Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monster's Ball (2001)

Directed by Marc Forster
Writers (WGA):Milo Addic (written by) Will Rokos (written by)
Cast:Billy Bob Thornton ... Hank Grotowski Halle Berry ... Leticia Musgrove


("Monster's Ball" is an old English term for a condemned man's last night on earth.)
Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry star as Hank and Leticia, in two performances that are so powerful because they observe the specific natures of these two characters, and avoid the pitfalls of racial cliches.

The characters are given equal weight, and have individual story arcs, which do not intersect but simply, inevitably, meet. There is an overlay of racism in the story; Hank's father Buck (Peter Boyle) is a hateful racist, and Hank mirrors his attitudes. But the movie is not about redemption, not about how Hank overcomes his attitudes, but about how they fall away from him like a dead skin because his other feelings are so much more urgent. The movie then is not about overcoming prejudice, but sidestepping it because it comes to seem monstrously irrelevant.

The overcoming of desire by need are the strong points of the film, the famous hungry sex scene of the film is a overshadowing statement of the above argument. The characters comes off age during the movie and you stop looking at their color of skin and that is what is the real beauty of the film, that pain and longing has no color of discrimination and that's what works so greatly for Mosters Ball.

Students of screenwriting should study the way the film handles the crucial passages at the end, when she discovers some drawings and understands their meaning. Here is where a lesser movie would have supplied an obligatory confrontation. Leticia never mentions the drawings to Hank. Why not? Because it is time to move on? Because she understands why he withheld information? Because she has no alternative? Because she senses that the drawings would not exist if the artist hated his subject? Because she is too tired and this is just one more nail on the cross? Because she forgives? What? The movie cannot say. The characters have disappeared into the mysteries of the heart. "Monster's Ball" demonstrates that to explain all its mysteries, a movie would have to limit itself to mysteries that can be explained

My Rating: 8/10


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