Monday, May 28, 2007

Opal Dreams

As I was writing about Whale Driver, I was reminded of Opal Dreams, an Australian movie that I saw a few weeks ago. Opal Dreams too is a story involving children, but much more credilbe than Whale Driver. The subtitle of Opal Dreams is Pobby and Dingan.
The story revolves around a little girl who has two imaginary friends, called Pobby and Dingan. She is about 8, and she has an elder brother, slightly older. The father is a freelance opal hunter in some outpost in South Australia. He is not too pleased with the girl's attachment to her imaginary friends, which goes to such extremes as setting seats and plates for them at table, conversing with them in front of others, consulting their wishes, putting their seatbelts on, and so on. In fact, the family tries to bring her to her senses now that she is getting to be an adolescent, but she is adamant about her friends.
It so happens that on a certain occasion the dad and brother take Pobby and Dingan on a ride and fail to bring them back. The girl is convinced that they have lost her friends somewhere and want them brought back. The dad even gets into trouble because of her insistence on finding Pobby and Dingan, but everybody tries to please the girl and find her friends. She is feeling lonely every day and gets quite sick. Perhaps the most touching part of the movie starts from there when her little brother takes upon himself to do all he can to please his sister. The end of the story is in what he does to make his sister happy and in whether the people who were laughing at her over he imaginary friends had any change of opinion.
Although this story too has a few incredible elements, overall it's quite credible. The movie really brings to focus the good will of many people and the family bond. The brother-sister bond, the father-son bond, the family-neighbors' bond, etc., etc., are quite moving.
It's not clear whether the author wrote the story with any 'spiritual' or 'philsophical' aspirations, but there are interesting questions posed in the movie, like: What is real and what is imaginary? Isn't imaginary real for the little girl and for many of us? Does real have to be touched and seen? Or, are only things touched and seen real? As a capion in the movie poster suggests, Are there things that can be seen and experienced only when they are believed? The girl in the story can draw accurate pictures of her friends, with proper dresses and make up, almost like most Hindus can tell you where each of the Major Hindu gods lives, how s/he is dressed, what his or her vehicle is, and so on. Actually most religious people can identify a figure as Mary or Joseph or Krishna or Rama simply by looking at it... even though none of them has seen Mary or Joseph or Krishna or Rama.

An Indian song to a Hindu god goes like this: "I don't care whether you are simply a figment of my imagination or an inanimate stone, I just cannot forget you or discontinue worshipping you." The statement looks a bit irrational, but most of our actions are quite along those lines. Much of what we claim to know and stake our reputation by, we only believe--perhaps on the authority of X or Y (who may be authorities or scientists)--but there could be several deceptions along the route, and what we are ready to die for can only be a figment of our imagination or unfounded belief.

I'm also reminded of the story in the Maccabees in the Old Testament (2 Maccabees 7,1-42), where a Jewish mother with seven children are ready to be burned alive rather than 'disobey God.' The only anticlimax of the story is what they believed disobedience to God was simply eating pork! Are the Maccabees to be admired because they preferred to die rather than eat pork? Or are they to be admired because they believed they were trying to please God? Or are they to be looked upon critically because they 'believed' eating pork is forbidden by God--so severely as to even risk their lives?

Whale Driver

Tonight I saw a New Zealand movie called Whale Driver, mostly with New Zealnd actors and actresses, most of them little known in this part of the world. The story is by Niki Caro. The acting of everyone is quite moving--especially of the young 11-year-old girl, who is the heroine, and of the ones who act as her grandparents. The story is about a Maori leader who expects a male offspring for his first son so that the grandson may continue the tribe's leadership and traditions. Unfortunately, the son's wife dies while giving birth and what's more the child born is a female. The grandpa is quite disappointed and is not too nuanced about showing it. The movie centers around the little girl's relationship with the grandfather, who has a love-hate relationship with the girl. Although he seems to love her by showing some signs of affection, he is bitter that the girl has destroyed his dream and that she has brought bad luck on the tribe. Of course, the girl goes through the pains of realizing that she is unwanted without entirely giving up her hope of winning the grandfather. Of course, the climax is, Does she succeed in winning her grandpa back?

The story is quite moving in many parts, especially in the scene when the little girl delivers a speach at school as she sheds profuse tears. Unfortunately, the story has quite a bit of unbelievable or, shall we say, supernatural or reason-defying elements, which make it a bit of tear-jerking fantasy, not entirely credible. There is the Deus-ex-machina to redeem the situation even in hopeless cases. But for that, it's a moving story overall. I'm not all that a fan of fictions with such convenient supernatural interventions. Either a movie should go entirely into fantasy like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings; or it must tackle raw reality as is--at least to a believalbe extant. Whereas stories like Whale Driver or Emily Rose, however, move between rational and irrational realms making them somewhat shallow or hollow.

The photography and music are great. Beautiful scenes of the sea and sky and the green pastures. Green and blue remain with you even after the movie. The young girl was apparently nominated for numerous awards, perhaps including Oscar, and surely she does a great job.