Category Archives: History

12 Years a Slave: When Cinema Embodies Truth

Photography is truth. The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second. –Jean-Luc Godard

There’s gonna be a reason why I used that quote as a heading. Wait and see.

This film was first drawn to my attention as it stars Benedict Cumberbatch, literally. I am following multiple Benedict Cumberbatch news accounts on Twitter and regarding to his casting announcement in the film, I became more and more intrigued with this film, and my curiosity came bigger as this film won numerous awards and also, being a considerable, potential winner to this year’s Best Picture Oscar.

And so, I watched it after months of waiting. Today, in a local theatre. I almost teared up.

This film tells us the true story about a free African-American in the American slavery era, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Through a series of events, he was abducted and sold into slavery to the South. He went through a series of slave owners; the kind Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), the discriminative Tibeats (Paul Dano), and the maniacal Epps (Michael Fassbender).

MCDTWYE FS008

The film features the emotions of Solomon Northup; how he refused to be a slave, and finally, had no other way than to accept it. As he worked in the perilous sunlight-laden cotton fields, or cutting wood for a new building, he faced the pain and the fear of doing something slightly wrong – and the fear of facing hundreds of lashes from his masters’ whips.

Slavery is cruel, yet most members of the public haven’t known how cruel it really is. When this film was first announced, people would compare it to a Tarantino work about slavery released last year – Django Unchained. The freed slave Django proceeds to rescue his wife and kill all the evil slave owners. Well, well, it doesn’t work that way; in real life, there was no badass slave that has the power to kill all the slave owners. 12 Years a Slave portrays the truth about slavery, even going through the grotesque methods the slave owners used to torture their slaves. Graphically. This movie is indeed not for everyone’s guts, because the truth about slavery is way scarier than it seems to be. Also, this movie might not fit the dramatic structure of a story, because it’s based from a book. Real, plain, truth, served the way it is. No dramatization, or anything. (Hence the quote above). Even, the white slave owners are all portrayed as cruel. Ford was a bit better than the others, but he’s also cruel. In the movie, there’s no exaggerated “white slave owner saviour character” or anything. It’s Solomon Northup saving himself.

If you watch this movie, there might be something about this film’s looks that differentiates it from common Hollywood movies. Steve McQueen puts the artistic side forwards in the movie. When Solomon Northup was first chained as a slave, the only thing we see is Solomon himself struggling for help inside a very, very dark room. The contrast is prominent, and it intensifies his feelings in the chamber. Also, there are several nature shots, and 30 second shots of Solomon, looking into the void, bottling up his emotions. Very artsy.

And, of course, there are some compelling performances by the actors and actresses. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup was indeed brilliant; he embodies his character really well, especially in the several 30 second shots. Michael Fassbender as a slave-obsessed “maniac” Epps was really believable and deep. And Lupita Nyong’o as Patsy, Epps’ “favorite” slave, did a really deep and sincere performance, really believable, and she made Patsy truly dig the sympathy of the audience.

Verdict? Perfect in every way – although, not for everyone.

I don’t want to survive, I want to live. — Solomon Northup, 12 Years a Slave

twelve-years-a-slave08✮✮✮✮✮/5

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The Lone Survivor: Outnumbered in The Front Line

Live to tell the story.
Live to tell the story.

To tell you the truth I thought this movie will contain less gore and more drama, at least that’s what I’m expecting when I watched the trailer. Turns out the screenplay shoved plenty of gory scenes, which was made complete by the excellent acting from Wahlberg and Co.

Synopsis

The entire story was based on Operation Red Wings. Now I don’t know about you but this name is completely unfamiliar to my ears before I watched the movie.

If I’m the military commander-in-charge I would consider this particular waste of lives a failure. To be exact, too much casualties is just the tip of the iceberg. You get to endanger nearby villages, waste one good Chinook, top-notch officers, and you’ll never know if your enemy turns out to be smart enough to make copies of looted M4s. Believe me, M4 terrorists are just too much to take on.

