Marianne’s Mighty Heart

Posted: October 18, 2008 in All and Sundry, Film Reviews



“Its clear-eyed vision notwithstanding, “A Mighty Heart” is so infused with personal pain that deeming it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is nearly impossible…” Salon. com’s Stephanie Zechareck writes about Michael Winterbottom’s film adaptation of Marianne Pearl’s memoir “A Mighty Heart.”

Indeed, the movie is bleak and painful and yes, sometimes to pass judgment on it is “nearly impossible” as it is always difficult to rate how real pain and suffering is told to us. Marianne Pearl’s pain is real, and we see and experience this pain of losing someone in this movie. The pain we experience throughout the telling of the story gnaws subconsciously in us.

What is most impressive about this movie among all movies about pain and suffering is its restrained storytelling. I suspect that that is how Marianne Pearl’s book is also told. No melodramatic scenes that would incite extreme hate, anger, pity. Like a good nonfiction piece, the movie is matter-of-fact, with well chosen details, a mix of reportage and memoir, told in gray textures and syncopated pacing. One moment you’re in high hopes following the Pakistani police in their investigation as they stumble on clues to Daniel Pearl’s whereabouts. The next minute, you are brought back to the internal turmoil of Marianne as she recalls memories of her husband—happy memories shown in nostalgic sepia. The emotional roller coaster isn’t close to a thriller’s but something that tries to approximate how the long wait felt for Marianne Pearl.

Definitely Winterbottom was able to show how mighty Marianne Pearl’s heart is in the face of real terrorism. This he has successfully done by avoiding the all too easy route of solipsism found in nonfiction pieces mostly memoirs. What is remarkable is that there is a controlled sense of reasonable rationality in this movie, and most of all patience, despite the horrifying events that the main characters experience. Perhaps this is the movie’s power as it does not pass judgment in black and whites, but portrayed the gray areas of human condition. It gave universal insights by looking into the personal and political dimensions of pain, suffering, and fear.

In the end, I secretly applauded the Pakistanis who helped Marianne,  her Indian journalist friend,  the other journalists who cover areas of conflict, and Marianne Pearl herself. She is the true testament of how a deeper understanding of the interstices of conflict and the complexities of religious wars can make you become stronger that no amount of terror can break your heart.

But then again, the movie also reminds viewers how dangerous the world is for serious journalists who work all their lives to deliver the story, uncover the truth, and show us the complexities and the different sides of world issues.  It is never as simple as finding your end of the field and looking at those on the other side as enemies. Sometimes you don’t even know that you are your own enemy.

This is a must-see.

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