Nowadays, gory scenes that depicted a battle or a human tragedy in Hollywood have become as trendy as the obnoxious white wires sticking out of ipod user’s ears on a San Francisco bus. Started with Saving Private Ryan, directors competing to win the most realistic and most horrifying visual affect of physical human beings being destroyed.
We were literarily in disbelief when we saw a movie that didn’t show any blood gushing scenes that froze audiences cold in their seats, teeth chattering. Especially in a movie that seemed to have all the permission to use it, Hotel Rwanda.
Judging by New York Times review, there are certainly audiences who demanded to see such scenes. I, am not one of them. Neither, it seemed, are my friends who saw it with me. We were all grateful of their absence.
Sometimes, trusting an audiences imagination is respect.
The absence of cruelty in visual elements didn’t diminish the movie’s powerful emotional message in any way. We were still left frozen cold in our seats, teeth chattering, tears pouring, ashamed of what had happened in Rwanda, ashamed of the rest of the world’s inaction, indifference, and cowardice.
It reminded me of The Pianist, because it presented the same drastic contrast of the most beautiful of human being side by side with the most cruel and senseless of the same species. The blinding contrast blew me away. Left me stunned with incomprehension and sadness. Instead of Chopin’s immensely pretty piano concerto resounding above the ruins of Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, we saw the beautiful Tutsi girls dancing their traditional dance in the middle of the massacre. Their heads roll in that lovely curves, the radiant smiles on their face as if shone from the sky like sunlight, so lyrical and so full of joy amidst of all the chaos happening around them. The only thing separate that joy and the savage death occurring a few yards outside the hotel wall was one man’s courage and wit. At that moment, I felt the same way as when I was watching the Pianist. I wanted to will that beauty away, diminish it, hoping it is not so stunningly pure and happy. Because in the back of my mind, I wondered that if human beings is not capable of producing such beauty, maybe they wouldn’t be able to produce such cruelty either.
We often used the word “savage” or “animal-like” to describe human cruelty. But I haven’t heard one kind of animal out there would not stop once their enemy admitted defeat and left their sight. What animals out there would go for genocide, over and over again? What animals have such crazed appetite for blood and destruction, except us humans?
I also liked the fact that the script showed how Paul didn’t start out as a saint and savior. At the beginning, all he wanted was to save his own family. No more, no less. But the environment, and all the events led up to the final rescue forced him into his position. Somehow that reminded me of Johe Irving’s Owen Meany, where the talk of “being God’s instrument” played an dominate role. I was also grateful the director left God out of these. Hotel Rwanda remained a movie about humans. Human behavior, human characters, and human psychology. In the middle of the ever more darkened landscape, the characters remained ordinarily human. That alone seemed extraordinary.
I remember when I first saw Schindler’s List some twelve years ago, I said everyone should see that movie once in his/her lifetime. I would say the same for Hotel Rwanda.