Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kang Je-gyu's 'My Way' / 마이 웨이 (2011): Take Two

Shirai (Fan Bingbing), one of the characters in Kang Je-gyu's My Way / 마이 웨이 (2011) is a Chinese sniper. There were thousands of women snipers engaged in combat during the World War II period-- none of them American. Consider Lyudmila "Lady Death" Pavlychenko, a Ukrainian Soviet sniper who killed 309 Axis men. Women snipers fought during the American War in Vietnam, as is depicted in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket (Ngoc Le plays a Viet Cong sniper).    
Another element of Kang Je-gyu's My Way / 마이 웨이 (2011): the runner. The two main characters compete in races before the outbreak of war -- just as in Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981). In both films, running is another way to spotlight race, class and socio-economic competition. It makes one think of the Olympics, the ancient Greeks, The Iliad and the "tribal core" sports of the 21st century. It also might make one think of the Robert Altman film MASH (1970), set during the Korean War of 1950-1953, and prison films like Robert Aldrich's The Longest Yard (1974), as well as Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire (1981), which among other things deals with anti-Semitism. In My Way, there is not only the runner vs. runner aspect; at Normandy, we see Axis soldiers playing football (i.e. soccer) before the coming Allied invasion.
Kang Je-gyu's My Way / 마이 웨이 (2011) also deals with prisons, POW camps, gulags, concentration camps, forced labor and all of their most terrible conditions. Indeed, the German title for the film at its 2012 release in Germany was Prisoners of War -- in English. 

Since forever, it seems, POWs and prisoners in general have been treated very badly. Who would want to be trapped in an Iranian or North Korean prison? Or a Chinese, German, Russian, Turkish one? Or a French or British penal colony? During the American Civil War, both sides treated POWs in an abysmal manner, leaving them -- their fellow  Americans -- exposed to the elements, malnourished and decimated by infectious disease. Captured freedmen and free black men were either executed or sent back into, or into, slavery. Today, groups like the so-called Islamic State execute prisoners en masse. I doubt treatment of prisoners in ancient times was a pretty picture, either. 

Why are prisoners treated so cruelly? It's so easy -- too easy. Millions of prisoners -- civilians and soldiers, grownups and children -- perished while in prisons, camps and gulags during WW2. Millions more died in captivity after the war, never returned by the captor nations to their home countries -- or expatriated and then imprisoned-to-death in their home countries. My Way reminds us.

Today's Rune: Growth.   

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I read about some of the women snipers in Russia during WWII. They had some women fighter pilots too and they performed admirably. As for the treatment of prisoners, my god but humans are a nasty bit of business.