevates human lovers as the highest good to seek. This is woefully unsatisfying for anyone who has seen the true end of such things. The Existentialist lives for the moment, not for the future or for something higher than himself. As Jude Law says, the moments he had with Kidman were everything, even the moments that they dreamed in their hearts while separated. “It don’t matter if they’re real or made up. The shape of your neck, that’s real.” The Existentialist notion that abstract thoughts are nothing compared to real human experience. So Minghella’s worldview considers personal subjective experience of one another to be the significance of life. How shallow and empty because not only do people, including lovers, fail one another, but they are not eternal within themselves. Moments and experiences and people have no value if they are not rooted in an eternal, outside and higher than one’s self. If Minghella thinks the physical experiences with one another is all we have, then he’s living in the Matrix, baby. And you know, no matter what side you are on, North or South, the Civil War sure did have higher values worth fighting and dying for. To negate that as unimportant in a sort of “can’t we all get along” simplistic pacifism is worse than ignorant, it is criminal. This is very common now in war movies to reject the “higher cause” in favor of the individual. But we have to realize that the result of this Romantic Individualism is NOT to give value to the individual as they suppose, but to totally deny value to the individual altogether. Without a higher cause, there is nothing but the will to power. The strong eat the weak, and that’s just too bad for the weak. For more detail on this see my article: “War Movies: The New Trend in Themes”

I think one of the reasons why the movie is not doing well at the box office is because after this 2 hour and 30 minute journey of getting back to his sweetheart, Jude Law dies at the end. He is killed by the marauding bounty hunters who are tracking down deserters so they can get their lands and possessions, Kidman’s farm being the biggest prize. Well, I must applaud the storytellers here because it is a moment of higher values in a movie filled with Romantic individualism. Jude really must die because after all, he is a deserter that is deserving of death no matter what your side of the war. Desertion is cowardice and treason, which is not a good character trait to invest in your hero. That makes this a flawed heroic journey, and thus an unsatisfying one for the viewer.

Paycheck

Not Recommended. Pretty formulaic conspiracy story about seeing the future. Compared to Phillip Dick’s other stories that became Blade Runner and Minority Report, this is just terribly uninspiring. I never thought I would see Uma Thurman act so poorly. Ben Affleck is a reverse engineer who does illegal work for a corporate marauder played by Aaron Eckhart. After he does his work, his memories are erased with a special machine so he doesn’t know what he did. This latest job turns out to be a machine that can see into the future and of course, the bad guy wants to use it to get rich and control. There are some clever sayings throughout about the nature of fortune telling. Knowledge of the future controls people. If a futurist tells people that there will be war, then a country goes to war preemptively to get a jump on it (an obvious and inadequate reference to the recent preemptive strike on Iraq by the U.S.). If the futurist says there will be a stock market crash, everyone rushes to sell their stocks before it happens, thus creating the crash. Ben says, “If you show someone the future, they have no future. Take away the future, you take away their hope.” Knowledge of the future is a form of control over others. A Romantic materialist worldview is expressed by Uma when she says to Ben, “All we are is the sum of our experiences.” An interesting approach to this ability to see the future is used by the storytellers. They use the Eastern notion of palm reading. The big future-seeing machine is simply a technological palm reader. This is set up earlier by showing a palm reading diagram in Ben’s apartment as he plays with hand balls with the Tao symbols of yin and yang on them. This Eastern notion of fortune telling is a clever idea for explaining the basis of foreknowledge and is very chic now in movies, but it is pagan and fraudulent in truth.

