Tuesday, 6 December 2011
OK so anyone reading this who might be considering a career in politics, take my advice: Change your mind. Or for the more stubborn among you, go and see The Ides of March (2011) and then change your mind.
Now I know the focus here is America, so it is tempting for us to feel safe and warm and away from it all and of course I know nothing, I'm not in the least politically minded - which is probably the best reason to take my advice. But here's another which comes a close second: political films never date. They don't. Ever. Take a look at Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939) for example. Therein lies a display of political slight of hand as frightening and relevant in our day as in it's own. Which is surely Cinema's way of telling us something at a thousand decibels and with the clarity of crystal. Politics and politicians (worryingly) never change. Well they do right about the point when they realise they have to compromise their varying degrees of loyalty to the people in order to gain power. (Hmmmm...I wander if Clegg or Cameron has seen it) But after that they never change.
Cinematically speaking, the two go about scaring us out of our wits regarding the political system in slightly different ways. Obviously I'm not referencing the very different eras in which they were made. They're much more interesting and far reaching than that. Whilst Ides turns out to be Shakespearean in its themes of backstabbing and intrigue, deception and usurpation; The narrative of it's predecessor Mr Smith is nothing short of Biblical in proportion. While the terror in George Clooney's world lies in it's stiffling claustrophobia, in Frank Capra's it resides in it's sheer depth and vastness. Our hero James Stewart must play David to the Senate's Goliath and stand as a lone flower of truth in a medow of deceit. As I'm sure you can imagine this isn't much fun. So whilst it is America under the unforgiving magnifying glass of 35mm it doesn't take a genuis political or otherwise to realise how broad the implications are.
Therefore anybody who would like to enter the mind and body of a politician should do so with bated breath. You might discover that you are the four year old who plucks up the courage to look into the dust and darkness under the bed. If this genre of film is to be believed, you won't like what you find.
Courage the Jimmy Stewart Way in Mr Smith