Jail is the enlightened improvement over medieval torture, and definitely represents one of the most important steps of Western society in its evolution from absolutism to modern democracy....
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Jail is the enlightened improvement over medieval torture, and definitely represents one of the most important steps of Western society in its evolution from absolutism to modern democracy. But when Foucault wrote that the eighteenth century had invented freedom, he also noted that this freedom came at a price: discipline. Those who stray from discipline lose their freedom. An inmate is essentially denied his freedom of choice, so that the State can insert itself in the spiritual space left vacant by this absence of freedom and rehabilitate him. The story of Bobby is that of a modern martyr. It demonstrates that, even in the darkest, most extreme conditions of stifled freedom, a man can go on making choices, and thus continue to feel like a human being. This film agrees with Kafka when he writes that martyrs do not make light of their bodies, but rather they make their way to the cross so that they can become an example, and in this sense - but only in this - they find themselves in ...
An important story muddled with gratuitous bigotry
The movie purports to tell the story of Bobby Sands, a North Irish Catholic who was tortured and abused by British forces, and died in a hunger strike. That much is historical fact and stated at the beginning of the film, so the plot and ending have no surprises. It's an important story that deserves better treatment than this movie provides, despite the best intentions of the director. The story is laden with heavy-handed religious imagery comparing Bobby Sands to John the Baptist, and the prison warden to Herod. The Warden with a hook nose and long, stringy hair comes off as a very insulting Jewish stereotype. There is also a scene where he is sexually involved with one of the guards who offers to get for him another guard, making the villain a homophobic stereotype as well as an anti-Semitic caricature.
One positive aspect of the film is that the brutal violence in the prison is only shown "around the edges," not graphically exploited as it would likely be in an American production, but made just clear enough to know that the prisoners suffered horribly. It's a nice bit of subtlety in an otherwise bigoted and cack-handed effort of religious allegory.
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