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I do not wish to contradict or to differ with any pundits on the cinematography of this movie and most certainly I have no wish to disagree with the views of fellow brothers of the blade.... yet there is an aesthetic side to this movie.
Rowing, especially highly competitive rowing steeped in tradition, is a concept that can be understood only by those who have actually tasted the bitter gourd of defeat in a race and savoured its hard won victories. That is the essential of this movie.
Indeed the mistakes are fallacious, and sometimes appalling pathetic, especially for those who know their blade work. However despite the blatant technical errors so obvious to a trained eye, as a story that inspires, this fills a much needed void.
As a coxswain, its slightly different to the ones portrayed in the movie. Contrary to popular belief, in some parts of the world where there are traditional races like the Ox-Bridge where old rivals train eleven months of the year for just a single course down, we're not just dead weights in the boat. We actually have to do all the fitness that guys a foot taller and twice our weight have to do, only on one meal a day for weight reasons. Basically everything, ergo, weights, runs etc... except the water training. I found that the camaraderie that I shared with my crews, a thing all coxes will agree with me, was sadly missing in this movie. The 'coxing' in the final race was rather timid to say the least. Although I do confess, in the absence of something better this was a good phyche-up movie to watch before the races.
What I did like about the movie is what it showed. The politics and the desperation to win is universal in every crew. The characters, heroes, villains and bystander can be related to by any oarsman. The best and most profound scene in the whole film, is not on the water, but at the meeting of the boat halls and the priest's take on what rowing for an institution is. That summarises the ethos for many of us. "We are servants to put in, not masters to take out. We owe that to all those before us and those who will come after us." In a Boat Races, to be second is to be last. It is a nightmare from the fall of the flag to the final line. This film shows what an oarsman goes through. Not as brutal as the reality but it is a glimpse never the less. Lines that seem cool yet speak volumes for those who have 'been there' are: "We need good men....not just good oarsmen..." "No one put a reserve sign on your seat...." "You can hear the boat sing...." "....make them feel like they came third...." "It's what we do to win the boat race...." What it shows, what no other film can show is the harmony of a team, and the determination and self sacrifice to win.
For an oarsman who has faced the pain and the exhilaration of victory, this film will break a smile, not a cheer. Yet for the world that has not faced it, its a peek at an oarsman's world.
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