Monday, November 20, 2006

"Alive" (1993)

magnificent moving mountain movie
Still recovering from last night's film, Alive, the true survival saga of a rugby team from Uruguay, whose plane crashed in the Andes mountains. Only 16 survived. After more than 2 months cooped up freezing and starving, 2 men set out across the treacherous snowy ranges - in makeshift mountaineering gear - to seek help. Miraculously, they succeeded!

Despite an avalanche of ads, I was completely riveted by this harrowing, yet heroic tale which has always gripped me with morbid fascination, even as a boy. It evokes so many nightmarish elements: a plane crash; being lost in deadly wilderness with no hope of rescue; forced cannibalism; the sapping of will to live as survivors slowly succumb to an icey death. Grisly despair aside, it's a profound story of hope: abandoned hope; hope in God and fellow humans; and ultimately the triumph of hope and superhuman effort, victorious against insurmountable odds.

Today's film-making, heavily
influenced by MTV's editing and camera tricks, produces images that whizz by at breakneck speed, emotional effects achieved through dazzling fancy photography. Almost absent are long still shots (apart from picturesque scenery) from 'old' films: long lingering shots that force our contemplation. In Alive, we reluctantly endure prolonged close-ups of cramped dispirited figures: viewers themselves feel trapped and helpless. We recoil from the unbearable claustrophobia, discomfort and desolation.

Most movies treat nature as a lush, sumptuous backdrop. Gorgeous pristine mountaintops, crisp alpine air, a snow-bunny's paradise. There's no such sentimentalisation in Alive, where nature is hostile, unforgiving, unrelenting and lethal. Interminable danger and doom only recede at the film's glowing finale, where faith and hope are finally vindicated. It is, imo, a deeply spiritual story. (My nephew tells me) in real life, the Catholic survivors sought absolution from the Vatican for their 'abomination' of cannibalism. One can but pray for their forgiveness. The beautiful strains of Ave Maria as the credits rolled over soaring mountain peaks, was especially poignant. As if finally, prayers answered, we at last feel the grace of Mother Mary and God's mercy.


R.I.P. The 29 souls who perished.

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