Newest Review: ... america. The journey opened up the view point of both intellectual friends, who get inspired from their experiences and later shapes the... more
A Triumph for this old Norton
The Motorcycle Diaries (DVD)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
The Motorcycle Diaries (DVD)
Advantages: Fist hand sources used for authenticity; thought-provoking; cinematography
Disadvantages: Subtitles unpopular with some viewers
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!
Summary: Super tale of Super Hero