* Prices may differ from that shown
I have recently spotted a list of 100 best films of the decade by TimeOut and this film featured in that list.Starring Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna,director Walter Salles adapts from the novels written by both real life characters.
Released in 2004,it tells the real life story of Ernesta Guevara and Alberto Grenado when both of them take a motorcycle journey accross america. The journey opened up the view point of both intellectual friends, who get inspired from their experiences and later shapes their lives to work for a better world in their own terms.
The title is perfect for such a film-a film which focusses so much on the friendship between the two main characters and how their lives are changed through the journey. Real life characters are always more developed and both Guevara and Granado's character are well adapted for the screen. The director gives equal importance to both the characters and never makes the film preachy. The film is humane at many levels and points out problems with society in a very subtle manner. The scene where Guevara swims across the river is a stellar scene and is one of the high points of the film.
I loved the fact that the film has a lot of honest comic moments which you associate with real life-the treatment deserves to be applauded since it never gets boring or complex to follow. A few scenes linger on your mind even after the film finishes and keeps you thinking.
Gael Garcia gets the more important role and does a convincing job;the casting is perfect since his eyes carry a lot of depth and hidden power.The chemistry between the two characters needs to be seen. This is one of the better films on friendship and the ending is rather philosophical and calm.
Motorcycle Diaries is one film that you must watch!
These days, gap years are all the rage - breaking out of the shackles of education for a year or so and doing something worthy (for yourself or otherwise). Be it taking off up a mountain to help recovering crack-addict nuns to learn to love again, or swapping getting drunk in university bars and sneaking traffic cones home for getting even more drunk in Thai bars and sneaking cocaine across the border, there's a world of wonders out there. Good, harmless fun, a spiritual awakening and nothing that a good wash won't get rid of, all being well.
In the 1950s, though, the market in nun-loving and orang-utan grooming wasn't quite what it is now. Taking time off from your studies was rather less the norm, and rather a tougher slog - at least for the young Ernesto (Che) Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. Long before his bearded, behatted face would appear on a million t-shirts and posters, Che was a medical student who took off on a motorbike-tour of South America that would shape his worldview and determine the path of his life. Although most famous as one of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolutionaries, Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina, and would meet his end trying to instigate a similar uprising in Bolivia.
Walter Salles' 2004 film charts the course of the journey taken by Che (Gael García Bernal) and Alberto (Rodrigo de la Serna) as they initially head northwest from Buenos Aires before crossing the Andes and travelling up the western edge of the continent, crossing Chile and Peru with the hope of reaching Venezuela, their planned destination. Attempting to echo the spirit of the original excursion, The Motorcycle Diaries is concerned as much with the people met along the way, especially those indigenous to their countries, as with any sense of geographical movement. That said, the film boasts a procession of achingly beautiful backdrops as the pair progress through South America.
García Bernal is an incredibly talented, versatile actor who inhabits Che's considerable shoes with great skill and no little subtlety. Having appeared in films across the Spanish-speaking world (Mexico's Amores Perros, Spain's Bad Education) and a number of English-language productions (Babel, The King), Bernal adopted an apparently authentic Argentinean accent for the role after poring through every bit of Che-literature he could find, and manages to convey the dawning effect the journey must have had on Guevara, a strong believer in the rights of native peoples, with visions of a united Latin American continent.
Alongside the stunning visuals and empathetic performances, the film is also buoyed by an eclectic, well-chosen soundtrack which seems to keep it moving along at a swift pace and enlivens the travelling scenes which recur thoughout the movie (necessarily so). That the film's score took away an Oscar comes as no surprise; it is a key component of the film's intensely evocative atmosphere, which seems to honk throughout of simmering politics and decades of instability past and to come. That said, this isn't by any means a downbeat film - a current of humour stemming from a passage between childishness and adulthood runs throughout the film, exploited to the full by Bernal's comic timing and the interplay between the leads.
As a continent, South America abounds in wonders natural and man-made, and the film is not slow to bring these to the screen. The snow-laden Andes, the bleakness of the Atacama Desert, the verdant expanses of the Amazon and the familiar marvels of Machu Picchu all feature prominently. Alongside these aspects of the film's aesthetic charms, however, it's easy to overlook the efforts gone to to render the journey believably of its time. Easy perhaps out on the road, but the cities and towns passed through are also painstakingly pulled back half a century to give an impression of how they must have been when the men's motorbike originally passed through.
