Thursday, April 23, 2009

74. Crash

Crash (2005)
Directed by Paul Haggis


Sitting at #74 is the controversial 2005 Best Picture winner, Crash. Ironically, this film about racism and hatred really has engendered quite a bit of hatred. In fact, the negativity and vitriol of Crash’s critics led me to give this film another viewing before I ranked it in this list, and that re-watch resulted in re-confirming my initial reaction; that Crash is an intense ensemble drama about race relations that may sometimes be over the top, but is a powerful argument for better understanding racism and ultimately our own humanity.

What Crash does best is to turn upside down many of the viewer’s expectations and presuppositions. By doing so, we are able to empathize and understand the underlying subtext for every character. Several characters that we initially identify as racists or just jerks are later given sequences of humanity and redemption. On the flip side, characters that we initially identify as nice and even-tempered are later given sequences that lead us to question our initial impressions.

This technique produces some truly well rounded characters and in doing so makes its first insight into race relations – racial problems don’t stem from the “Race” of the person. In painting all our characters with gray brushes we quickly understand that not one race is the “nice” one and the other is the “angry” one. So where then does the film claim racial problems come from?

The second insight into racial relations that I gleaned from Crash would be that most racial problems most often come from misunderstandings that lead to frustrations. It’s then easy and simple to blame those frustrations on race. However, more often than not, those misunderstandings arise due to language barriers, pride, quick tempers, bureaucratic roundabouts, legitimate fears for personal safety, and desires to please our loved ones.

In other words, the roots of racism are the roots of every problem that plagues mankind. We can be selfish, prideful, impatient, fearful, quick to anger, uncaring beings and instead of tackling these root issues we take the simple route and blame it on the race of others (which is another root issue). This message resonates so deeply with me because it is deeply confirming of my Christian convictions. I understand that we are all prone to selfish natures and it’s gonna require all of us to be people of forgiveness, patience, peace, love, faith, confidence, and unselfishness if we are to ever cure the problems of racism.

It’s a fantastic message that plays itself out in an intense fashion with a handful of incredibly powerful scenes. My absolute favorite sequence is when Matt Dillon’s police officer comes upon a crash scene (no pun intended). Without thought toward the race of the victims, he naturally attempts to rescue the injured. Of course, the injured woman inside is a black woman whom he took advantage of and molested in an earlier scene. It’s a scene of pure emotion, irony, and ultimately humanity.

The scene implies that in the end, not only is it possible that we can move beyond our self-issues, but that it’s imperative, for our own sake that we do. These aren’t subtle messages and the film definitely deserves its share of criticism for being a little heavy-handed. However, I think that the human drama and underlying messages more than make up for any of its faults. This is a film that not only gives us an engaging human drama, but also calls for its audience to better racial issues by first bettering ourselves.


Here is the trailer for the film

2 comments:

JulViel said...

Yes! I was doubting whether or not it would be on here at all. Even though I think it dropped significantly, I'm still happy. :) I rewatched it recently as well (I must admit I was doubting its strength too) and was blown away. That scene with Dillon and Newton still gets me. And, no matter how disappointed I am with his current career choices, I still love Michael Pena in it. All of the scenes with him and his daughter were making me tear up. All of the cast is amazing. I still can't believe it beat Brokeback though. I mean, I'm thrilled, but still in disbelief. I can still see Jack Nicholson's face as he read it.

Maria said...

I like this film as well. After reading the review and Julie's comments, I think I have to rent this again.

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