The operation, like other standard military operation, started with a recon mission which involved four personnels.

(From left to right) Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Danny Dietz
(From left to right) Taylor Kitsch, Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Danny Dietz.

In short, three of them died. Their cover was blown by shepherds from the nearest village and you can guess the next part.

There is some falling-from-the-cliff parts that I really need to give credit. Whoever did the sound effects is genius. The ‘CRACK’s made my uncle (who was also watching beside me at that time) go “ooh, that’s gotta hurt” and “aah, ouch, euh!” Frankly, I feel no better.

After being hunted down by the Talibans for an hour or so, the captain of the unfortunate team, Lieutenant Murphy, decided to make a call for help in open space since the signal reception was very bad. He died from several shots aimed at his back, but his try was worth it.

Backup showed up several minutes later, and Luttrell (The ‘Lone Survivor’) and his other teammate Axe cheered as they heard the familiar ‘chop-chop-chop’ sound of a helicopter’s rotor. But a single rocket from the Taliban’s RPG took care of that and as well the misson’s commander-in-charge (played by Eric Bana, I’ll always remember him as Hector from Troy. He’s cool).

Axe died after being shot to death precisely at his head, but Luttrell survived after concealing himself in an opening of a hill. He was bruised, battered, and severely injured at that moment.

The next day Luttrell was found by some friendly members of the village in a water source, practically dying. Luttrell was then carried to their house and had his wounds taken care of. He was also given food and water, something he missed for possibly two days. Meanwhile, Luttrell’s host sent a handwritten note from Luttrell to the nearest U.S. military base through a messenger.

Why are you doing this to me?
Why are you doing this to me?

Not long after that, the suspicious Talibans checked the houses of the villagers, finding Luttrell at last. They were about to execute him when the man who rescued Luttrell took an AK-47, muttered some words at the Taliban, and cocked the gun in front of their face as he aimed it towards them. The other villagers did the same.

Luttrell, for the second time, had his sorry ass saved by the locals.

The Talibans swore revenge against the villagers while reluctantly leaving, putting on some frowns on the villagers’ faces. They are now officially in war with that particular brutal Taliban gang.

Meanwhile Lutrell has not fully recovered. He can’t do anything but rest and moan. Poor guy.

The next day the Talis (call-name for Talibans) came as promised, bringing full armaments with them; RPGs, LMGs, AK-47s, grenades, you name it. The villagers valiantly stood up with only several looted AK-47s.

When it seemed like the village is going to be destroyed utterly by the Talis, U.S. Black Hawks comes out of nowhere, practically annihilating the Talis deservedly. The gunship you get to control at Modern Warfare also put on quite a show with that sort of heavy bombardment, scattering the Talis with no sweat.

In a dramatic end, the military doctors brought back Luttrell from his certain death. Happy ending sometimes felt good, and this movie showed that.

Main Characters and Their Stories

Marcus Lutrell
If I don't go home, you don't go home.
If I don’t go home, you don’t go home.

Marcus Luttrell is a former U.S. Navy Seal and also the only survivor of Operation Red Wings. He was born in Houston, Texas, in November 7 1975. After being sent back home, Luttrell founded the Lone Survivor foundation that helped soldiers like him to get back on their feet and continue living their life by moving on.

Truthfully I can’t say if Wahlberg’s involvement in being Luttrell is exceptional or super-awesome or anything. If I’m to judge his act in this movie fairly, well, he’s just a bit more than what I call the ‘standard professional acting’. Nothing much, actually.

The real-life Marcus Luttrell had a son named after his last-second teammate, Axe. He now lives in Texas, possibly his hometown.

Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson

[while sighting in a Taliban fighter] You can die for your country, I'm gonna live for mine.
[while sighting in a Taliban fighter] You can die for your country, I’m gonna live for mine.
Matt ‘Axe’ Axelson died fighting in Operation Red Wings after having his head shot. Well, not right away, but I assume he died of blood loss before he got shot at the head by the Talibans. Axe was born on June 25 1976 in Cupertino, California. He was married to a girl named Cindy in December 2003, and thus one of his last words are:

Axe: If I die I need you to make sure that Cindy knows how much I love her.
Luttrell: She knows.
Axe: And that I died with my brothers – with a full fucking heart.

