It seems like the season to talk about suffering and redemption, what with Good Friday just past and Easter Day arriving tomorrow. It just happens that we have watched two rented movies, on consecutive nights, whose theme is that same age-old human obsession.
The first, Come Early Morning, is the story of a Southern woman, Lucy, whose addiction to booze and sex threaten to ruin her life. Her emotionally unreachable father is a might-have-been guitarist whose performance anxieties prevented him from fulfilling his promise and who has fallen victim to his own addictions--to booze, also, and to religion. Lucy has taken to drinking too much at the local saloon and waking up in bed the following morning with strange men. The willful destruction of a possible relationship with the one nice guy who takes her seriously and treats her with respect, leads her finally to accept the fact that she will never be able to reach her father and she wakes up to the realization that no one will save her but herself. I enjoyed this film a lot. It's what they call, absurdly, a "small film," but it's very well done. Superb acting by Ashley Judd, and a great sound track of mostly country music. It manages all of the above without becoming maudlin or looking for simple answers to complex human problems.
The second film, which we missed in the theaters, was Blood Diamond. It's not a film for the squeamish, or for those who avoid any kind of violence on the screen. The dreadful scenes of civil war depicted in the movie are shown in unsparing detail, with brother fighting pitilessly against brother, and with boy-children trained to kill innocent villagers mercilessly with the assault rifles put into their hands. Manipulated at far remote by corporate European diamond traders, these desperate people slaughter each other in pursuit of a global commodity that most of them never even see.
The redemption myth centers on the post-colonial adventurer played (extraordinarily well) by Leonardo di Caprio, whose cynicism and greed drive his quest for freedom through the wealth to which diamonds offer a desperate, violence-strewn path. Partnering at gunpoint with an unwilling village fisherman whose family has been torn apart by war and who holds the secret to a spectacular fortune in the form of a diamond he has found and hidden in the African dirt, our hero survives endless conflict and betrayal for long enough to hold the diamond in his hand--and ends up with the realization that it was his reluctant African partner who was focused all along on the greater treasure: reuniting with the family he has lost, and redeeming the abducted son whose innocent soul had been hardened by the rebels who had taken him.
The stated lesson of the film: don't buy one of these luxury baubles unless you can be sure it's not a conflict diamond--a stone that has been mined at the cost of human families destroyed by warfare, and of human blood. From a broader view, I saw the diamond as a metaphor for all of the earth's dwindling resources, and the film as sounding the alarm for worse violence and bloodshed to come as those resources become more scarce with time, and men more desperate to cull them for their own. Like the character played by di Caprio, we are at serious risk of sacrificing our humanity to our greed.