The film has been criticised in some quarters for apparently failing to give an adequate impression of what prompted Guevara's transformation from medical student to revolutionary; I don't agree. There are plenty of indications here of why Che chose to follow the path he did, all the way to a shallow grave beside a remote Bolivian airfield - the explanations just aren't shoved down your throat.
At a shade over two hours, The Motorcycle Diaries isn't remarkable for its brevity, although as a part-biopic, it feels relatively restrained. Light on action and concerned to a great extent with trying to show how the experiences changed Che's perceptions, the film probably requires some prior interest in the subject to get the most out of it. That said, there's enough cleverly-scripted dialogue and remarkable scenery to offer a broader appeal, and the dynamic that bubbles between the two leads powers the film along wonderfully.
If you've no particular interest in the story of Che Guevara, but appreciate a skilfully-made movie lit up by warmly engaging performances, you'll like this film; if this is a subject to your tastes, you may well love it. Entertaining and insightful, this is an adeptly-told tale of a gap year that probably had greater eventual significance than your average six months in an Australian bar - or at least generated more t-shirt sales.
Although I haven't read the book upon which this film is based, I do want to go and find now, having seen the film. Some great acting, breathtaking scenery and interesting plot make this one of the top films on my list- and the starring role of the sexy Gael Garcia Bernal may even put it at number one!
It's interesting to watch a film about Ernesto 'Che' Guevara before he became the stern-looking revolutionary figure of his later years, and if this is anything to go by, then I can certainly see how his ideas were probably formed.
Set in 1952, at a time of political instability across Latin America, the young Che, who's still at university training to be a doctor, sets out on the journey of a lifetime with his friend, Alberto, a biochemist. They start from their home in Buenos Aires on a decrepit looking Norton 500 motorbike, which is dangerously top heavy with all their luggage, and make their way across Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela. They spend an extended period of time volunteering at a leper colony in the Peruvian Amazon.
Their journey offers the two friends a unique opportunity to see the way the poor and indigenous people of South America are treated, and how they live, in comparison to their richer counterparts. The most memorable example of this is when they encounter a Chilean couple walking across the Atacama desert in search of work at a local mine, as they have been ousted due to their communist beliefs. You can see the gradual change occurring in Guevara especially as he observes more and more of these differences, which I could imagine being quite true to life.
This is not just a serious political film about the injustices done to the poor of South America though. Far from it, in fact. Essentially it's about two carefree young men on a road trip, and is frequently light-hearted.
The acting from both Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna (Alberto) is outstanding, to the extent that when Garcia Bernal was acting out one of Che's several asthma attacks, I actually felt as if I was struggling for breath myself. I'm surprised they weren't nominated for Oscars, but then how often do non-American films get nominated for anything but 'best foreign film'?
Having said that, the film did win an Oscar for its soundtrack, in 2005, and the two actors were nominated at countless other film awards.
The running time of 126 minutes feels like a comfortable length. Nothing in the film feels superfluous, and nothing feels as though it's missing either. Plus, although filmed entirely in Spanish, you'll forget the subtitles are there while watching, unless you genuinely have problems reading them.
I can't really review this without at least mentioning the stunning scenery. Ranging from views of the Amazon to the Andes and Macchu Picchu, no film will make you want to go there more.
In fact, I half wonder if I should start putting my dooyoo points towards the purchase of a clapped-out old motorcycle...
The Motorcycle Diaries was a really interesting film and while I'm not a big watcher of foreign language films normally such were the write ups about this one at the tome of launch I was keen to give it a viewing.
Directed by Walter Salles the film focuses on the early years of Che Guevera the now famous revolutionary communist leader who had such a major inpact of Central and South America in particular on Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela. The film tells the story of his motorcycle trek through South America when he was known as Ernesto Guevara and it is based on his own diaries of the time. He makes the journey along with his friend Alberto Granado as they travel from Argentina to Peru whichincluded Cuba as well. Both are medical students and their ultimate aim was to help people in a leper colony so the latter part of the film focuses on that event.
Visually this is an impressive film, some of the scenery is breath taking with some stunning back drops and the rich variety of the continent is showcased.
I found the subject matter to be fascinating as you got an idea of what moulded the man and the character behind the face on the t-shirt. It is an intelligent bit of film making while at the same time managing to convey the essence of a buddy road movie as well.