Something’s Gotta Give

Recommended with caution. Finally, a movie about an older man who falls in love with a woman his own age, rather than the age of his daughter. For that, I loved this film. And of course, only a woman could have written it and directed it because of the adolescent understanding that most men in the business have of relationships. Of course, the fornication in this story is not recommendable, but the story about an aged man who finally grows up is very satisfying and mature.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Highly Recommended (Did you have any doubt??) What can I say about this movie to do it justice? It clearly should win the Oscar for best picture. It is the conclusion of the series and has all the best battle sequences, as well as pinnacles of honor. The themes of friendship, honor, loyalty, courage are at their height. And the overarching theme that we must fight and even die to save a civilization from evil is certainly not a well-loved idea by many who hate the freedom of Western civilization created by a Judeo-Christian worldview. And yes, that is exactly what the foundation of this mythology is, and I know some people just hate to admit that, but it’s true through and through. Those who would try to paint this series as racist because supposedly villains are “of color” in the film are themselves racists and bigots. Their racist hatred is blind to the fact that one of the biggest villains is white, as well as a host of other wild men and evildoers who joined Sauramon. I guess these racists would not be satisfied unless all the villains are white and all the good guys are of color. These racists must also be bigoted against small people since Gimli and Hobbits are heros and they are calling the story racist. And they must be against the environment since trees and ents are good guys. I guess facts don’t matter when someone is trying to stir up hatred and prejudice. You can be as balanced as you can and agenda-driven people will still see their conspiracy theory. The funny thing is, the whole point of Tolkien’s mythology is precisely multicultural — in the good sense. That is, all the races of men, dwarves, elves, ents etc. should stand together and fight evil in every form, no matter what race it comes from. The metaphor for race and color in this story is obviously dwarf, elf, man, ent, etc. Duh!

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Recommended with qualifications. A fictional story of the historical Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and the occasion of his famous painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The girl is portrayed as a maidservant hired by Jan’s wife, whose beauty becomes the inspiration for said masterpiece. It is a story about adultery. But not your classic tale of physical infidelity. There is never a consummation. But rather, it is about the reality of adultery of the heart. Jesus said that to even lust after a woman who is not your wife is considered adultery of the heart by God and is just as serious. Boy, that one doesn’t go over too well in modern society. But it is treated with exquisite subtlety and profundity here. Using an artist to do so is the most believable because artists are obsessed with beauty. They can spot and adore minute sensual details: the curve of a neck, the delicacy of an eyelash, every hair on a woman’s head, even to the perfect placement of a single strand. We artists can really worship every detail of beauty and thus can be the perfect metaphor for the reality of inner lust. Colin Firth plays Vermeer with understated poise and passion. Scarlett Johannson is hauntingly perfect for the role as Griet, the Girl with a Pearl Earring. This movie is like a dutch painting in many of it’s scenes as well as the minimalist dialogue with an emphasis on repressed passion. It is powerful. I have a couple problems with it. First, the ending is very Bridges of Madison County selfishness. It sets up the ravishes of adultery of the heart, but plays for the passion of lust over the passion of love. Griet is let go when Vermeer’s wife discovers she is the apple of his eye. That the girl can understand beauty and color and light like a painter. Because Griet has more in common with Jan than his own wife. The pearl earring is a powerful metaphor for the heart’s treasure as it is Vermeer’s wife’s favorite most exquisite and treasured piece of jewelry, the act of wearing alone which proves a violation of the marriage intimacy. It’s all really quite spiritual without capitulating to mere symbolism or allegory. I mean you really sense what is going on in the hearts of these people between the lines of their outward behavior. It’s brilliant storytelling that incarnates the theme in the behavior of the characters, not merely their words. And the last shot shows Griet receiving the treasured pearl earrings from Vermeer as a gift, indicating very clearly that she has his heart even without the physical consummation. This is the typical Existentialist or Romantic ethic that places passion as the highest value over honor. Follow your heart over do your duty. (And yes, another topic I write an entire chapter about in my book, Hollywood Worldviews). It had such good potential to end tragically for the moral high ground, but chose selfishness as virtue. Ah, will we ever be rid of self-obsessed selfish Romanticism? My second problem has to do with it being a fictional speculative interpretation of a real person’s life. I have a real love/hate relationship with this postmodern fictionalizing of non-fiction. On the one hand, I don’t have a big problem with telling a speculative story if you remain true to the spirit of the historical people or event (Witness Braveheart). But on the other hand, if your story impugns someone’s character as does this story with Vermeer (It accuses him of previous infidelity and suggests it as an ongoing character trait), and you have no evidence of such failings, then you are instilling unfair prejudice against a person. I am not aware that there is any knowledge of such behavior in Vermeer’s life, but if there was, even rumors of it, then that would be fine to portray it as a possibility, but if there isn’t any indication of such licentiousness, then to suggest there was is more than unfair, it is libelous.