What a pleasure to see a truly commercial film which dares to make its deepest points with allegory. I am thinking of Seraphim Falls (2006). It’s currently viewable on BBC iPLayer.
It’s a story of how two tough mens’ paths tragically cross in the American Civil War resulting in the quest for revenge by one of them. It’s also a gritty, realistic Western in which the realism slowly and effectively gives way to allegory and metaphor as strange characters appear on an increasingly bleak and arid landscape to make clear that this is really about the pointlessness of wars, civil and international, like those in Ireland and Palestine.
One of the clever things about this film is the casting of two men (Pierce Brosnan and Liam Nesson who have each got sympathetic charisma. i.e. one likes them both. So who is right and who is wrong? Who the villain, who the hero? It took me the whole film to work out the answers.
The tag line for the film’s promotion is never turn your back on the past but the true message is rather different. It is that war is stupid, those who engage in it are ignorant, but the only way each generation learns the folly and pity of war is by doing it and learning the error of its ways…. Goya made his painting towards the end of his life, having lived through and survived the bloody Peninsular War. So as Goya’s image implies, and this film shows, war may never stop happening but we can each decide to be pacifist in all we do. Which is not easy for anyone, including me.