For his gallant service in the operation, Axe was awarded Navy Cross, Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.

Lt. Michael Murphy

(Talking to Luttrell) Marcus. Never out of the fight.
Marcus Luttrell: [after finding his lost gun in the middle of the fight] See? God’s looking out for us. Michael Murphy: If this is what happens when God is looking out for us, I’d hate to see Him pissed.
For his remarkably great reputation, somebody actually made a movie about him. It’s called Murphy. Go on, check it out.

Michael Murphy had a great neighborhood reputation, earning the title ‘The Protector’. According to several sources, Murph (his nickname) saved a homeless man from being bullied, saved a disabled girl in his school from being bullied, and also had experience at being a pool lifeguard in summers. Murph was apparently a pretty smart dude too before he got involved in military. He graduated from Penn State university with honors and dual degrees in both political science and psychology. Talk about a perfect guy. Oh right, I forgot to tell you his birthplace and stuff. He was a native New Yorker, born May 7, 1976.

For his outstanding service this dauntless Lieutenant received lots of military awards, such as the Medal of Honor (not the game), Silver Star, Purple Heart, Commendation Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. It was also necessary to mention that a park, a destroyer, and a missile are named after him (USS Michael Murphy, ha ha ha).

Danny Dietz
Fuckin' look at them, man. They fuckin' hate us.
Fuckin’ look at them, man. They fuckin’ hate us.

Oh, we don’t get to talk about him much now do we? In fact I think I haven’t mentioned him before this. Some of the most ‘exciting’ and good scenes were made of him, technically. Dietz was married to Maria Dietz, which was shown communicating with Dietz through an email (spoiler: asking for an Arabian Horse for her wedding present). Dietz was also seen dying grasping to a paint brochure in which he was in the process of deciding his house’s wall paint color. He loves drawing, which made him really upset when one of the Talibans shot his drawing hand, and…hmm…oh yeah, he was born on January 26, 1980 in Aurora, Colorado.

This particular war martyr earned a black belt in Taekwondo from the Korean Academy of Taekwondo (wonder why he doesn’t whup some Taliban ass with the Karate Kid kick, you know, the one with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, anyway,) so don’t mess around.

Receiving no less military rewards than his teammates, Dietz also get to be remembered through a larger-than-life bronze statue erected at his hometown.

Highlight

So I’m gonna keep this one short.

Again and again I must say, war brings nothing but death. Sure, the winning side might get spoils of war and stuff, but that was nothing compared to the value of a life.

Besides that, I must say the sound effect on the scene where the four brave men jumped off a cliff is just cracking! I can’t imagine what will the movie be like without them. It was wicked. You know what? You must feel that one yourself. The video-shoot was also inch-perfect on every angle. The director must’ve been a crazy genius, you see, combining such close shooting angle and that awesome, awesome sound effect.

Overall? 4.5/5. Extra half for the appreciation of the gallant efforts of the team. Superb show!

Soekarno: The Dilemma of ‘The Greater Good’

Another self-explanatory movie poster
Another self-explanatory movie poster

I was actually planning to release this review last week, but instead I took a break for an angpao-collecting spree. You can say it went perfectly well. Yes…

Anyway, I put a lot of hope on this review because I’m not fooling around when it comes to talk about my country. So I was expecting you guys to correct me.

