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John Truscott goes to Borneo to work with the Iban. He reports to Henry Bullard, who gives him a "sleeping dictionary"--one of the locals who teaches him the local language and culture. And who he gives John is Selima. And while teaching him, John finds himself attracted to her. And we says it's not allowed, both the locals and Bullard forbid him to be in a relationship with Selima. But he defies them which has dire consequences. Written by
My wife and I watched this film not knowing anything about it except a two sentence introduction on a movie-card. We were impressed by all aspects of it-particularly the substance of the script-it was a brave script-a script that should have made people uncomfortable because of the swipes taken at British colonialism and what that evil did on a personal level to everybody concerned. Living as I do in Western Australia, the dark legacy of European colonialism is just below the surface and I have seen firsthand the outlines of the story presented in "The Sleeping Dictionary"-not of course the same geography or the same details but once colonialism left its tread on the floor of world history it matters little the particulars.
The enormity of the personal tragedy of that period is something not to be derisively dismissed as one commentator remarked-as a film fit for screening at the old folks home on a Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately the world is still dealing with that evil period of recent history.
I was moved by all the decisions that the characters faced throughout the film. Brenda Blethyn's character as the wife of Hoskin's colonial official was as much a victim as anybody in the film. Although she emerges as the "baddie" she must try, with little background, to stitch together a semblance of what she feels is an acceptable canvas in order to paint her English life-such of it as there is in Sarawak. And what of Hoskin's torn character-a man who can only fall back on "duty" to country in order to find reason for the completion of duties that he recognizes as damaging to all involved.
A brave film-look for it!
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