Gael Garcia Bernai plays Guevara while the role of Alberto is taken by Rodrigo de la Serna and both are excellent.
This is an intelligent bit of film making and a film I would certainly recommend.
Based on Ernersto 'Che' Guevara's first extended trip around Latin America with his friend Alberto Granado, this movie successfully combines both the adventure of their slightly unusual journey around the continent and the underlying political current with Ernesto's pan-americanism and view of the injustice that he witnesses along the way.
The two principle actors Gael Garcia Bernal as Ernesto and Rodrigo de la Serna as Alberto are convincing as young men exploring their world and beyond and manage to portry the youthful exuberance of their journey and, particularly in the case of Ernesto, a progression towards political consciousness and awareness of the injustice surrounding him.
Apart from the story of Che and his personal and political development this film is worth watching for the cinematography alone. Taking in many of the top sites of south America in breathtaking scope it has that ability to make the viewer want to get up off the sofa and explore this magical world for himself. The beauty of this is the combination of a simple if at times thrilling adventure and travel story with the interest of watching the start of a man's political development.
I bought this film from HMV for £5, having not yet seen it but having heard good things about it when it was released. Always a bit of a gamble, buying films you haven't seen, but having watched it last night I'm very glad I did, as I certainly expect to watch it again.
The film is subtitled, which I don't mind at all and, I must admit, I do get frustrated with people who won't give subtitled films a chance. A film like this deserves your undivided attention anyway, and subtitles are only a problem* if you're trying to "watch" a film while doing other things. (*Not including of course people with sight problems etc etc but you knew that!)
The film starts with two friends setting out on a cross South America motorcycle journey, taking in Argentina, Chile, Peru, the Amazon and Venezuela. The scenery is incredible - I've always wanted to visit Machu Piccu, but seeing the incredible and changing landscape of South America move behind them as they travelled has made me want to see so much more of the country.
A lot of the plot involves serious concepts and issues - poverty, politics, exploitation, leprosy - but handled in such a way that you can see the attitudes and maturity of the men - particularly Ernesto - changing before your eyes. The film builds up with a serious of crucial meetings and you can totally understand how Ernesto's beliefs and dreams were created as the trip progresses. Just in case you haven't quite got under his skin, towards the end black and white stills from these meetings - the communist couple, the old women, the lepers - are played out for you, highlighting how the build up of seeing all this injustice and pain turned Ernesto into Che Guevara.
That's not to say the film is all serious, and if anything the political aspects come second to the emotional "coming of age" journey of the protagonists. There's plenty of humour, and a fantastic central relationship between the two main characters, as we see them argue, taunt and hurt each other but also support and deeply care for one another. We spent half the film literally open mouthed at some of the tricks and lines pulled by these men to make it across South America with barely any money and transport, and laughing out loud at the audacity of Alberto's womanising charms!
I really enjoyed this film and would urge anyone who hasn't seen it yet to go out and get it.
Having just reviewed Central Station I would in the first line recommend that if you love the Motorcycle Diaries then get Central Station. Both foreign language films from South America.
This review is for The Motorcycle Diaries (2005) which is Spanish with English subtitles and tells the story of the early life of Che Guevara or as he was called back then Ernesto Guevara. Having visited Cuba and stood in Indepedance Square with Che's massive iconic face adorning the side of the telecommunications building I have always been fascinated by him. Personally I cannot wait to see the two new Che movies!!!
This film though, as I said, deals with his early life and gives an insight as to where and why his Marxist views were formulated. The film starts in 1952 in Buenos Airies, Argentina where Ernesto (then a medical student) and his friend Alberto decide to set off across the continent of South America on a road trip.
The route is an ambitiuos 4000 mile trip through Argentia across the Atacam desert and over the Andes to Peru. The film has some absolutely beautiful shots of South America and has you wanting to grab your passport and get on a plane (well it did for me anyway!). This is the most beautiful travelogue film yet.
Travelling on a motor bike christened "the mighty one", the two set off to explore South America and broaden their horizons, oh and pull as many women as possible!! Along the journey Ernesto encounters poverty of the people of Latin America and the differences in living standards between the haves and the have nots, views that shape him as a man.
Two scenes play this out one with striking clarity, firstly at the copper mine where Ernesto expresses annoyance at the treatment of the workers but secondly and more vividly during a boat trip where the poor are towed behind the wealthy in a makeshift vessel.
