I have already blogged about the book. I loved the book. Now I want to blog about the film. I loved the film too. I know this sounds like I am a homer. But I like Cactus Jack Wells a Winnipeg Blue Bomber football announcer always said, “this is a true and unbiased report.” This is like that. Biased in other words.
I admit it, I am proud that woman from Steinbach, who I know a little bit, wrote a novel that was the basis of a movie nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. As I would have said in my lawyerly days, “I am not in a conflict of interest.”
We also must remember that the film is not the book. It doesn’t have to be. It is an independent nation. But, of course, they are closely related. They are different interpretations of the same thing. This time I will just talk about the film.
The film is about oppression and what to do about it. If that is not a universal theme there are no universal themes. And it is a big and important theme. It is worth our attention. Not because it deals with Mennonites. That is irrelevant. It could have dealt with the Taliban. Or Roman Catholics. Or your place of employment. Or your home.
The film involves discussion among the Mennonite women in a South America where they have discovered that they have been sexually assaulted by the men of the colony. the men accomplish this by drugging the women so they don’t realized what was happening. After it is discovered the women must decided if they should leave the colony, stay and submit, or leave. Each choice involves terrible risks.
One of the women in the film says:
“Boys have learned from their father how to oppress.
And women have learned from their mother how to submit.
Both have learned well.”
There is another element I can’t resist talking about. The religious element. After all the central characters are Mennonites in a strict conservative Mennonite colony. As a result, here is a conversation between Ona and Scarface:
ONA Are we asking ourselves what our priority is? To protect our children or to enter the kingdom of heaven?
SCARFACE JANZ Does entering the kingdom of heaven mean nothing to any of you? After all we have suffered? ANNA Are you really willing to give up what we have always lived for?
ONA Surely there is something in this life worth living for, not only in the next.
That is an issue worth wrestling. Is it more important to save your child’s life than it is to save your immortal soul?
The women are told by the men of the colony that they are mistaken about their allegations of sexual abuse. The allegations are the product of the wild imaginations of women or of Satan. They can’t be true.
Later there is another interesting conversation (there are many):
SALOME … The only certainty we’ll know is uncertainty, no matter where we are.
ONA Other than the certainty of the power of love.
Yup, but is that enough to save the conundrum at the heart of the film?
Ona also asks an incredible question: “How would you feel if in your entire lifetime it had never mattered what you thought?” This is the ultimate question. The women want to think! And that is not permitted.
The women have been taught that they have a religious duty to always forgive. So they must forgive the men, they think, or risk going to hell. But as Agata said, “Perhaps forgiveness can, in some instances, be confused with permission…”
There is much worth talking about in this film. Watch and participate in the conversation. That’s what we all should do.
I am giving a true and unbiased report here. Therefore I say, this is the best film of the year and it will win the Academy Award for Best Picture because the academy will do the right think. But perhaps like the women in the film, I am just a dreamer. But sometimes a dream is all you get.