Friday, 10 January 2014

The Railway Man

What a way to kick off my commitment to visit the cinema once a month this year with my delightful Mr Doris by going to an afternoon showing of a film on the very day of its release in the UK! I am not sure I have ever seen a film on its first day and am doubly delighted to find that by going to the afternoon showing it cost £6 per person rather than the £9 price tag of a cinema seat.

We have never been to this particular cinema which is an independent not too far away, with a very pleasant cafe although the coffee was a bit acrid. I had a bit of a sniffly nose that needed relieving (this is going to be relevant) and my darling went over to the stand and fetched me more than a few soft black napkins. I only needed one, then I used two more to dry my hands in the bathroom leaving me one that became very vital.

The screen size was more than decent as some cinemas have screens that feel like a slightly larger TV screen! We had a great view with no heads in front to interrupt our viewing pleasure.

The word "pleasure" is not one to associate with The Railway Man inasmuch as the storyline is based on a true story and deals with the really difficult subject of war and torture; its aftermath and latterly revenge, apologies and conciliation. I find gratuitous violence appalling and have walked away from a movie in the past rather than watch it but in this case the violence was relevant. It was brutal and I cried a lot during this movie. Interestingly I felt it was OK and not in the least bit sissy to be affected because this was about real events and viewers are meant to be affected.

In watching the film the only thing that really bugged me was how the central characters Eric Lomax played by Colin Firth, and the torturer Takashi Nagase looked only in their forties in the early 1980s when in my mind they would have been about 20 in 1942 and therefore should be at least in their 60s. Apart from that I wondered, like any film based on a real life story, how it was romanticised and in watching it I wondered what was true and what wasn't. Afterwards a bit of a read online reveals that Eric himself left his first wife and family out of his own autobiography! There is a very interesting article in the Guardian "The Railway Man's forgotten family: 'We were victims of torture too'" which brings me to the subject of the after effects of war not just directly on those involved but on descendants long after the event. This is not to compare or negate those war time experiences but equally the effects on descendants should not be dismissed either. I wrote a little on Remembrance which then links to another item I also wrote.

Our family lived in Singapore in 1966 which was just 24 years after the Japanese took over. I had never realised that nor the significance of Changi. I have just looked up our address and it was less than 25 minutes drive from Changi prison, but then again Singapore is a small island and everywhere is only a short distance. The war events in the film mainly take place in Thailand. Which leads me to another point in the film - the locations. The film starts off in the North West of England on trains of the early 1980s. I remember those old slam door carriages which all looked about right but I am not sure that they actually used Crewe Station as I have known that station for at least 20 years. As the train travelled along I am also not sure I felt that was actually England being shown or at least it was a not very good painting of a backdrop. There were scenes in Thailand with the mountains in the background and they too did not look real. I hate to be nit picky but some things are simple to get right.

Coming back to the film there is a point near the end when there is an apology. My tears flowed for the storyline and also for myself. For those events in my life where I have had an apology and been able to move on and those events where an apology never happened and can now never be. It just goes to show how far acknowledgement and apology can go in this world. A lesson we should all hold close.

Thank goodness for the extra long and sedate credits which enabled more than a few of us to compose ourselves and look a little less distressed. I am not sure what the next lot of cinema goers thought of us filing out all sombre.

I am glad I saw this film although it was incredibly upsetting.

1 comment:

Jay said...

I hate it when films don't take care with settings and details. One of my favourite movies, set in England, has one scene with a bird call which sounded nothing like a native bird to me. I found later that the movie was shot in Eastern Europe. They had built a wonderfully convincing London set, but forgotten the wildlife!

You are absolutely right about apologies and forgiveness, and about not being able to move forward without those things. There are things I wish I'd been able to talk to my mother about, but never did.