It is at the ruins of Machu Picchu that Ernesto first verbalises his thoughts for a revolution in Latin America. Having seen the beauty and experienced the culture of the Inca's he questions how things have gone so wrong in South America. He discusses with Alberto his plans for a "Revolution without guns".
As the film draws to a close the differences between the rich and poor are spelled out at a leper colony where the fit and wealthy live on one bank of the river and the poor and ill on the other bank. This social division is one that upsets Ernesto, who poignantly choses to swin across the river to the other side.
The film ends amazingly with footage of Alberto now (or then) aged 82. Che of course didn't make it as far as his friend after being executed in 1967 with the help of the CIA.
For me (without yet seeing the new Che films) the Motorcycle Diaries is in my top 5 all time great films. The story is based on true events - events that shaped modern history and this gives the film a strong intensity. Like Schindlers List to European history this film hits that mark to South American modern history. Che, whatever the weaknesses of his Marxism, was a great man who from being a nobody from Buenos Airies became the icon he is today.
The world needs more Che's and the world needs more Motorcycle Diaries.
While I'm looking forward to Steven Soderburgh's forthcoming 2-picture Che Guevara biopic, it will be hard for them to match up to this masterly portrayal of the young Guevara (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his fellow medical student Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna) on their travels through South America in the early 1950's.
We follow the two privileged young Argentinians as they set off on their rickety motorbike in search of fun, adventure and women. But the journey becomes much more than this as they encounter horrendous ill-treatment of indigenous people, local welcomes ranging from friendly hospitality to outright hostility, illness and notably stay to help in a leper colony. These events have a major impact on the deepening friendship between the two, and awaken a social conscience which in Che's case clearly forms the foundation of his later (in)famous revolutionary direction, and in Granado's case is all the more remarkable for being totally absent at the beginning of the film. But if this makes it sound like a worthy, hard-work film then I've done a disservice, because the characters and the movie have a great sense of fun and adventure too.
Gael Garcia Bernal puts in another great performance - there's a reason why he's possibly the biggest Latin American film star of his generation. But de la Serna is also excellent, and the two complement each other greatly.
No review of this film would be complete without a mention of the utterly breathtaking landscape and cinematography. Salles is lucky to have such amazing geography as the backdrop to the story, and he certainly makes the most of it - I would watch the film for this alone, but it has so much more to offer too.
At the beginning of 1952, 29-year-old Alberto Granado and 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara Fuser de la Serna set out on a planned Odyssey the length and breadth of Latin America, starting in their beloved Argentina and taking in Chile, Peru and Colombia before reaching their projected destination at the northernmost point of Venezuela. On this touching and romantic (in the Dumas sense of the word) journey, the twinkling-eyed biochemist and his young almost qualified doctor friend, the man who would be Che, set out to learn all about the America they lived with but failed to understand
For The Motorcycle Diaries, director Walter Salles drew on two books, the journals of Granado and Guevara. Although the story is in a way the prequel to the mythology of the Cuban revolutionary and there is one main character, each man has a prominent role to play, and this is reflected in the excellent casting of Gael Garcia Bernal as Guevara and Rodrigo de la Serna as the owner of the motorcycle in question: a clapped-out 1939 Norton 500.
Bernal is perfect casting for Guevara, not only because he has tremendous presence and matinee-idol good looks, but because in those molten-chocolate peepers theres a great sense of gravitas; he seems to reflect the weight of history. Interestingly, in the interview included on the DVD, Bernal highlights Guevaras irreverence, and yet it is the extremely reverential, if aggressively youthful, performance that he delivers that makes the film. This is particularly true when contrasted with de la Sernas vivacious, vibrant and sly characterisation. With Granado himself a regular presence on set, it becomes clear in the extras interviews that de la Serna has done an exceptional job, bringing all the heart and humour out of the man. The affectionate, loving banter between the friends is natural and at times extremely funny. Their spirited friendship is never cloying or sentimental, but honest and genuine, from daring each other to swim a cold lake to Granado tending to Guevara during one of his regular, terrifying asthma attacks.
