A to Z of Films Meme (H)

‘H’ can lead us to heaven or hell. The films in this post show us that it is we, not our situation, that decides.


Hell In The Pacific

HellInThePacificA cast of two. Yes, only two. A virtually silent film with very little dialogue. One speaks only English, the other only Japanese. No subtitles. Only one location, an island. A battle for survival, enemies outwitting each other, only to realize that no man is an island.

These can be a film makers worst nightmare, but John Boorman delivers a dramatic masterpiece. This is a film consistently rated higher by the very few viewers who do see it, than all the established film critics out there.

Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune are an American pilot and a Japanese soldier stranded on a remote island during WWII. Despite the oft-used island concept, the film is unique in several ways. Unlike Castaway, there are no plot backgrounders or supporting cast to add a semblance of a normal film. Second and perhaps more importantly, a Japanese viewer will not understand Lee Marvin, while we will not understand Toshiro Mifune. This leads to a Rashomon-esque situation!

There is very little dialogue, hence the director has to make the camera speak and engage us all the time. The two actors have nobody else to support them, and since their language is understood neither by the other character, nor by the viewers, they have to deliver a performance that speaks a universal language. Both Marvin and Mifune, as aggressive males, handle this challenge extremely well, with facial gestures and body language that speak volumes.

This is the only American film that has cast the great Mifune such that his acting strengths are utilized at least to some extent. Amazing cinematography with a widescreen landscape of a tropical island that should appear as hell and not paradise. The soundtrack progresses from abrupt, sudden noises to baroque organ to classical over the length of the film. The DVD provides the original ending Boorman intended, which was changed in the film’s release due to studio interference.

This is not a film for everyone. If silent films, culture clashes, non-verbal communication, man vs. nature, human relationships among enemies during war, are your cup of tea, this is a masterpiece you cannot afford to miss.

Runner UpHotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda

An ‘important film about the genocide in Rwanda’ means a certain box-office death for any film. But just like Schindler’s List is not about the Holocaust, but about a man who had the courage to save many lives amidst it, Hotel Rwanda is not about the genocide in Rwanda, but about a man like Oskar Schindler.

Don Cheadle plays Paul, an ordinary hotel manager, who is caught in an unenviable position in the carnage. How does one maintain one’s sanity and morality when everything around you turns into chaos and horror? The film sensitively portrays this at the individual level, and that is its greatness. It is brutal only when required, it is more often inspiring and touching on a deep emotional level.

Noteworthy Mentions

Howard’s End, Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel, often cited as their best, loved even by those who dislike Merchant-Ivory films.

Heat, a character study set within the crime genre, with Pacino and De Niro playing the cop and robber.

Holi, an off-beat film on campus unrest by Ketan Mehta, that is largely impromptu, unrehearsed and improvised. It was Aamir Khan’s first film, also starring Ashutosh Gowariker, shot at Fergusson College, Pune. I don’t know how, but it also has a New York Times review!

Hip Hip Hurray, the original Chak De India. I saw it as a school-going kid, loved it for its management and leadership lessons.

Hatari, good, clean, family entertainment and fun.


23 thoughts on “A to Z of Films Meme (H)

  1. Never heard of Hell in the Pacific. Just finished (well sort of) reading Tales of South Pacific by James A Michener, and now I definitely want to check this out.

    Thanks for the review.


  2. I have been meaning to write Hotel Rwanda review for long. Its like my favorite movie after I watched it last month. Nothing I have watched stands in comparison, I haven’t watched the first one you wrote here.

  3. I suspect if anyone would’ve heard of it. Hmm…if your fiction drives you to watching movies I recommend, that’s another plus for it! 🙂

  4. See? There are some things you can’t capture in Twitter, but only on your blog! 😉

    Do write your review, please. Would love it.

  5. Thanks again for introducing me to some films I should watch..Hell in the pacific looks like my kind of film.. cross cultural management is my area of interest and infact the first script I wrote had a similar theme..still working on my first project which most likely will be on similar lines too..
    Hotel Rwanda is very good film too..I have always loved such stories with ultimate conflict..the reason why Bridge on River Kwai cut my list..
    I have seen Hip Hip Hurray..I guess it was written by Gulzar and I always wondered why nobody knows about it..it was quite interesting..

  6. Oh boy. H must have been tough or in a way easy – haha.

    The only ones I have seen from above are Hotel Rwanda and Heat.