Synopsis

As a young man, Soekarno was studied and well associated with both his native homeland (Java and the culture and his fellow Javanese) and the occupying Dutch government (Soekarno can speak fluent Dutch and was well aware of their ‘classy’ traditions). Other than that, in his young age Soekarno lived in a time when Indonesian political figures started to rise; and Soekarno was very lucky to have one of them as his mentor: H.O.S. Cokroaminoto. Inspired by his mentor, Soekarno decided to learn public oratory. Years later, Soekarno became a local political figure and hero towards the people of Indonesia (still in Dutch government occupation), as he is a person with a high skill of public oratory and therefore was capable of igniting the public will of gaining Indonesian independence. The Dutch officials was well aware of that, and in the Dutch occupation period he was put into exile or jails for countless times. But he did not give up. He wrote speeches and letters secretly from his exile or jail in order to get the public’s sympathy. Soekarno, in a nutshell, has an ultimate weapon that the Dutch occupants di not have at that place and time: he had the people. He captured the hearts of the people in a mesmerizing way that the local people, once fearing the Dutch from head to toe, began to doubt their power. The Dutch government was well aware of this, and they hopelessly fight through media propaganda and exiles.

The people's man.
The people’s man.

But the Dutch did not see the Japanese force coming in. The Dutch were not taking the Japanese force very seriously (in my opinion) until it’s too late. The Japanese came, overthrew the Dutch government and military force, and became the new occupant in the Nusantara (Indonesia’s former name before her independence). The Dutch, now aware of what they’re dealing with, tried to smuggle Soekarno and his family out; because they realized what a great asset is Soekarno towards the Japanese, and they feared what was to become if Soekarno joined the Japanese. You just think about it: Soekarno is indirectly the ruler of the Indonesians. He is able to raise up their spirits in a, well, spirited way, and he can frankly make them do anything he wanted them to do. He is the people’s man. He is Soekarno (Bam Bam BAAAAMMMM). Back to the smuggling part (ehm, sorry, got carried away). Soekarno did not want to leave, even though he knows he’s dealing with a force that is totally different than the Dutch government. During Dutch occupation, Soekarno is still partially untouchable due to the existing Dutch law. It was a shield to him to freely express his opinions, as the Dutch were more to democracy rather than fascism or communism (monarchy, actually, but still, the queen of Netherlands must not act so rashly towards Soekarno, because her people may disagree); and Soekarno, as you know, was a truly exceptional public orator. Soekarno is capable of capturing several Dutch’s heart in the Dutch mainland.  The best part is: however mad is the local Dutch government towards Soekarno in Indonesia, they still have to follow orders from the Netherlands capital, Den Haag. In short, the Dutch occupants cannot treat Soekarno anyhow as they want. They have to comply with rules. On the other hand, Japanese were far more brutal. As Soekarno said, the Japanese force will not hesitate in ending a man’s life, not like the Dutch, where the man would be probably judged in a court first. Since in that time Japan was an empire with some sort of a caste, ordinary people have no power at all. Of course, they have rules and laws, but to the Japanese they can do anything they want in an occupied country as long as their superior officers allowed them (maybe like the Generals, Captains, etc.)They are also known for their brutality in dominating another country (like the infamous war event Nanjing Massacre). In short, Soekarno had just lost his best pal the law. Say goodbye to the age of laws, make way for a new era of brutal occupation. Just when the dream for national independence seemed to fade away with the absence of ‘fair’ laws, the Japanese called their trump card: an irresistable devil’s deal with Soekarno and company (Moh. Hatta, the future first vice president of Indonesia, and Sutan Sjahrir, an independence collaborator, too): the Japanese offered independence in exchange for helping them in the ongoing Pacific War. Many Indonesians always thought that our independence was gained through blood and glory; through death of heroes, and through heroic struggles. So this scene delivered one hell of a blow towards the pride of the nation, as you might say. Up to this point, there were two important figures that we must remember: Soekarno and Sutan Sjahrir, because both of them are like magnetic poles. Soekarno believed that by cooperating with the Japanese, there will be less casualties; while on the contrary, Sjahrir was disgusted by the idea of cooperating with their occupants. They are the two extremes, yet with the same core belief: that Indonesia will be independent sooner or later. Later on, Soekarno must also face a personal conflict. His love towards other woman made him left his second wife, Inggit, for Fatmawati.