A great deal of credit for the success of this very good film must therefore go to the script and scriptwriter, Jose Rivera; some of the immediacy and vibrancy of the words is probably lost in the English subtitles, but nevertheless the simplicity and emotional clarity of the film is never shaken. It also made me smirk and even laugh out loud a couple of times. Little exchanges made me smile ([indicating a church] That belongs to Jesus Christ Inc. Are they still in business?). Much of it is also extremely touching, from the staggeringly warm and natural exchanges with the patients on the San Pablo Leper Colony who are stunned that these young men treat them like people, and dont wear gloves to touch them, to the painful process of Guevara leaving his young, virginal girlfriend behind (What do you want? For you to be silent let me look at you I wont see you for a long time.).
Add to that solid supporting performances and a gentle, episodic pace, and you have the foundations for excellence. What more could you want?
Well, breathtaking cinematography for a start. Admittedly it doesnt take much to make the Andes look spectacular, but the long, indulgent tracking shots of the gorgeous mountain roads in all weathers are incredible. Beautiful, fog-bound shots crossing the vast waterways are rendered hauntingly (reminiscent, bizarrely, to me of Lyras journey to the land of the dead in His Dark Materials). Machu Picchu is stunning, as ever, and the genuine hardships of travel on this both beguiling and inhospitable terrain are made very clear. Once The Mighty One (that being the motorcycles name) has given up the ghost, the pair continue on foot and hitching rides through incredibly harsh conditions. When all this is married to Salless fluid directorial style, it becomes almost more of a travelogue at times, although theres no harm in this distraction. Salles alternates between lingering tracking shots and judicious if dizzying use of handheld docu-cam filming. This only serves to underscore the unshakeable feeling that this is less a film than a dramatisation, if not of Guevaras life than at least of Guevaras life as he saw it.
The final piece of the five-star puzzle is the cracking score, at turns beautiful, gutsy, lyrical and most importantly, complementary. The Oscar-winning song, Al Otro Lado del Rio, which accompanies the film is also not only gorgeous but groundbreaking, being the first Spanish-language song to win an Academy Award (and allowing a little of the adolescent fighting spirit to show in Bernal himself when he boycotted the Oscars on hearing that performance duties had been handed not the original musician Jorge Drexler but to Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas whom, it must be said, did a passionate but somehow substandard job). The DVD was given to me as a birthday present, I believe the OST will be going on the Christmas list.
So is there anything NOT perfect about this film? Well, despite its claims to be showing the roots of Guevaras thinking rather than proclaiming the man he would become, the film can be a little heavy-handed in its social commentary. I wont comment on Guevaras politics; other than the fact Im woefully uninformed, its just not relevant to an opinion on the film. But although the increasing learning experience of his travels sinks into Guevara in the most aesthetic way (black and white snapshot flashbacks), sometimes his speech-making and grand gestures can get a little wearying. Having said that, the defining moment of the final act, where on his 24th birthday Guevara makes a stunning and dangerous gesture in a bid to show which side of the socio-political divide he chooses to make his own, is a wonderful moment, and completely devoid of any possible saccharine tinge.
The DVD itself is a goodly collection, including the usual scene selection and trailers and an uninformative but sweet 10-minute featurette and Behind The Scenes feature. More interesting are the short, slightly bizarrely edited interviews with the cast and crew (more speeches than interviews as they are snippets, direct to camera, of responses to questions without the questions themselves) including Salles, Bernal, de la Serna, and executive producer Robert Redford. Its telling that those directly involved in the process speak more of the characters, personalities and real people than the film-making process, whereas Redford cuts straight to the chase with a tale of film funding at Sundance. A short but sweet interview with the still-sprightly Alberto Granado tops off a generous package. If basically uninformative (it certainly didnt tell me much I didnt already know), its a likeable and goodly selection of stuff, possibly the best of which are the two or three deleted scenes which are included.
Highly recommended, at 120 minutes this seems to fly by, and the 15 certificate is indicative mainly of strong language and odd muted sexual reference.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara is a character on whom opinion is fiercely divided. He is seen, on the one hand, as a freedom-fighting hero who, despite a debilitating illness and the "burden" of a middle-class up-bringing, never lost sight of his goals, dedicating his adult life to fighting imperialism and creating a more just society, expecially in countries that had been exploited by the United States. Others see him as nothing more than a terrorist - someone thirsty for adventure, a "gun-for-hire" moving from country to country wherever a guerilla movement wanted him to whip up their men.
