Monday, July 6, 2009

Movie Message: Quantum of Solace

Movie Message:
Quantum of
A Movie Hero Matures
by Tiger Todd

Night before last, I found myself watching Roger Moore as James Bond in the 1973 classic, Live and Let Die, for probably the first time in 20 years. Observing 007, the resourceful British Secret Service agent through the 20+ film series is equal parts great entertainment and a vehicle for transporting viewers through time. Not only do we get a taste of more exotic locations and cultures than House Hunters International, but we also get to witness just how much these different cultures and societies have matured. The latest installment of the Bond franchise,  Quantum of Solace, continues this trend, but there is something more. Quantum is the first film in the series whose story and action continues from where the last movie left off, and, more importantly, instead of focusing on the maturation of a culture, we experience firsthand the maturing of a hero.

Quantum delivers more than just a glimpse into the most beautiful locations and present-day cultures, from Italy, England, Haiti, Austria, Russia, and Bolivia- I lose track of where else. While Bond leaves empty shell casings and more than a few dead bodies in each of these fabulous locations, he is simultaneously being set-up as the bad guy, a common theme where the one true hero is a threat to both sides of the law, a la Spiderman. As with the inner conflict between revenge and duty experienced by Peter Parker and Spiderman, Bond himself struggles with feelings of vengeance, betrayal, sorrow, and anger for the death of Vesper, the agent-turned-lover-turned-double agent from Casino Royale. Bond must somehow manage what Nietzsche calls “the war which he is” long enough to stay alive and save the planet from a network of villains bent on global domination.

But what makes this Bond film so extraordinary is its accuracy in depicting not just the inner conflict of the hero or heroine, but the lessons that can keep us from becoming just like the villains we loathe.

What this Bond has in depth, however, he still lacks in maturity. His lessons begin through his boss, “M,” played coldly, confidently, and brilliantly by Dame Judi Dench. M only expects "duty" from her agents and
so is continually surprised by 007’s “arrogance and self-awareness” which, she adds, “seldom go hand in hand.”

Orestes and Apollo, attributed to Eumenides painter; Apulian, 380-370 BCE
Paris, Louvre Museum

M is initially perplexed by Bond but soon realizes he needs some instruction to redefine his experience. While former Bonds excelled at arrogance and womanizing, Daniel Craig’s 007 in Quantum perfectly exemplifies the conflicted hero of history, like Marcus Aurelius; Mythology, like  Orestes; and religion, like King David. To deliver this lesson, M must draw on the divinely feminine role of Wisdom, or 'Sofia' in the Hebrew voice, the feminine guide to kings from David to Solomon. Wisdom is the hero’s guide into the future and into himself. In one powerful and pivotal scene, Bond has returned to his hotel suite to find M-as-boss accompanied by myriad agents poised to arrest him. In this same moment, Bond is informed that the innocent girl he charmed into bed the night before has been killed by those after him. While Bond blames the villain, M shifts deftly into the role of Wisdom, focusing on Bond’s carelessness:

Why her, Bond? She was just supposed to send you home. She worked in an office, collecting reports. Look how well your charm works, James.”

While we Bond fans may agree that “kill-or-be-killed” appears to be Bond’s only choice in his line of work, M points out that bad guys aren’t the only casualties of the hero’s tumultuous life. Bond must learn to think first before charming people into his life- or into his bed- particularly if he can’t be there to protect them when he's out fighting evil. You and I affect so many other people’s lives, and while we cannot always protect them from evil, we can at least not endanger them further by carelessly involving them with villains hell-bent on getting to us. This is quite a lesson, and one better-learned through Wisdom - or through a movie like Quantum - rather than through experience.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” - Henri Bergson

But the real story in Quantum is how Bond chooses to judge himself while simultaneously learning to overcome the pain and suffering spawned from betrayal and love. Bond holds it together, as many of us do who have been hurt deeply by those we have loved and sacrificed for. In fact, Bond gains strength from exercising his self-awareness, as well as from the advice he offers Bond-Girl Camille in dealing with the revenge she seeks over the murder of her family. He is also beginning to realize- as some of us have- that many of those who have betrayed us were victims themselves, used by villains through their short-term thinking, blind compassion, or need to belong.

Boldy going where no 007 film- or character- has gone before, this Bond matures, not by taking solace through excessive alcohol, women, or revenge, but by preventing history from repeating itself ever again. In the dramatic final scene of the film, we see Bond-as-master, for he has mastered both his license-to-kill persona and his inner conflict. By turning his tragic experience into a sacrifice for others, he has redefined the role of “hero”, thus saving the next would-be victim from the same fate as his beloved Vesper.

"No great deed is done by falterers who ask for certainty."
- George Eliot, a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans Cross

There is probably not a hero or heroine among us who has not been hurt by someone we love or have sacrificed for. It is also likely that those who have betrayed us, like Vesper did to Bond, were merely duped themselves into their unfortunate behavior by the voices of another, some value-less villain with a selfish agenda. Hopefully, the model set by Daniel Craig’s Bond in Quantum can offer not only solace for the rest of us, but a path through - and ultimately out of - the pain of betrayal. By working through our own challenging situations and inner conflicts - perhaps by seeking to save someone else from something we’ve already gone through, as our maturing Bond did - we can create a similar heroic recovery path for ourselves. - TT 
©2009 Hero School

1 comment:

  1. Really, one of the most profound movies I've seen, and not at all what I expected from Bond.