Sunday, August 9, 2015

Empire of the Sun (USA, 1987)

Nine Things About the Film Empire of the Sun

1. This is perhaps the best representation of the loss of innocence ever put on screen.

2.  It's the story of a British boy named Jim (played by 13-year-old Christian Bale in his very first movie) caught between China and Japan during WWII, and how he goes from being privileged and sheltered to being... somebody else.

3. The movie is epic both externally and internally - huge scenes of wartime China juxtapose with huge shifts in Jim's psyche and emotional development.

4. In some ways, this movie can be seen as a modern, wartime interpretation of the story of Buddha.

5. The screenplay was written by the legendary Tom Stoppard, and the movie was directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg. I feel sorry for people that see Spielberg's name and think it's going to be like Jurassic Park or E.T.. This is not a regular Spielberg movie. The partnership between Stoppard and Spielberg results in a film that is densely packed with ideas, allusions, metaphors, and symbols. You can peel it almost endlessly, and find something else to ponder.

6. To really appreciate the context of the film, you have to know some basic history of World War II and Japanese culture.

7. At certain scenes of the film the dialogue drops to a minimum, or even disappears entirely. These scenes are not breaks from the story. They are the real story. The most important ideas in the film are impossible to explain verbally, but must be communicated visually (and musically). They have to move past your talky-brain and deeper into who you are. The "Cadillac of the Sky/bones in the runway" scene is one of my most favorite scenes in all of cinema.

8. The movie is about childhood, death, overthinking things, pragmatism, and the realization that you are not special. The world owes you nothing. You deal with that, or you die.

9. It's impossible to fully explain in words the multi-layered masterpiece of this movie. It's a visually astonishing, existentially profound examination of the beauty and terror of being alive. From a kid's perspective.