1 May 2005 | Vitarai
Roller-coaster of emotions
Like Altman's classic Short Cuts, and Anderson's Magnolia, Crash, by writer/director Paul Haggis weaves a tale of multiple characters through the web of streets we have come to know as Los Angeles. Unlike those other two films this one has a very specific theme to explore. From the opening line uttered by Don Cheadle we know this is to be a film about how people relate, and from the interchange that follows between Jennifer Esposito and Alexis Rhee (pretty sure she plays the Korean female driver who rear-ended her) how people relate tends to be ruled by first impressions or prejudice.
Race is paramount in this film, and all our preconceptions of who people are get twisted and turned through the intricate plot. With each new additional character we find another assumption, another stereotype, and then watch as that preconception is obliterated as the character develops. It is a credit to the deftly written script, tight direction and exceptional acting talent that every one of these many characters is fully realized on screen without ever feeling one-dimensional.
I would love to discuss some of the details of what happens to explain how well it is done, but part of the magic of this film is allowing yourself to be taken on this ride. Mind you, this isn't a ride of pleasure. The first half of this film is unrelentingly in its ferociousness. I could literally feel my rage at some of the characters forming to a fever pitch. The fear and hatred I was confronting wasn't just on the screen, but in the pit of my stomach. And in one absolutely brilliant moment I was literally sobbing at the expectation of horror unfolding, only to be cathartically released in a most unexpected way.
Mr. Haggis was in attendance at the screening I saw and explained that the idea for this film came to him one night sometime after 9/11 at about 2a.m. when his own memories of a car- jacking experience from 10 years before wouldn't leave him alone. Clearly this film was his way of relieving those demons of memory, using the catharsis of his art to unleash them and in doing so has given to all viewers of cinema an opportunity to examine our own preconceptions about race relations and how we treat each other and think of ourselves. He mentioned in the discussion after-wards that he likes to make films that force people to confront difficult issues. Films that ask people to think after the film has ended and not just leave saying: "that was a nice film".
This isn't a "nice" film, and I would expect that it will provoke many a discussion in the ensuing weeks when it opens nation-wide. It's a discussion long overdue for this country, and it took a Canadian to bring the issue to the fore in this brilliant, thought provoking film.