New Consciousness Review Winter 2016 - Page 47

CONSCIOUS CINEMA Catholic cardinal (Michel Piccoli) who’s unexpectedly elevated to pontiff at a Vatican conclave, a prospect that sends him fleeing in fright into the streets of Rome in the Italian comedy, “We Have a Pope” (“Habemus Papam”) (2012). Similar circumstances arise in the Swedish domestic comedy “Force Majeure” (“Turist”) (2014), in which a young husband and father (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) abandons his wife (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and children (Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren) to save himself from an approaching avalanche while on a skiing vacation in the French Alps, an act that leads to considerable family discord (much of it wryly comical). At other times, paying attention to our integrity may prompt us into making heavy sacrifices, regardless of how difficult that may be. However, if the choice comes down to being truthful with ourselves (and others), or willingly abandoning our sense of authenticity, the sacrifices we make may ultimately be well worth it. A number of biographical films portray this notion effectively, such as “Fair Game” (2010), the story of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), who was outted in an act of political retribution against her outspoken husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), a professionally devastating development that cost Plame her career but that brought highly questionable government practices to light; “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (2013), the epic biography of once-imprisoned South African president Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba), who endured years of incarceration for his beliefs on his way to becoming an inspirational leader of his country; “Of Gods and Men” (“Des hommes et des dieux”) (2010), the moving saga of a group of Trappist monks who lived peaceably among Algeria’s Muslim population until civil war broke out in 1996, a conflict that severely tested their faith and spiritual convictions; and “Trumbo” (2015), the biography of Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was blacklisted during the 1950s Red Scare but refused to give up on his views – or his craft, even if it meant clandestinely writing under a pseudonym, an effort that covertly won him two Oscars. The pressures put upon us to carry forward with our endeavors can be tremendous. But, when we know we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we operate from a position of integrity, one that, with sufficient time and effort, is bound to pay off. In “Gattaca” (1997), a genetically “inferior” everyman with dreams of space flight (Ethan Hawke) goes to great lengths to live out his destiny in a society where such ambitions are restricted to those of allegedly “superior” stock. That kind of intrepid determination also drives the efforts of forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) in his quest to determine the cause of neurological damage to pro football players, despite serious pressure from the NFL to quash his investigation, in the inspiring biographical drama, “Concussion” (2015). Achieving success under such conditions can be particularly challenging – but ultimately satisfying – for those operating under the added burden of extenuating circumstances, as evidenced by three films with gay community themes. In “Far From Heaven” (2002), a closeted husband and father (Dennis Quaid) struggles to come to terms with his sexuality under the repressive social pressures of life in 1950s suburbia, a challenge full of its share of disappointments and triumphs. Similar pressures characterize the narrative in “Viva” (2016), which chronicles the journey of an aspiring young Cuban drag queen (Héctor Medina) seeking to make a name for himself while dealing with the homophobic attitudes of his 47 | New Consciousness Review