Bowling for Columbine dir Michael Moore
24 January 2003

 

A very profound, intelligent, brutally challenging documentary film. In some places it made me teary. In others the irony was beautiful - What A Wonderful World playing over horrific images of the carnage worked by the United States in other countries. But I don't agree with one review I read, or with the people in the row in front of me. I don't actually think it was very funny.

In a few parts that irony was amusing, mostly when it was unconscious irony on the part of the interviewees. One man, after taking a loaded gun from under his pillow, cocking it and holding it to his head, talked about his "Second Amendment right" to carry a weapon. What about nuclear warheads, asked the interviewer, aren't they weapons? No, the man thought that some weapons should be regulated. "There are some psychos out there," he asserted, gravely.

But the only part I found genuinely funny, rather than laugh-or-you'll-cry funny, was the "Brief History of America" cartoon. I'm not sure whether this was genuine South Park or an imitation created for the documentary. It did make me laugh, but even here it was still irony of a gentler kind.

Despite being solely about American culture rather than my own, the film made me deeply thoughtful. Its failure to answer the core question - Why do more Americans die from firearm misuse than people in any other country? - enhanced its thought-provoking quality. By the end of two intellectually and emotionally exhausting hours I thought I had the beginnings of an answer. Moore looked at the seeds of American culture and then at that culture's current state. What he failed to examine was the bits in between - the growth of the nation.

For while other nations, my own included, seemed to be growing up, the USA somehow grew angry and troubled. Just like a spoilt kid, the society as a whole seems unable to deal with what's come their way in land mass, economic strength and power. I don't know why. But perhaps a spell of house arrest would do them good. Once they can behave within their own shores (grounded in their bedroom), perhaps they'll be ready to play nicely with the rest of the global neighbourhood.

 

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