tisdag 10 januari 2012

"Think of everything we've accomplished!"

Colin Firth as Tailor.
I didn't get much of what Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy was about. But there was one line that stuck to my mind. Close to the end of the movie, when everything is reveiled, Tailor says: "I am someone who has made his mark."

But what is that mark? What is the most important work that he has done - for Tailor is very clearly a professional. Private lives don't count in this world of men spending their lives in sound proof rooms, dull corridors and elaborate staircases. So when did he make that mark? He never seemed to work much, he seemed more like a bored school boy. I see a lot of women, though, shuffling paper and locking up files in safes. And one young man working hard to get them for on old man who spends his nights reading them.

It's really a terribly boring film. Am I supposed to be shocked at the lack of work done by some of the men who presume themselves to be the pillars of civilization? In the end, Smiley, a man who never smiles, sits down at the place where his former boss sat, in the middle of a sound proof room with a very irritating wall. Here is where the secrets are born, fed and killed. Here is where the men sit and shoot vicious looks at one another, while trying hard to pretend to do something vital for the realm. Did he get his bosses job? Will he chase all the shadows away, work as an honest spy boss? What side is he really on?

Gary Oldman as Smiley.
My husband reminds me that there is a better film about the dangerous spy games that men play, and get themselves entangled in. He's thinking of The Good Shepherd, Robert De Niro's fascinating film where Matt Damon plays a man who goes astray, thinking he is doing it all for the good of his country. It's a very moving film, filled with the sadness of hurt and loss that never will mend. Matt Damon is just as enigmatic as the men in Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy. But the tragedy of that man is somewhat more understandable: How can he not love Angelina Jolie? He must be crazy.
Matt Damon as The Good Shepherd.
And then it dawns on me: what all these men are trying so hard to hide, what they are in fact accomplishing, is their secret gayness. Of course. None of them seem spurred by the things that drive most of us: love, doing something useful for others, getting into relationships, starting a family, having kids... Both Tailor and the Matt Damon-character are closet gays. I can see no other explanation for Matt Damon's sad spy. In the end he is left all alone because he has betrayed his family and he is also being held in contempt by his collegues, the very ones who lured him into the CIA in the first place. Do they despise him because what he does to his family? No, they despise him, and this took some figuring out for me, because he doesn't acknowledge his homosexuality and can't enjoy the privileges of his upper class life. His boss (played wonderfully by William Hurt) doesn't mind if his men are straight or gay. He has his own secrets but the difference is that he enjoys them.

So work is pointless to all these men who work so hard. I can still say that Alfredson's film leaves me cold. There's so much left unsaid or hidden away. It's the same with the Mikael Blomkvist character in the Millennium-films. He's such a cold hearted person, for all the good deeds he's supposed to be doing. At his best, he's like a Tintin character, someone who helps the others stand out, while being nothing special himself. Who is Tintin really? What does he want? Where does he come from? When does he ever write the stories he's supposed to write? 

Thanks to Milou, it is hard to get upset with Tintin. After all, Tintin loves Milou. But what about Smiley? Is Smiley just another Tintin? At the end of the film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Smiley goes home to his apartment. When he's been there before, we noticed that he seemed to be afraid of the gloomy rooms, all locked up in shadows and memories. At the same time Smiley's home seemed to be awfylly easy to invade. There's always someone waiting for him, an unexpected guest.

So Smiley moves carefully into his home. He seems to loose his balance at one point, and hugs the staircase bannister. Then we see that someone is sitting in the far end of the apartment, in a brightly lit room. It's a woman, and probably it is Smiley's wife who has come back.

So he was human after all. And he managed to find the spy "at the top of the circus" because he was so unhappy that his wife had left him so he had to engulf himself in work. That's a rather grim perspective on the forces that make us achieve the work we do. Work is connected to betrayal, egoism, loneliness and isolation.

Suddenly this reminds me of poor Ani, in the Star Wars saga, who is trapped into the Darth Vader mask because he wanted to save the one he loved. Somhow Ani's transformation into Darth Vader seems much more believable than the men running the British spy-circus.

My husband, who put me on this trail in the first place, soothes me by telling me that perhaps the story of Smiley and the others simply need more time. That's why he prefers the TV-series with Alec Guinness.

Daniel Craig as Tintin - sorry - Mikael Blomkvist.