The Old Man Who Read LoveStoriesRolf de Heer (2001)
The story The film is set in post-colonial South America, in a village on the banks of a tributary of the Amazon – El Idilio After living in the jungle for many years, Antonio Bolivar returns to the village. He learns to read and is given books by Josefina. A poacher hunts and kills jaguar cubs, and the jaguar seeks revenge on man. Antonio is convinced he must kill the jaguar. He goes out into the jungle, hunts the jaguar and kills it.
Key Characters Antonio Bolivar („old man‟) Rubicondo (the dentist) Josefina Louis Agalla (the mayor) („slimy toad‟) Nushino
Antonio Bolivar (Richard Dreyfuss) First came to South America as a Spanish colonist Brought his wife, Delores. She died of a fever after only 2 years in the jungle. After being poisoned by a snakebite in the jungle, he is rescued by the Shuar people. He lives with them for forty years. He is learning to read through love stories
Antonio Bolivar - characterisation His hut straddles the divide between the village and the jungle. ◦ He is the bridge between civilisation and savagery He is referred to as „old man‟ – he is respected for the length of time he has managed to survive in the jungle He wears light coloured clothes and no shoes – representing his harmony with the jungle
Antonio Bolivar - characterisation De Heer shows that he is patient, cool, considered. ◦ He reflects on his reading – trying to seek the meaning ◦ He is patient when speaking to the mayor about the death of the prospector Solinas - he doesn‟t get angry with his ignorance ◦ His memories help us to unlock his search for redemption. Characters
Rubicondo (Hugo Weaving) Is the travelling dentist – he journeys throughout the area to each settlement to provide the settlers with dental care He is a shameless womaniser He becomes stuck in El Idilio for the rainy season after being caught having sex with another man‟s wife Shamelessly critiques the establishment – eg. „those bloodsuckers from the government‟
Rubicondo - Characterisation Chair is set up on the pier – emphases his nomadic life – he doesn‟t have „rooms‟ to see his patients At Antonio‟s hut, he is shot leaning in through the open window – he is Antonio‟s connection to a wider world Dresses in pastels – emphasising the vibrancy of his character as a flamboyant ladies‟ man. Characters
Josefina (Cathy Tyson) Josefina is the Mayor‟s domestic servant She is willing to sell sex for money She gives Antonio the love stories after Rubicondo convinces him that he shouldn‟t read the bible She leaves the service of the Mayor to live with Antonio in his hut
Josefina - characterisation Her hair is worn tied back, however, you can see that if it were loose it would be wild and frizzy. This represents her personality – being held back, restrained. Wears long skirts, tops – not necessarily revealing – you don‟t see her as „easy‟ Often shot to the left of the frame or in close-up – it is through her that Characters
The Mayor (Timothy Spall) Also referred to as „His Excellency‟ and „slimy toad‟ Is the mayor of El Idilio Corrupt – as shown during the election Believes himself to be better than the others because he is educated Is overbearing and disrespectful to the people in the town Physically abuses his wife
Mayor - characterisation Dress is untidy, he is always sweaty and his shirt is open. Unshaven. ◦ Relaxed about his appearance and appears „wild‟ ◦ Although he claims to be civilised, in a city his appearance would be considered poor Use of boots to show that he is not attempting to embrace his environment, rather wants to control it. Characters
Nushino Is the leader of the Shuar people Teaches Antonio how to live in the jungle as „the Gods have accepted you, Antonio Bolivar‟. Acts as Antonio‟s guide – and conscience Used in flashbacks to tell the story of Antonio‟s life in the jungle The shooting of the gringo that shot him leads to Antonio‟s quest for
Nushino - characterisation Walks upright through the jungle – implies he is noble, upstanding, knows his place in his environment Often shot in close up – emphasising his significance in Antonio‟s life. Eyes wide open, often staring – he can see the „truth‟ of the world Dress for all Shuar is the same, including haircuts – emphasising the unity of their tribe. Their loincloths are clean and bright red – they are at one with the jungle. Characters
Setting The film is set in South America, in the jungle Settlement at El Idilio appears shabby and rundown – in contrast to the lush expanses in the jungle ◦ The jungle appears to be „rotting‟ the village so that the settlement will disappear and it can take over The land around Antonio‟s hut is not cleared – the jungle hugs his home – his building appears to fit within the
The Jungle The jungle is used not just as a setting but as a lens through which we can view the film The jungle represents the wild, untamed side of nature. This links clearly with the Jaguar. The Shuar appear to fit well within the jungle – they are able to survive and heal Antonio from snakebite without needing modern medical technology
The Jungle In contrast to the Shuar, the white settlers and their town do not „fit‟ with the land ◦ They cut away branches with machetes rather than moving them aside ◦ They carry guns to hunt the jaguar rather than using the natural weapons the jungle could provide ◦ Whilst walking through the Jungle, the displacement of the white settlers is well represented through the actions of the mayor
The Jaguar The film uses magic realism to humanise or „anthropomorphise‟ the jaguar ◦ she longs for her babies ◦ She gets Antonio to put her mate out of its misery and cries out in pain at its death ◦ She seeks revenge on the „gringo‟ who murdered her babies – „grief-crazed‟ The Jaguar is the champion of the environment, fighting against the poachers and prospectors who are destroying the beauty of the jungle
Central Themes Barbarity of man Fear and Courage Love and Beauty Guilt and Redemption
Barbarity of man Although set in the „civilised‟ village of El Idilio, the film highlights the inherently barbarous nature of men. Antonio states that he reads to “escape the barbarity of man” De Heer questions what makes one civilised? ◦ Is it because people can build and erect cities? ◦ Is it because they are educated?