Inggit, Soekarno's second wife (out of seven, if you're curious).
Inggit, Soekarno’s second wife (out of seven, if you’re curious).
Fatmawati, the weaver of the first indonesian national flag (and Soekarno's third wife).
Fatmawati, the weaver of the first Indonesian national flag (and Soekarno’s third wife).

After several household fights, Inggit decided to leave Soekarno. Sad to say (I am an Indonesian, and I’m a bit embarrased to say that my national hero is also a women chaser), Soekarno married Fatmawati as his third wife. But his problems did not end there. The Japanese asked for preposterous requests such as women (that scene is truly heart-breaking), resources, and Soekarno’s help on their propaganda. Ario Bayu as Soekarno played his role very well to depict Soekarno on those scene, that actually Soekarno did not want those to happen; but for the sake of independence, he did those (half-heartedly). On the other side, Sjahrir continued his undercover independence effort on gathering the nationalist youths to prepare them for their independence. Other than that, Sjahrir also continued his illegal activity of listening to the international radio to check on how the Japanese were doing. To his joy, the Japanese were losing. At the same time, the Japanese force fulfilled their promise towards Soekarno and gave him Indonesia’s independence at Vietnam. But just when Soekarno was about to celebrate this hard-earned achievement when he was kidnapped not long after he got back to Indonesia again. The kidnappers were the ambitious nationalist youths that forced Soekarno and Hatta to proclaim Indonesia’s independence immidiately because Japan had lost the war and therefore Indonesia is without any occupants, for the first time in three centuries. The youths saw this as a golden chance to proclaim Indonesia’s independence. Soekarno and Hatta were not amused being tricked by the Japanese. You see, if Soekarno saw this coming, the downfall of the Japanese force, then Soekarno wouldn’t have to cooperate with the Japanese; letting his people suffer at the hands of them, or worse, killed. The Japanese, true to their words, offered help in the process of proclaiming Indonesia’s independence. Finally, Indonesia was free and independent on the historical 17th of August, 1945.

The original Soekarno reading the proclamation text.
The original Soekarno reading the proclamation text.

Main Characters and Their Stories

Soekarno
Soekarno.
Soekarno.

His original name was actually Kusno, but the name was changed by his father because he was frequently sick (some native Indonesian still believed in the mystic tradition). Soekarno can speak Dutch, Japanese, Javanese, English, and Bahasa Indonesia (as far as I know), so he is a learned man. In the early scenes, Soekarno was seen flirting with a Dutch girl (when he was young). We can conclude that Soekarno was well associated with several upper-class Dutch in his life. Other than that, he is also well-associated with middle-lower class of the local people. So we know that Soekarno is well-associated with two different worlds; the upper and the lower, the occupant and the occupied. It was thanks to his inspiring mentor H.O.S. Cokroaminoto that he became an excellent public orator. Many said his mastery at public oratory in Indonesia is second to none.

Soekarno had many wives. Well, not all at once, but still it’s a bit shocking isn’t it? So don’t be surprised when you meet one of Soekarno’s son or daughter. Perfectly normal.

What else to say about him? Many, actually; but my mind just can’t stop reeling too fast at this point, thus leaving me speechless. But if it helps, I wanted to say that he is no doubt a huge contributor to Indonesia’s independence, and against all other opinion I wanted to say that the image of him valuing lives above everything else is something I truly uphold.

As Terry Pratchett (is his name spelled right? I guess) said it in a fine way (in his book ‘Nation’), “When much is taken, something is returned”. Soekarno had just the faith  to get through all of his people’s suffering to watch the glorious moment of his country’s independence.

Fatmawati
Fatmawati, Soekarno's third wife.
Fatmawati, Soekarno’s third wife.

Sorry to say, my first opinion on this photo was, “yeuch”, and most probably you’re in the same boat as I am. Anyway, onwards to Fatmawati.

The famous wife was played by Tika Bravani, a talented young actress from Indonesia. Historically, Fatmawati is widely-known as the woman who sewed the first Indonesian national flag. Dramatic.

