Cinema is inherently political. Even when filmmakers don’t go out of their way to put ideology under a microscope, their films still make implicit political statements. In 2008, for example, The Dark Knight combined all the thrills of a superhero flick with a gritty crime yarn while providing an allegory for the war on terror; meanwhile, 1999’s The Iron Giant delighted audiences with its central emotional through lines of friendship and self-determination, but also contains an anti-gun sentiment and a satirical critique of reactionary governance.
Neither film engages with contemporary politics openly and head-on; the political messages have to be read out of them. Other films, though, prefer to wear their politics on their sleeves, and Seth Rogen’s upcoming The Interview is one of them. The film has Rogen play producer to James Franco’s talk show host, as both men are given the chance to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Their opportunity takes a turn for the covert, though, when the United States government recruits the duo to assassinate the man instead.
Rogen, who wrote and helmed The Interview alongside his usual directorial partner in comedic crime, Evan Goldberg, isn’t dressing anything up here. Another movie might have skirted around directly pointing a finger at both North Korea and Kim, replacing them with screen surrogates to avoid ruffling political or social feathers. But delicacy isn’t really Rogen’s and Goldberg’s trademark, and according to The Telegraph, it seems that feathers in Pyongyang have been ruffled indeed by The Interview‘s brand of blatant political farce.
The criticism hails primarily from Kim Myong-chol, the executive director of The Center for North Korea-US Peace, who suggests that the film’s assassination plot thread hints at the US’s desperation while also expressing his admiration for contemporary British cinema over Hollywood pictures. No one can fault Kim for his personal cinematic preferences; each to their own, after all, particularly in a case as specific and intentional as that of The Interview. Though there is a special irony to the praise he accords James Bond, a character whose bread and butter is assassination.
Nobody should be surprised that North Korea would take offense to a movie that depicts the attempted murder of its leader, especially because US filmmakers have gone down this road with the country before. 2004’s Team America: World Police used a caricatured version of Kim Jong-Un’s late father, Kim Jong-Il, as its villain, while Die Another Day sees the aforementioned English spy infiltrate a North Korean military installation. More recently, the remake of Red Dawn swapped out Russia for North Korea; odds favor an outcome where Kim and his cabinet don’t have warm feelings toward that film, either.
What does this mean for Rogen, Goldberg, and Franco? Probably nothing. If anything, news articles (much like this one) chronicling the North Korean response to The Interview will only help push more tickets during the film’s theatrical run. It’s hard to imagine any real action being taken against them here, harder still to ponder what repercussions might result from their subversion; the film is a comedy, absurdist to a fault if we take the trailer at face value. These are the same people who made This is the End, a movie that skewers the Rapture and celebrity culture all in the same movement. No one, not even Kim, should actually take these guys as being representative of the US government or its people.
But even if that’s so, it’s worth questioning the wisdom of making a movie about this exact scenario – even with tongue fully in cheek – in light of the United States’ current relations with North Korea. Is The Interview an ill-advised production, or will North Korea lower its hackles and forget that the movie even exists? Sometimes it’s easy to forget the power of cinema and the political overtures the medium is capable of making; other times, movies like The Interview come along and we recognize that power all too well.
The Interview opens in theaters on October 10th, 2014.
Source: The Telegraph