The "Motorcycle Diaries" is an account, taken form Ernesto's own diaries, chronicling his trip by motorcyle in 1952, through South America with his cousin Alberto Granado. Not only does the film stick closely to the material in the diaries, but Granado acted as a consultant on the film, ensuring it was as authentic as possible. Not only do the exploits of young Ernesto and Alberto provide an excellent adventure story, regardless of the future lives of the duo, but the diairies also give clues as to the direction Ernesto's life would take.
The film has all the makings of a boys own adventure; essentially it is a road movie, two young men with barely enough money to get them through the first month, set off on a three month trip on the back of a decrepit 1939 Norton 500. They hope to get back in time for Alberto's thirtieth birthday and for Ernesto to resume his medical studies. In common with road movies, the two discover more about themselves and life than they could have imagined, but the underlying focus of the film is the awakening of conscience of Guevara. While partying is high on the agenda for the two men (particularly Alberto who insists on trying his charms on ALL the women they meet), these scenes are interwoven with ones where the men meet some of the people who have been forgotten about by society. Families who have left their farms in the country to seek work in the oppressive and dangerous environment of the mines in the desert.; large families living in overcrowded slums; and, perhaps most poignantly, an extended visit to a remote leper colony where the men assist the doctors and nurses.
Through guile, charm and sheer luck the pair manage to eke out a pittance and live a charmed life on the road; not always comfortable but always exciting - the two convince a local newspaper writer that they are eminent medics and use the subsequent good press to be fed, watered and chased by young ladies - and always thought-provoking. From Argentina to Venezuela this is a non-stop rollercoaster ride!
Gael Garcia Bernal (Guevara) and Rodrigua de la Serna (Alberto) cope with the duality of their roles admirably, both capable of portraying these serious young men who want to make the world a better place and who are irreversibly altered by what they encounter, along with their fun-loving, cheeky, womanising sides. De la Serna gives a truly memorable performance, never overdoing the comic aspect so essential to Alberto's character nor letting it overshadow the sensitivity of this man who went on to become an important figure in medicine. Bernal certainly looks the part with his dark good looks; his earnestness is the perfect foil to Alberto's happy-go-lucky outward appearance but he is every part the worried friend when Guevara's severe asthma attacks strike
The other characters in the film appear essentially as a series of short but telling portraits; Guevara's wealthy girlfriend makes a fleeting appearance at the beginning of the film, ably played by Mia Maestra (although the part is small and there's not much to get her teeth into ) and the only other characters featuring more than just a scene are those the medical staff at the leper colony.
The real star of the film is South America. "The Motorcycle Diaries" was filmed entirely in sequence and, as much as possible, in the very locations the real events took place. Great care was also taken to make sure that the film extras and minor actors were actually from the region depicted in that particular scene so that they would look the part.
The natural locations are beautifully photographed while the built locations are evocative of the time. The thrill of the scenery is heightened by the drama created by the motorcycle, regularly hurling its riders into ditches, jettisoning its tyres and requiring the type of medical attention that our heroes cannot provide. Visually the film is a real treat for the eyes but it is in the whole combination of dialogue, costumes, music and cinematography that the film should be considered. The music features not only as a background track but also at dances and parties as part of the story; some of the tracks are re-recordings of traditional songs and popular songs like "Chipi Chipi". The soundtrack, produced by Santaolalla (who also produced the soundtrack to "Amores Perros") is a pleasing blend of South American, Afircan and Caribbean rhythms.
Those who are interested in Che Guevara will, if my opinion is anything to go by, love this film. There is nothing contentious in the portrayal of the man; the screenwriter has stuck firmly to the diaries as they were written and the fact that Alberto Granado was so closely involved must surely have been influential in the continuation of the image of El Che as he has been portrayed since his death in 1967. There are no shock revelations, no great use of dramatic licence, nothing much at all to debate as far as the film is concerned.
It is not a political film, rather a "coming of age"/road movie. The socio-political points are made with subtlety, but repeatedly, as if Guevara's emerging ideas are being confirmed with each phase of the trip. It is a touching but certainly not sentimental film. The bond between the young men is tested but ultimately grows stronger as each sees changes in the other. There are moments of absolute hilarity (such as Alberto's persistent attempts to persuade Ernesto to part with his money)which remind us that these are simply two young men on a "vacation"; while you can use this film to show how Guevara's political conscience developed, this film can be enjoyed without using political and historical references to anything we know about Guevara now. It is, at its most basic level a teen movie - the events of a summer vacation, travel, drinking, out-witting the locals to get the girl...