Soekarno married Fatmawati when she was 15 (sounds like Hugh Hefner all over again). Fatma (her shortname) was Soekarno’s student at a school in Bengkulu, taught by Soekarno during his exile. It was her which made Inggit (Soekarno’s second wife) and Soekarno divorce, which gave me a thought about Bob Marley. No woman no cry, right?

Fatma gave birth to to three daughters and two sons; grand total of five, in which four of them, Megawati Soekarnoputri , Sukmawati Soekarnoputri , Rachmawati Soekarnoputri and Guruh Soekarnoputra, is still politically active. Beat that.

Mohammad Hatta
Central figure, up top.
Central figure, up top.

A gorgeous acting was delivered by Lukman Sardi as Mohammad Hatta. I just felt it, you know, the classic hunches you usually get? The actor and the supposed character blended in better than Coffee Beans’ Original Ice Blended, which is saying something (sometimes I prefer Coffee Beans rather than Starbucks).

The calm upbringing he frequently put on is the highlight, because I always thought Mohammad Hatta as the backstage guy, never a spotlight guy. He is a key figure to me because I think he is the middle point between Soekarno and Sjahrir, in which Soekarno prefered submitting to their occupants as a step towards their independence and Sjahrir (a hot-tempered little guy) wanted a rebellion. So yeah, you can say his existence at that situation a ‘divine intervention’.

He is well-known as the first Vice-President of Indonesia and also a friend to Soekarno. There’s probably still much about him but I guess the essence of it is that as the second wheel, you will play a role no less crucial than the big boss. That’s what happened to Hatta anyway; and Nehru, and probably you.

Highlight

At last, highlights. Word count: 1772 (personal record).

I’d like to start with my personal favorite, the one I’ve mentioned in the Letters to Iwo Jima review. It’s about lives, human lives.

Many people were disappointed after watching this movie, (mostly Indonesians) and they have the right to. Who on this particular planet laughed at his/her country’s humiliation? Probably separatists, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about us (unless you’re a separatist). Us, as in, people that are proud of their motherland. But after several scenes of Soekarno letting his people suffer at the hands of their occupants, personally the bastards that produced this movie took down several notches on my nationalistic spirit.

Not fun. At all. I am totally not amused.

But after several days, I realized that Soekarno did it out of a belief that he had, and I think that is truly remarkable. To let people harshly treat us in order to give a chance to live for the others is quite a gem.

In my eyes, Soekarno let his people suffer for the greater good. He let them suffer rather than to die in a useless open rebellion (useless, because the Japanese’s military force is superior in almost every aspects) to let them have a taste of independence. Of course you can die when you suffer, but that’s a risk Soekarno is willing to take for the greater good of Indonesia.

See it like this: your parents pushed you to study hard so you can get a good score. Your parents know you might be very unhappy towards them and treat them harshly, but for their son (or daughter, I’m not being sexist), they are willing to take a blow.

Soekarno is, in my eyes, a national ‘father’.

Thank you for reading this. I’m looking forward for comments and corrections. Sampai nanti! (Until then!)

A Beautiful Mind: The Courage of The Heart

The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.
The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.

Truthfully, I really love the poster from the bottom of my heart. There is another version of this movie’s poster, but I think the one that described what the movie is about more accurately is this one. Even more truthful, I just can’t stop loving the movie. One word to describe it all: touching.

