..is that Anna Karenina?
Official Secrets is made by Gavin Hood whose movies I never watched and starring an actress that I vaguely knew in the back of my head. My need to guess who she was without relying on Google kept me occupied for the entire length of the movie. I considered a few names – Anna Karenina, Katherin Heigl, Princess Diaries Anna, Natalie Portman..while the actress on screen was silently owning all the frames she was in.
It is rare for me to be able to completely immerse myself in a movie. On some level I know that it is actors who are playing roles, I know the writing, editing, lighting, acting and staging choices that filmmakers make and I start trying to decode why a scene was made in the particular way it was. Making a film is laborious and research intensive process that takes months of pre-production meaning what happens on the screen most of the times is not an accident. A good movie for me now is one that manages to reasonably engage me in believing that it is not a movie and transports me into another time and place. A great movie on the other hand completely suspends reality and helps me project myself onto whoever and whatever I want to (in Fight Club I became the camera, while also being Tyler Durden, Marla Singer, Meat Loaf and the sex starving cancerous woman. All this sometimes in the same viewing).
In this respect Official Secrets is a good movie. The characters were not templates though they were cliched to a certain extent. One knew what was coming next but not exactly in the way it was coming. The lead up to the drama was engaging and the element that held everything together was the background score by Paul Hepker and Martin Kilian. The music is almost indiscernible because the dramatic and visual elements took the center stage but without the music the film would have had the film stripped of its reality.
Ralph Fiennes has made him the image of Voldemort for me and that means even a comic, drinking a beer on the beach scene with him has a foreboding sense of evil. He is an excellent to addition to a great cast including an ex-Spiderman supervillain, who plays the pre-villian role of himself from Spiderman. It works like your typical journalistic investigation movie with a handsome amount of your ideas of spies and humanitarian lawyers thrown in.
The film is a telling of what happened before the start of the Iraq war in 2003 and the smokescreen the American and British governments were establishing as a buildup for the war. It is a film that comes off as being right on a moral level but given the skeptical nature of truth in today's world it hard to take it seriously without doing some background reading for oneself. I particularly liked a scene where George W. Bush giving a pro-war speech in the TV is instantly cut to from the TV's point of view onto the protagonist's face as it reels in horror. The message here is, we believed the government's narrative while being angered by it at the same time.
I like the end credits in movies like this where they have slides with real world information, let us call them information credits. I also liked that they do a post information credits and pre-real-credits scene which was a dessert to all the grim proceedings in the film. As I left the kino I felt like a spy myself, heroic and alone. I walked out into the real world of desolate Berlin and as the first blast of cold wind hit me square on my face, the reality fell apart. There was no background score and as I walked around the corner, I vanished into a small stream of Friday evening people.
Oh and it is Keira Knightley as the patient end credits informed me. It also turns out she played Anna Karenina in what would be an unconscious twist to my random guessing.