I just finished watching a movie you most probably haven’t heard of yet. It’s a French movie called ‘Un Prophète’ (A Prophet) and is nominated for Best Foreign Language at Oscars this year. The movie is about a guy in prison who rises from nobody to somebody by the time he completes his sentence. Needless to say, the movie is great or else I wouldn’t have dedicated a blog to its sake.
But the real reason behind my blogging here is the “prison” part of cinema and the question that why does it fascinates us so much. I mean to say, I seem to get a touch when I’m watching a jail-related movie be it ‘An Innocent Management’, ‘Lock Up’, ‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’, ‘Hunger’, ‘Papillon’, ‘American History X’, ‘The Counterfeiters’, ‘Dead Man Walking’ or ‘The Green Mile’.
In fact, my all-time favorite movie, “The Shawshank Redemption” is about prison-life, in and out. “Midnight Express” is one such movie that comes close to the very best of all. In Hindi movies, I found "3 Deewarein" (3 Walls)to be a perfect execution of a brilliant story that entangles three different personalities.
I believe the attraction to this kind of movies arises from the fact that we relate to the characters on the screen. We understand why they feel the angst of screeching their nails on the slammer wall. Somewhere in us, we see the rationality of not being there in a prison but at the same time also understand the volatility of reaching there if we get caught on the wrong side of law. After all, everyone wants to be free but when you are locked up, all you have is free time.
Prisons are wonderful. Wonderful, in a sense, it is just like our life. All we have to do is get accustomed to it. Just like in our life. We get accustomed to our mother’s love; get accustomed to schooling and education, followed by jobs we love or hate and then to societal obligations. All this happens exactly the same way in a prison too. The guy who gets used to it survives.
There are not a lot of directors out there who can handle the intricacies that comes with making a movie on cell life. Its very difficult to capture the essence of a prisoner in captivity where his body is interned but his mind is free to wander like Javier Bardem’s character does in “Before Night Falls” or to show the humor of escaping like in “Stalag 17”.
Coming back to ‘Un Prophète’, I want it to beat the German masterpiece ‘The White Ribbon’ which is the overwhelming favorite at the Oscars that will be announced on March 7, 2010.