Synopsis

This movie actually has the similar conflict with the movie Forrest Gump, where the main character has a mental problem. The difference is Forrest Gump suffers a low IQ, while here the main character suffered from schizophrenia. Who is the main character? It is no other than the celebrated John Nash; the 1994 Nobel Economic Sciences prize, and guess what? He is still alive! Basically, this movie is a biography of John Nash coping with his paranoia, which is caused by his mental illness (schizophrenia). Nash, an exceptional mathematician, is an asocial, paranoid, and an eccentric figure. He is obsessed by finding an original theory during his early times at Princeton, and he finally did (in a bar). For the revolutionary theory he has found, he managed to get a position in a prestigious wing in MIT (Wheeler Lab; but in fact, this is actually fiction. See http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/nash-0213.html) since then, he taught classes and utilized the facilities MIT has lent them with his two partners, Sol and Bender. Since he got married with one of his students, his delusions reached a new low; he began to believe that he was a part of some secret service that has the intention to stop a communist party from succeeding in blowing up a ‘portable nuke’ on American soil. Nash was supposed to look for codes that was embedded in magazines (such as LIFE) and deliver them to a drop location where he will collect the ‘confidential documents’ to a postbox. This delusional conspiracy he is involved in made him more and more paranoid by the day, until his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde reported his paranoid behavior to a psychiatry hospital. The recognition of his mental illness opened up a new chapter, as Nash took medications and therapies and struggled to cope with his dulled mind (side-effect of the medications he took). He finally couldn’t stand it anymore and secretly skipped his medications, which caused his delusions to come back. Nash, believing he is still in the ‘secret conspiracy’, continued his obsession with cracking codes embedded in magazines while neglecting his household duties. His wife finally finds out about this, and at first went mad at him. But soon Nash figured out by himself (intellectually, as he put it) that his delusion IS a delusion that is not real. This, again, opens up a new page for him, where with the enormous dedication from his wife he attempted to cope with his mental disorder without medication. There are several times where he reluctantly willing to go back to his medication, as he couldn’t stand his mental delusions anymore, but with the support of his good wife, he went through. This story about a brilliant man with ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’ is overall heartbreaking and introduced the world of a schizophrenic to our common eyes. To me, personally, this movie is a close second to Forrest Gump, whereas Forrest Gump has more humor in it. The soundtrack is truly exceptional. It produces the subtlety yet escalated tension in several action-packed scenes very well. It blended very well with all of the scenes in the movie. The song itself also described the whole core of the movie in a delicate and precise way. Top class, and must I say; tres bien! Russell Crowe was very natural in this movie. He speaks in a West Virginian accent so fluently that I am leaded to believe he is originally from West Virginia, which is not true. His act as a schizophrenic person is also a gem of this movie. He used body gestures all the time to appear agitated, and he also arranged his facial expression in what I must say, appeared to be a ‘disturbing person’s’. The four right words to describe Jennifer Connelly in this movie is perhaps  ‘seducing, attractive, patient, and smart’ in this movie. But in my opinion, there is one word to describe it all: ‘aggressive’. Yes folks, her eyes can pierce through yours and her voice, soothing as it seems, have the power to make you submit to her. I might as well imagine Yoda saying, “Strong, the force is inside her. Aggressive, she did not look. Out, watch.” Credits also must be given to Paul Bettany and Ed Harris for being a ‘perfect delusion’ in Nash’s world. Ed’s naturally great act made me believe that at first, Nash is actually involved in a real conspiracy; while Paul’s exceptional act made me believe that he really do exist. Somehow, in a way, both of them made me relate to a schizophrenic’s world.

Introduction

So what is schizophrenia? Let’s beam up our old ‘know-it-all’ pal, Wikipedia.

“Schizophrenia (/ˌskɪtsɵˈfrɛniə/ or /ˌskɪtsɵˈfrniə/) is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefshallucinationsdisorganized thinking; and negative symptoms, such as blunted affect and avolition.” Wikipedia

Below is a self-portrait of a schizophrenic.

Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. Such a helpful pal.

I can’t say I understood all of the above before watching the movie. To my former self, hallucinations of a schizophrenic must be something that is temporary, easy to shrug off. But I never thought schizophrenia could drive someone to his/her edge only from their own hallucinations. This movie showed me that to a schizophrenic, the line between reality and its counterpart is a very fine one. I’d like to coin a phrase from Nash’s psychiatrist at this point:

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?” Dr. Rosen, Beautiful Mind

That guy certainly knows what he’s talking about.

