It took me a long, long time to watch The Manchurian Candidate. It was one of 5 that DVD Sam loaned me, and I had watched the really terrible "I've wasted 90 minutes of my life" Bulletproof Monk. That was rather off-putting for further movie watching. I was assured that The Manchurian Candidate was a good movie, so it was the next in the collection that I watched. Tried to watch. It didn't help that the first attempt was when I was outrageously tired. I got maybe halfway, ish, and missed lots of things. It was many weeks before I had the mental energy, and the time, to sit down and watch it properly. The second time, I loved it! Having Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep made it even better - such great actors. And so well-cast. I could not imagine anyone other that Meryl in her role, she was made for it.
This is a story of power, and manipulation, and trust, and getting what you want. No matter what. You often get a story of a parent doing what they can to promote their child. But when you add, in my opinion, obscene amounts of money, as well as influence in the powerful circles of the most powerful country in the world, this changes things. It changes things from promoting your kid to get the lead role in the school play, to promoting your kid to be the leader of the free world. And when big things are at stake, emotions can run high as morals disappear. How far would you go to have your child in the White House?
In some ways, this movie was a bit of an eye-opener. You know there are some people who believe in all those conspiracy theories? I'm not one of them. I am far more inclined to believe what I see and hear. Which is great for people who are wishing to manipulate my mind. And it made me wonder, is there a line dividing 'brainwashing' from 'for the greater good'?... Or does that depend on who is manipulating the media? How much can we actually believe? Of course, the political process in Australia is rather different from that of the U.S. but I still wonder how much goes on to manipulate what we as society see. (Which reminds me of the Paulo Coehlo novel, The Winner Stands Alone - a really good read, and another eye-opener).
And after all this manipulation, the ending is such a train crash. One of those you can vaguely predict, and then you can't look away when it is inevitable, then just have to keep watching to see all the gory mess. Feeling just a little bit horrified at the same time as feeling delight at the undoing of all the best-laid plans and trickery.
The other side of this story is war and science research. War has long been the catalyst for scientific discovery and engineering, some of it useful and productive, some of it a little scarier and morally questionable (for the armchair moralists, that is). The question here - the justification for the research - is whether we can 'free people from the terrible burden of an emotionally compromised past'. And if we can, should we? Now, I haven't been in a war. I haven't been at the frontline, or had family or a loved one serving my country and risking their life, or had someone I love return from a war horribly scarred physically or emotionally. I do have this firm belief, though, that we shouldn't try to erase our past. Our past is what shapes us, and our experiences are the only thing that really make us able to sympathise and empathise with others. All those painful episodes of my past and the problems of my current life are things that have and will help me be a better person. More understanding, more forgiving. At times, more fragile, but in the long run - I hope - stronger. So (back to the movie) hypnotising soldiers to believe the good story instead of the horrible reality (don't want to give out any spoilers here) is not, I believe, the right answer. Especially not making heroes out of pawns. And - according to the movie, anyway - the human body and brain cannot be taught to forget that much. No matter how much you try to suppress the bad stuff, it will return at some point whether you want it to or not. Better out that in, as they say.