Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Departed (2006)

This is a sad coming-of-age story. Not only for Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon desperately searching for the father figure, that loving, caring and trusting figure nowhere to be found -one in the scary persona of a true villain like only Jack Nicholson could be and the other to his white-haired and kind boss Martin Sheen. Not only for them, but for me, as well. When the film was out I scorned it; was it because others praised it so much, was it because the rebellious nature of early youth is not willing to show any respect to old age? Or was it because I could not tell between a bad and a good crime and cops chase movie. What I remember is this: back then, Martin Scorsese was for me nothing more than a director that withheld his retirement only too long.

By now I knew I was wrong. So, I ventured one more private screening. This is the most captivating film I've seen in ages. This is a plunge in a world you will never be part of, and maybe you could never imagine it existed. And even if you did, you were too lawful to discover it. Just like Carl Jung said  “The cinema makes it possible to experience without danger all the excitement, passion, and desirousness which must be repressed in a humanitarian ordering of life” You can all be gangsters, killers and Don Juans from your couch, this is the widely accepted truth; you don't even have to reinvent yourself or leave your comfort zone, directors and actors create any persona you would like to adopt for a little bit.

But, this is the complicated thing with The Departed: how does one chose sides? How and with whom could one identify in this film? I had a hard time liking any of the characters; Leo is sweet and vulnerable, only to become blatantly brutal when he loses his head. Matt is a rat. A super rat -but, nothing like the ones Holly Gollightly was talking about. Then Nicholson is a bad guy who enjoys the ride. He seems so immorally cool, though. And he delivers his lines as if he is ruling the world -like when he casually insults some Asian fellow criminals holding guns, for instance: "Here, in this country (US), you don't add inches to your dick" Then, there's Mark Wahlberg, brilliant and dedicated to fight the evil forces, but with such a bullying nature -well, I wouldn't like to identify with him either. We do have a female protective figure, Vera Farmiga, a lovely, witty in-house (that is the police headquarters) psychologist - counsellor with certain values and beliefs, who has figured out that "honesty is not synonymous to truth", but she is herself so lost in her efforts to construct her reality -just like her patients' reality- that she is not  exactly what you would call a strong, exemplary character.

What you learn here, is pretty substantial, in fact. One would expect such depth only from an auteur of Scorsese's calibre: you know that world isn't black or white, it has many intermediary shades, don't you? But such films, tend to present the characters in a pretty flat, caricaturistic way; this is not the case here, where Scorsese treats his characters as real humans. And what does being human mean? Not having the aura of an omnipotent super hero or uber villain who will have it always his way.

The Departed is full of frail people. They err, but they are terrified doing it, they are brave and strong one time and helpless cowards at least ten times that. Even the film title is problematic in a way; watching them strong men, holding guns and kicking each other's ass, you could never believe that they can ever end up to ashes. But, we all do, isn't it? Could they be the exception? Isn't this an inhuman movie, though; girls stay alive to weep for their beloved with whom they brutally parted.

What is also interesting to know, is that the American remake is based on the 2002 Hong Kong film Internal Affairs with Andy Lau. I guess some of you have seen it; I haven't, but I'd love to. Having said already too much, I'd like to add that lately I grew weary of writing on film, trying to describe its visual poignancy or the feelings it evokes. Some messages that the images get through, the everyday, blunt prose is unable to grasp. Just do me this favour and watch the film (even better on the big screen for those who can), cause whatever I wrote is seriously insufficient. Did I write it features a wonderful soundtrack, too?

AGENDA: The Departed (2006), 26/4/2012, 20.30, Cinematheque Luxembourg. More info

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