    Can’t say this for sure, but it’s possible that I saw Hatari when I was a kid. However, that reminded me of what I missed calling out in the (G) post – The Gods Must Be Crazy (original and 2) 🙂

  7. Wow. I’d surely like to know more about your projects.

    Hip Hip Hurray – yes, scripted by Gulzar, directed by Prakash Jha, starring the beautiful Deepti Naval! 🙂 It sure feels nice to meet people who’ve seen the apparently rare films you’ve seen!

  8. Yes, w.r.t. selection, it was much easier, especially after ‘G’! 🙂

    Hatari was a popular video-rental film among middle-class Maharashtrian families since the whole family enjoyed it together.

    Gods Must Be Crazy – gem of a movie. A popular video rental for time-pass, it is now in my collection. I haven’t seen Part II though!

  9. Michener’s book is a nice slice of life of world war 2. He had served in the forces, and was posted in that area, and the book is less of fiction than most fiction is even. It’s based on anecdotes, legends, and so on, fictionalized. That makes it quite intimate, and yet, it’s unlike most war stories you’ll come across.

  10. Mahendra

    I haven’t see even one of these films. 🙂

    I have however had a long conversation with a chap who was on my Master’s programme (the year after me) who was a UN employee in Rwanda in the past. He told me some interesting first-hand stories of how the genocide started right outside where he used to work. What emerged is that human resilience did continue to serve some people, possibly even the man Don Cheadle portrays so they could continue to act rationally and meaningfully.

    PS: Did someone mention Gods Must Be Crazy? I watched it in 1991. I still laugh just thinking of it.

  11. Hmm…what can I say. I wish I read it too. I’m amazed how much you manage to read asuph!

    Let me know if you’re able to get hold of ‘Hell In The Pacific’. If not, let me know too. 🙂

  12. Yes, H seems to be a off-beat letter. Even Dev, the originator of this meme for all of us, did not list a single movie for H, if I remember correctly!

    Talking to an actual person who was witness to the situation in Rwanda is extremely interesting! Has he seen this film? What you say about human resilience is exactly the focus of the film. It was initially criticized by some for not covering the genocide from a bird’s eye view, but the power of the film lies in that it does not do so. It is really a fascinating thing to discuss, share, and learn from – how does one act rationally and meaningfully – as you put it – amidst this meaningless horror?

    (see response regarding Gods Must Be Crazy to Anand; can’t write or think about it while writing about Hotel Rwanda)

  13. Mahendra

    Slice-of-life is my favourite genre of film. I know amongst professional buffs, it is not even a category. But all films I like and mention – Endgame, Starter for Ten, Être et avoir etc – are essentially not about a big picture or a complete, neatly tied up story. There is really no happily-ever-after in real life, so why do we expect films to have it?

    Slice-of-life is what Hotel Rwanda’s approach is too. To a person, one death is not a statistic, it could be a personal loss. For the person, the mundane life chugs along, when the cameras stop rolling. Such films are more life-affirming that escapist fare focused on completion or closure.

    It is not as if I do not watch other kinds of films. My H choices after all are Hero and High Fidelity!

  14. I have seen Hotel Rawanda. Right after Blood diamond. Very gripping. HAven’t seen the other mentions.

  15. Paul Rusesabagina made an appearance at the Seattle Town Hall in 2005. Unfortunately I was traveling and so missed it 😦

    BTW people who were moved by this movie would also be moved by:

    1. Movie called Shooting Dogs (in USA the title is ‘Beyond the Gates’). It’s also based on the genocide in Rwanda.
    2. A book called ‘A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier’. It’s about and by a 12 year old child soldier in Sierra Leone and his rehabilitation.

  16. Shefaly,

    One more recommendation for you to add to your growing list – “Killer of Sheep”.

  17. At first, I thought “Slice of Life” is a film you’re talking about! 🙂

    I do not have any favorite genre of films, though my collection and viewing stats reflect that I tend to prefer drama. But you won’t find escapist fare among my choices, so I think I understand your liking. Yes, such films are indeed more life-affirming, since their effect lasts longer than the escapist fare.

  18. Hmm…he seems to be using his new star-power to good purposes. Note his comment that some parts of the film were less bloody than in real life.

  19. //…Hotel Rwanda is not about the genocide in Rwanda, but about a man like Oskar Schindler.//

    Nicely put, and I agree. I’m surprised you put Hip Hip Hurray! It’s one of my favorites, seriously! 🙂

    Haven’t seen/heard of any of the rest.

    Mine: (The) Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    One on my list is To Have and Have Not, but I haven’t seen it yet. Supposedly good.


  20. Me surprised too. I’d liked Hip Hip Hurray but hardly met anyone who’d ever seen it!

    Hunchback of Notre Dame: don’t remember having seen it, and Have Not seen To Have and Have Not. Thanks!

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