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While shifting airports by bus in Africa, a group of passengers is driven to the middle of nowhere in the desert by the driver that is following a defective compass. They run out of gas and they reach a ghost village inhabited by a single man, Kanana. One passenger that has experience with desert gives five advices to the others to survive in the spot, among them to keep the spirit high, while he travels through the desert seeking for help. One intellectual in the stranded group suggests the performance of King Lear to keep the morale of the survivors. Along the days, while hope decreases, the tension increases among the survivors. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pretentious, Dreary, Ugly and Boring -- With Unlikable Characters
I'm a fan of survival films, especially desert survival films like "Flight of the Pheonix" and "Sands of the Kalahari." Other films could partially fit this description as well, such as "Lawrence of Arabia," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Sahara," "The English Patient" and even the recent "Mummy" flicks.
"The King is Alive" is such a film. A bunch of travelers get stuck in the desolate Namibian desert and conduct Shakespeare's play "King Lear" to pass the time and keep their sanity.
"The King is Alive" is a Dogme 95 film wherein the director is bound by various restrictions, such as actual locations, natural light, no soundtrack or special effects. This is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it could well lend a gritty realism to the picture.
Unfortunately "The King is Alive" is a colossal bore. The characters are all incredibly unlikable; the story is dreary, slow and boring. The reenactment of "King Lear" comes across unbelievable and pretentious. The film basically shows the WORST in humanity and hence comes across negative, hopeless and pessimistic. Despite the beautiful Namibian photography, this is a very UGLY film.
Want proof? One girl fatally poisons another woman for no important reason and an aging man literally urinates on a dying woman (!!). Need I say more?
Needless to say, if you're looking for a hope-affirming film that will testify to the endurance, greatness and triumph of the human spirit, this is not it.
I'm not suggesting that all films have to be optimistic in nature, after all, I'm a fan of some fairly solemn films (e.g. "Apocalypse Now," "Runaway Train"), but this is ridiculous. I'd hate to meet the screenwriter because, whoever it is, he or she must be a very UGLY person.
I give one star for the gorgeous cinematography, half a star for Jennifer Jason Leigh, the only remotely likable person, and half a star for the gritty realism.
I saw the film twice and literally threw it away after the second viewing. Why not sell it or give it away? Because it's morally irresponsible to pass along garbage.
Oh, by the way, the end credits rip-off the credits sequence of "Apocalypse Now." Perhaps the director felt he had an equally great film on his hands. Not even close.
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