Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Moving picture

I finally caught up with Hotel Rwanda on Sunday, and I'm glad.

Stephen Holden in the New York Times called it a political thriller, but that doesn't seem quite right, if a political thriller is a film like All the President's Men or The Manchurian Candidate. Certainly Hotel Rwanda has politics and is thrilling, not in a good way, but All the President's Men didn't make me hyperventilate in fear and anxiety.

I'd classify Hotel Rwanda as a horror film, and not only because it depicts horrific events. The film's structure resembles virtually every horror movie--more precisely, every zombie movie--since Night of the Living Dead: the bad people want to kill us, and they're closing in, and we can't stop them. (And as in every modern horror film, a few lucky people get away at the end.)

I don't say this to trivialize the film, which is as important a film about the Rwandan genocide as The Killing Fields was about the Cambodian genocide. If anything, I think this taxonomy says a lot about why horror movies can be so effective: It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes--in Rwanda, in Cambodia, in Poland--the zombies really are closing in, and they really do want to kill us.

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