Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Film Review: Pearl Harbour

I seem to be stuck. On war films. Specifically Far East war films. A few days ago, I posted a review on the film Empire of the sun highlighting the specific lessons I had picked up from it.
It seems I cannot get myself out of the Far East.
This time, I shall discuss a lesson from Pearl Harbour.

Two young american men, Rafe and Danny are best friends since their boyhood. They both enrol in the Armed Forces when they get older and are transferred to Pearl Harbour. Rafe (who is undoubtedly the alpha of the two, perhaps because he is older (?)) meets a Navy nurse, Evelyn who he falls in love with. Before the two can establish their budding romance, Rafe volunteers to join the war effort in England. Whilst there, his plane gets shot down by the enemy and he plunges into the cold waters of the English channel and is presumed dead.
Danny has to break the bad news to Evelyn. She is clearly devastated. Many months pass and Danny begins to show signs of falling for her. Evelyn resists his efforts for a long time. Then one day, Danny takes her for a ride in his plane - an action which could have got him kicked out of the Air Force. On their return to the Airfield base, Danny narrowly misses being spotted. He and Evelyn have to hide in the terminal building. One thing leads to another and they become intimate for the first time.

Evelyn is still reluctant with Danny. He is clearly smitten with her and wants a relationship with her, but Evelyn is not really attracted to him. She tries to resist him but in the end he seems to be making headway with her.
Unfortunately for her, she soon discovers she is pregnant by Danny.
This, on the same day that Rafe shows up in town. Turns out he didn't die afterall. He was rescued by a french fisherman and being stuck in Occupied France, so he could not get word out that he was indeed alive.

Evelyn is happy to see him. But she is now torn between her true love, Rafe, and the father of her unborn child, Danny.
The two men unsurprisingly become enemies. But not for long. The events surrounding them collude to repair their relationship, and in the end, Rafe relinquishes Evelyn to Danny, in compliance with her wishes.
The two later volunteer on what turns out to be a suicide mission to Tokyo and Japanese-occupied China.  Danny loses his life, but not before Rafe reveals to him news of his impending fatherhood.

Rafe returns to Pearl Harbour with Danny's coffin, and is greeted by a heavily pregnant Evelyn yet again devastated by loss.

The film ends with a family scene of Rafe and Evelyn and  'little Danny'.

I was thinking the other day about 'honour'. Not the negative kind, like where some traditional families kill their daughter for refusing to marry a man of her father's choice and call it an 'honour' killing.

I am talking here about the distinctive masculine concept.

Honour is a deeply masculine virtue. At least, defending honour is.

It is why men can die for their country without a moment's hesitation. It is why a boxer will keep going until he is almost comatose, rather than quit.

Speaking of which, take a look at this scene from Pearl Harbour.

Two men are in a boxing match (starting at 03:39). The smaller guy looks like he may need a doctor soon. His friend and supporter says to him at 04:59: "He slept with your Mamma, remember? Be a son of a bitch!"
The smaller guy wins the match.

'Honour' to a woman is about protecting her own dignity, in general.
I don't know any woman who sees it as her duty to protect another's honour. If those same words that were directed at the boxer were directed to a woman, the only way it would affect her would be how those words reflected on her.

A good example, however of how this sense of honour can extend to 'other' rather than 'self', is Evelyn's decision to stick with Danny when she discovers she is pregnant by him, even though it is really Rafe she loves. In this case, she is being selfless. She does the 'honourable' thing, not for Danny per se, but for her unborn child. She never truly loved Danny. She was always going to be a reluctant bride for Danny. Which makes her decision all the more heroic.

The young guy in the boxing ring won because he was protecting his mother's honour. His friend knew he would react that way. That's why he said what he said.

Defending (a woman's) honour makes a man vulnerable.
To women, it should be a beautiful thing.

(Incidentally, although not the focus of this post, the young boxer arrives at Nurse Evelyn's hospital to have his cuts sewn up (05:35). She asks him how he acquired his wounds.
There follows a little lecture on what 'Respect' means to a man.
Her comment 'Well let's hope you never have to' demonstrates how much she misses the point of what he is trying to say to her. Like so many women do, including me).

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