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The Fever - Movie Review - The Capitalist World Through the Socialist Eyes

Category: , , By Manu
Ever since I saw a part of this film on HBO I've been wanting to see it completely and yesterday finally that happened. This relatively unknown HBO original movie "The Fever", adapted from actor/writer Wallace Shawn's play of the same name, is a look into the poor of the world, Communism, Marxism, Revolution, Capitalism, Socialism, and many more things. This movie is not every one's cup of tea, but for those who can watch a serious movie, endure a one and a half hour monologue(not at all boring), are in for the treat of their life and may well see life in a totally different way after seeing this movie. You either hate this movie or love it.

Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave stars in this HBO Films adaptation of writer/actor Wallace Shawn's deeply personal stage play about the high cost of enlightenment, and the ever-widening gap between those who have and those who have not. Redgrave plays a nameless woman from a privileged world, suffering from a sense of disconnection from her comfortable life, who travels to a country (also nameless) in the throes of civil war. Suddenly deliriously ill, she collapses in a hotel bathroom, and, confronts an internal chorus of conflicting voices: dreams of comfort from her past, images of physical and economic violence, accusations of indifference, and cold-blooded arguments in favor of oppression. The central question: what, if anything, is a morally consistent way to live in the world as it is? Directed by Carlo Nero and featuring Angelina Jolie, Michael Moore, and Rade Serbedzija.

Some say the global population is divided into the haves and the have-nots. Wallace Shawn seems to think so, since one of his recurring themes -- possibly his most insistent -- is the guilt of the haves. In the movie Vanessa Redgraves plays a character who becomes aware that there are people in the world that work just as hard as she had in her lifetime who have less. Far less. The movie is predominantly her monologue and her inner ramblings which provide food for thought. In a foreign country and in the midst of a fever, she examines her upbringing, her circumstances, and her shock that not everyone who works hard attains prosperity.

Capitalism preaches happiness through material purchases. Commodities such as fancy clothes that accentuate one's shallow character, edible underwear, ballet performances, superficial theater performances that exaggerate the life styles of the rich and the wannabe rich flock the markets for those who are made to think their salvation lies in buying more and more. But how many stop to think the background of the "Goods", the commodities? A simple inquiry into what materials mean to us, what ties us to the rest of humanity, the relationships created by the market system will also reveal what kind of people we are made to be.

In the movie Redgraves gets a copy of "Das Capital" by Karl Marx and she admits that most of it goes right past her head but the part about the workers affected her deeply. The capital doesn't care about the workers. It just want to extract the maximum from all the workers not caring about how the workers live or how they survive. We never pause to think of the workers behind all those "Goods" we consume, how they live, how they are exploited. By doing so we are also part of the vastly unjust system of the world in which we thrive on the poor. We are enjoying advantages at the expense of the poor. The movie asks what right does we have to enjoy such privileges. The first answer that comes to many may be cause they work hard. The movie also opens our eyes to the naked truth that the poor people work as hard as or even harder than us but still receive much less than we do. Why is our work more valuable than their work? Why does we get paid enough to spend on unwanted luxuries doing less work when the poor work harder than us and still get not enough to survive every day.

The movie has a piece of animated sequence that shows us how our ancestors oppressed the poor, deprived them of their opportunity to prosper by violent methods and presented those to us right from the moment we were born. This is true in so many levels. The rich has always been oppressing the poor, though its is much less apparent nowadays. The Capitalist has taken over the world and is wrecking havoc among all the nations that it has a hold on by making the rich-poor divide even larger. The money is getting concentrated on a few rich rendering the poor more poor. In any country there may be a few people who earn a thousand times more than hardworking poor people, doing nothing. This is fundamentally unjust and it pains to acknowledge that every one of us is part of that oppression knowingly or unknowingly.

There is a scene with Micheal Moore and the conversation about the delicious ice cream. It is such a powerful scene. After starting to see the Capitalist world from a newly found Socialist eye, Redgraves goes to a country a friend of hers describes as a beautiful country with lovable people. That unnamed country has undergone a recent revolution and the capitalist oppressors were thrown out of power. The people there are happy, if not rich. The particular conversation I'm talking about is one that deals with the dilemma faced by the government over the distribution of milk. On one hand they can give the milk to the children who needs it, and on the other hand it can be given to the tourists and thus make a better impression about the country and thereby better world relations. How will a government decide a trade off between these two?

Redgraves then travels to the neighboring country where revolution is still in its rudimentary stages on the suggestion from Micheal Moore. The stark contrast between the two countries are shown clearly. In the first country Redgraves was greeted with garlands while in the second country she is greeted with Kalashnikovs and beggars. While the people in the first country were happy, in the second country the people were bitter, oppressed and on the verge on armed revolution. There she meets Angelina Jolie a young revolutionary whose sister was raped and killed by the soldiers. Redgraves learns of the oppression the people are facing from the military government from Angelina Jolie.

She tries to return of her old life and forget about all these things but she is unable to do so and eventually she returns to that poor oppressed country once more and that is where in the midst of a fever she has the revelation and decides to dissect her personality. Redgraves is torn between becoming a true honest, respectable human being or accepting the capitalist animal side that will benefit from the grand theft rampant in a market system. All she has to do is either submit to her system created personality, close her eyes to the truth and eat, drink be happy in the face of global looting and rape – the easy choice-, or face torture, misery and even death, just like millions of others are going through every day who have the courage to stand up and resist to the unjust, criminal and illegitimate capitalist system. This dilemma of relationships between two sides of her personality, the truth and the lies of our market driven system is portrayed perfectly in this film.

My Verdict- This is a purely intellectual movie, and can be enjoyed only if you believe in some ideals, or are willing to be introduced to them. May it be Capitalism, or Socialism, both can enjoy the movie from opposite ends of the spectrum- Socialists being on the favorable side. Watch the movie only if you are prepared to question the way of life you have been so accustomed to. Watch the movie is you have something more than sympathy towards the poor. This is not a movie for an average movie goer expecting entertainment, instead watch it as food for thought-cause I promise you, once you watch the movie you will definitely think about it for quite sometime(be it favoring the views expressed or rebuking it). This is a must watch movie for anyone who is concerned with anything other than his/her own little life. An eye opener to a whole new spectrum of thoughts.

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