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.

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  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Dev

    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..

  • Anand

    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) 🙂

  • 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.

  • Dot­tie

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

  • g

    //…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.


  • what about the her­by series ?
    i just loved them