Hope and Despair

It was a cloudy day in Berlin with a mild drizzle in the morning. The German film Jack by Edward Berger warmed our spirits and raised our hopes.

The film shot in Berlin methodically avoids all city landmarks, keeping the locations to unspecified streets, forests and highways. It could be any European city. The film is about Jack, a 10-year-old boy who takes charge of his younger brother. The younger sibling gets scalded in a freak bath tub accident and Jack is blamed for this. He is sent to a children’s home. Jack is terribly home sick and misses his brother.

Jack, in a fiery mood, attacks a children’s home bully who throws his borrowed binoculars in a pond. He runs away, thinking the bully is dead. He tries to reach his mother, but the telephone is on voice mail. He travels all the way to reach home, but the house is locked and the mother has not left the keys in the usual hideout. He picks up his brother from where his mother has left him and roams the streets, stealing food, stealing binoculars for replacing the lost one, sleeping in an abandoned car till one day their mother is back home. But she is unrepentant and Jack, in a firm decision, moves to the Children’s home with his brother.

The whole film is from Jack’s perspective. When the selfish mother is busy with herself, Jack assumes his responsibility. We see Jack most of the times walking or running. He walks with all his might and power, a show of determination. Jack is his own person and can fend for himself and his brother. Practically, by reaching the Children’s home with his brother, he walks into the future in a positive way. The child actor Ivo Pietzcker with his powerful performance as Jack carries the whole film.

French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb’s three films (Dust of Life, Days of Glory and Outside of the Law) were nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His London River won critical acclaim. This time, Rachid has moved to Hollywood with his Two Men in Town, an adaptation of the 1973 French film Deux Hommes dans la Ville. Forest Whitaker plays the role essayed by Alain Delon in the French film, the role of a prisoner on parole who is harassed by the sheriff and his men on the one side and his criminal companions on the other side to break the rules of parole. The parole officer, played by Brenda Blethyn (London River) is his only support.

The film, like a western, sweeps the New Mexico barren landscape in long shots. The location reflects the sombre, hopeless mood of the film. Will the society not allow a reformed prisoner to revert to his normal, respectful life?

The film is marked by fine performances by veterans Brenda and Forest Whitaker.

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