On whichever level you read this movie there is much to be derived from it; a greater understanding of the man, an overview of a continent at an crucial time in its history, the appreciation of stunning direction and attention to detail to make it look so good. Walter Salles may have spent several years working on this movie but the overall effect is effortless!
"Motorcycle Diaries" is one of those highly-respected movies, and it was nominated for many awards (and won the BAFTA for best foreign language film, as well as prizes at Cannes), though finally only won an Oscar for the music. It's one of those movies that has a bit of history, a bit of politics, and also plenty of emotion - humour/pathos/romance - without being too sentimental.
Walter Salles is the director - responsible for this year's "Dark Water", quite a different genre and a different thing altogether.
Che Guevara - whose name and whose image everyone knows - his face appears on many a bedsit wall, many a T-shirt. Even today, when the idea of "the revolution" has faded away, and even those who went on marches in their younger days probably see it as mostly nostalgia. No doubt about it, Che Guevara is one of the most enduring icons of twentieth century politics.
But do we really know that much about him? About his life and what motivated him?
In a nutshell, he was born in Argentina in 1928, and in the late 50s fought alongside Fidel Castro in Cuba, then attempted to spread the idea of revolution across South America. He was executed in Bolivia, and whether people believe he was a freedom fighter, or a terrorist, depends on their political leanings.
Not that "The Motorcycle Diaries" is going to provide any information on the latter part of Guevaras life.
The movie is about his early days, when he was called Ernesto Guevara (the Che came later). Its source material on the diaries of Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. Both young medical students, go on a road trip across the length of South America from Argentina to Peru, and taking in Cuba.
The journey was across 10,000 kilometres.
Some of the movie is about how they travel with next to no money, blagging a meal, or somewhere to stay, and trying to get off with the local women. There are certainly moments of humour, many revolving around the unreliability of their motorcyles, and the way they each very different personalities (Alberto always chatting up the ladies).
The two of them end up in a leper colony, which was their aim - and most of the second half of the movie revolves around the scenes there, as they decided to stay there, treating patients. As medical students they can provide valuable assistance there
Although there are elements of the buddy movie, and the road movie, there is much more to it than that - in many ways it almost feels like we are seeing documentary footage of real events. In a sense it almost feels like it's important history that is being recorded, and that's more important than any plot or story.
Walter Salles, the director, is himself Argentinian-born. The crew travelled much of the country themselves during filming, and in some respects found that not much had changes social and political. They also found that peoples memories of the motorcycle journey helped them in telling the story.
Granado himself is still alive, living in Cuba, aged 83.
Is it worth seeing?
Yes, I thought it was a very rewarding (but without feeling "worthy") movie - in the sense that it made me feel the kind of emotions that must have motivated the young Che, the disgust at injustice and poverty poor, and the realisation that even if we as individuals only take minor action, at least we have taken action to improve things, in however small a way.
Actors Gael Garcia Bernai and Rodrigo de la Serna are excellent
Bernai is by now familiar to Western audiences from his roles in Amores Perros,Y Tu Mama Tambien and Bad Education. He had already played the role of Guevara in a mini series produced in 2002, Fidel.
Del la Serna is apparently a distant relative of Guevara.
Excellent camera work is from Eric Gautier. The scenery is a big, big part of the movie - and it is important that the crew carried out a similar journey to the two young men, for the reason that the scenery is stunningly real, quite apart from the added value it helped to give to their telling of the tale.
The script from Jose Rivera is another reason for the movie's success - it manages to be political in a very quiet kind of way. Ultimately it's about ethics, idealism, and human issues, as much as it is about politics.
I can only think that there are two groups of movie-veiwers who would not like "The Motorcycle Diaries"
- subtitle-haters - OK, I know that some poeple just don't like foreign films
- anyone who needs a gripping thrills and spills action story - if you're that narrow-minded, this one isn't going to keep you happy, mate. Sorry.
But as a historical movie with added meaning, it's one of the best.
The movie is 128 minutes long
The video is £15.99 (amazon)
The DVD is £14.99 (amazon)
Well worth seeing due to the completely successful depiction of an era when so much political change was needed, and a few individuals could make it possible.