Main Characters and Their Stories

In total, there are several important characters that arguably earned the dignified position as the main character. But I will crown only two out of the lot, since the story basically spins on this particularly courageous couple; John Nash (Russell Crowe) and his wife, Mrs. Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly).

There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is.
I'm sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.
I’m sorry, just give me a moment to redefine my girlish notions of romance.

As I said before, the movie was touching. But to be more particular, it is actually courageous. The only thing that drives Nash is courage; a courage given by his wife’s dedication, and for the first time Nash cannot rely on logic and reasons alone. It is courage that he held onto, his belief that he can overcome his mental disability without medication; the courage that he acquired from his wondrous wife, Mrs. Larde.

There’s not much of a background to Alicia Larde in the movie, so let’s talk a bit about her.

Her full name is Alicia Esther Lopez-Harrison de Lardé; quite a name, and she was born in San Salvador in El Salvador. She was smart and has an ambition to be ‘the next Marie Curie’. She first met Nash at an Advanced Calculus for Engineers class and, let’s just say the term ‘love at first sight’ is a perfect fit to the situation.

“A pair of odd ducks, then.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

Highlights

I will discuss about the ability of the disabled first as a tribute to all with the problem. Disability, you might say, literally disabled you effectively to live the life of other normal people’s. But as my old man said, when a door is closed, another will open somewhere; you just need to look for it. Take a look at John Nash. He is paranoid all the time, putting it mildly, as well as his son. Both of them became mathematician of prestige; John Nash earned a Nobel prize, and his son earned the privilege of being a top chess player and an artist. Look at it this way: a disability made you impossible to improve in some skills, which made you focus more on doing what you can; which made you sharpened those skills more frequently than normal people does. Normal people are like jack-of-all-trade-but-master-of-none, but disabled people (I really think I need to switch the term ‘disabled into ‘special’ here) are, you can say, an ‘ace’-of-a-trade.

What is that? You said you’re normal, unfortunately? Well folks, here’s the good news: normal means more options! What I just said earlier above is the TENDENCY of what normal people did, not their ‘fate’. Look at it this way: you can be anything you want, you just need to FOCUS (my old man always said that). Normal people usually didn’t get anywhere because they don’t focus on only one thing, instead they ‘greedily’ try everything they wanted to be. The result? They’re usually halfway this and that, never reaching their final destination. Focus, my folks, is the key; and ‘special’ people are just so good about it (Come to think about it, I think this lesson is best learned from the famed movie Forrest Gump. Recommended at the best).

That’s not it. The main highlight of this movie is actually the power of the heart; the power of love, belief, and courage. In a deleted scene, John Nash has said: “Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.”

“Perhaps it is good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart.” John Nash, Beautiful Mind

At the beginning of the movie, Nash was supposedly told by his elementary teacher that he has ‘two helpings of brain but half a helping of heart’. Now most of us nowadays usually think that actually it is good to be that way, and that is why most of us are wrong. As John Nash put it delicately when he made a speech directed to his wife, “I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.”

“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” John Nash, Beautiful mind

To put it in an easier term, who will you choose for your lifetime partner in a deserted island; a brilliant and multi-functional robot which did not know any emotions, or a stupid, dumb, and slow human that has ‘twice the helping of heart’? If you pick the first, then I’ll stay away from you. If that makes you happy, then you are most definitely not a person, because a human is always in need of an emotional embrace as part of their social need. Take John Nash for an example. Without his loving, caring, and supporting wife, he’ll be a hobo for sure. According to Sylvia Nasar, Nash’s biography author: “If she hadn’ t taken him in, he would have wound up on the streets.”  Deep down, a person; however asocial he/she is, will always need that emotional embrace. They need someone who loved them from the heart, care for them no matter what, and support them in a time of distress.

John Nash: "And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital."  Alicia Larde: "Maybe try again tomorrow."
John Nash: “And then, on the way home, Charles was there again. Sometimes I miss talking to him. Maybe Rosen is right. Maybe I have to think about going back to the hospital.”
Alicia Larde: “Maybe try again tomorrow.”

Review: An easy 4/5.