Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun; Drama, USA, 1987; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Nigel Havers, Miranda Richardson, Masato Ibu, Joe Pantoliano, Emily Richards, Ben Stiller

Shanghai, 1940s. Jim Graham is a young boy living with his British parents in an elite quarter of the town. But one day the Japanese army invades the town and in huge turmoil Jim is separated from his parents. He goes back to his house hoping they will return to him, but that doesn't happen. He meets Basie, an American scoundrel who takes care of him. They are both captures by the Japanese and brought to the Soochow Creek camp where they spend 3 years with other prisoners. As the Americans start winning the war, the Japanese bring prisoners outside and Jim escapes. He is found by a group of American soldiers and brought back to his parents.

In Spielberg's long list of films where he shows his obsession with the subject of World war II, the book adaptation "Empire of the Sun" stands out as one of his first adult and bitter achievements. Still, he didn't avoid transforming the story a little bit sugary at times (inappropriate angelic music in the midst of dark situations), with forced plot devices (would Jim really let go of the hand of his mother in the middle of the huge crowd, just to pick up his toy airplane, thus making him separate from her for years?) falling even sometimes into mannerism (the bizarre scene where Jim is thinking he can "bring everyone back to life", pumping the chest of his dead Japanese friend, all the while the light from the Sun is enlightening him behind his back). But despite mannerism, pathetic touch and pretentiousness, the movie still shows real power and talent of an inspired author, coping with such subjects as orphanage and identification with the enemy, in this case the Japanese, showing incredible sense for details and mise-en-scene. Christian Bale is absolutely stunning in the lead role and the emotions give the viewer opportunity to really care for the characters. "Empire of the Sun" shows a dark side of humanity, one where people in extreme situations forget all about civilisation and only think how to save their own skin, even not hesitating to steal shoes from dead people, an honest, unusual epic.


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