Barbarity of man Connects to the setting – the nature of the jungle in contrast to the village ◦ South American settlement in the Amazon – de Heer explores the nature of settlement and colonialism All characters in the film have the potential to be barbaric – even the Shuar kill the sloth – however, it is their quest to move beyond this that sets some characters apart.
Fear and Courage Courage is required to defeat the Jaguar The Shuar value courage and shrink heads in order to gain it from their adversaries Guns and other unnatural weaponry are seen as representative of fear – they do not require the adversaries to meet on equal terms The mayor represents the fear that white men have fallen into – he is afraid even of the dark and fires randomly into the night, spoiling the hunt
Fear and Courage Antonio must step out from behind the gun in order to regain his courage and thus atone for his failures towards Nushino When hunting the jaguar, Antonio lies waiting on the jungle floor for her, and ultimately kills her with the blowpipe – it is this act that requires true courage.
Love and Beauty The jungle is used to signify the natural beauty of the environment, it appears lush and vibrant Antonio‟s previous relationships have been hollow – his marriage with Delores was one of obligation and his interactions with the Shuar woman are without passion as they don‟t kiss
Love and Beauty Beauty is ultimately seen as accepting and embracing what things are ◦ After this, love will follow Shown through Josefina – her beauty is wild, untamed. Antonio does not seek to control it and is therefore rewarded with her love. Antonio remarks that the words in the love stories are beautiful – it is this quest to find beauty in the mundane that sets him apart.
Guilt and Redemption Antonio‟s guilt for failing Nushino is central to his choice to hunt the jaguar ◦ He feels that he must redeem himself for failing to „capture the courage‟ of the gringo who killed Nushino This guilt sets Antonio apart from other characters and suggests that, morally, he lives outside of the societies he inhabits ◦ Rubicondo shows no guilt after being caught with a married woman
Guilt and Redemption ◦ The mayor shows no remorse after falsely accusing the Shuar of murder after they bring him the body of the Jaguar‟s first victim ◦ The mayor also apparently feels no remorse for his ill-treatment of the women in his life, including abusing his wife ◦ The townspeople laugh shamelessly at others‟ misfortune and are gleeful when someone must have their teeth pulled by Rubicondo.
Structure The film begins and ends with Josefina reading ◦ Initially, she is narrating Antonio‟s story but exists outside of it – she is not yet part of his life ◦ In the end, she is inside Antonio‟s hut, sharing the story with him. Their life and their love is complete – „happily ever after‟.
Structure The film uses flashbacks to help us understand Antonio‟s quest ◦ Flashbacks are predominantly illustrating Antonio‟s life with the Shuar and his interactions with Josefina Antonio‟s fall from grace in the eyes of the Shuar is emphasised at the same time as Josefina‟s growing estimation of him ◦ Illustrates the dual need for redemption – not only to atone for Nushino but also to show that he is worthy of Josefina‟s love
Motifs Looking glass ◦ Represents the clarity with which he sees life ◦ Highlights the way the stories are helping him to gain insight on the nature of life and love Blowpipe ◦ Connects to nature – what nature provides is the best for the job Dentistry ◦ Illustrates the moral decay of El Idilio and the settlements in South America
Motifs Guns ◦ Used throughout the film to represent western settlement and ideals ◦ Destructive nature of guns is highlighted by the killing of Alkaselter‟s mule
Reading and Responding:SAC41-50 marks:A highly-developed and well-sustained interpretation of a selected text supported by the considered selection and use of highly appropriate textual evidence. Thorough and insightful understanding of the ideas, characters and themes constructed and presented in the selected text. Complex discussion and critical analysis of the ways in which the author constructs meaning and expresses or implies a point of view and values. Highly appropriate use of relevant metalanguage to support analysis. Highly expressive, fluent and coherent writing
The Criteria A highly-developed and well-sustained interpretation of a selected text supported by the considered selection and use of highly appropriate textual evidence. ◦ Have you thought about multiple interpretations of the question? ◦ Have you got a central idea in your response? ◦ Are you including relevant evidence - and a variety of it?
The Criteria Thorough and insightful understanding of the ideas, characters and themes constructed and presented in the selected text. ◦ Are you considering all of these elements, or just some? ◦ Have you considered the characters in an in-depth manner or do they seem one- sided? ◦ Are you connecting events to central themes and ideas?
The Criteria Complex discussion and critical analysis of the ways in which the author constructs meaning and expresses or implies a point of view and values. ◦ Are you acknowledging that De Heer is trying to say something with this movie? ◦ What is De Heer trying to say? ◦ Link to post-colonialism and environmentalism as springboards here.
The Criteria Highly appropriate use of relevant metalanguage to support analysis. ◦ Are you using the right terms in the right places? Are you using a range of terms? ◦ Do your terms make sense in the sentences, or have you just thrown in some „metalanguage‟ to tick off this criteria?
The Criteria Highly expressive, fluent and coherent writing ◦ Can I easily understand what you mean (or are you just inferring it)? ◦ Do your sentences flow? ◦ Are your paragraphs broken up clearly and sensibly? Have you got the right structure? ◦ Spelling and grammar – any big boo- boos?