May 8, 2016
Last night I went to see the film A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING, directed by Tom Tykwer (who incidentally directed the very entertaining and quirky 1998 RUN LOLA RUN). When I woke up this morning, I realized how much I loathed the story of HOLOGRAM.
It’s a love story that takes place in Saudi Arabia. What makes Alan (Tom Hanks) such a desirable man? True, he’s got a decent personality and is a middle aged man who appears to take care of his physique, but why Hanne (Sidse Babett Knudsen), twelve years his junior was so hot-to-trot for him, I’m not sure. The relationship that developed between Alan’s doctor, Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), made sense and I accepted it.
Why I hated this story was, not because of the above, but because I have come to despise the Islamic culture’s treatment of women. It also showed that the indigenous wealthy, western educated men in control of business and riches, with close connections to the King, are all powerful. They are above the law, drink alcohol if they so desire, which is something that is totally against the law of the country, never mind the religion. The one Islamic woman, who was Alan’s connection to the people he was supposed to do business with, was attractive and unapologetically deceitful and disdainful. Whose daughter was she that she was able to acquire this position even though in our society it ranked as a job as a receptionist?
I also hated the way everything that is considered “bad” by Islam—sex, drugs, alcohol, dancing, music, a woman’s face and body, which I take as akin to illicit drugs in the West—is shown to be used by the White foreigners in such an irresponsible and floutingly depraved manner as in the party scene. Don’t get me wrong, like Andy Warhol, I might have enjoyed being at the party myself, even if only as a voyeur.
As in the film IDA (2013), which I found slow and uninteresting, I was more curious how the two high-ranking females made it to the top of their so “anti-of-things” society. In IDA, how did Anna’s aunt Wanda, a Jew who survived the Holocaust, become a Judge in anti-Semitic Poland? In HOLOGRAM how did Zahra become a doctor who was able to be alone with male patients? The film touches on these questions, but doesn’t give any conclusive answers.
Still, we are treated to female nudity when Alan and Sarita go snorkeling. It’s a gorgeous underwater adventure in a beautiful part of the world. So sad that Zahra had to camouflage herself to enjoy a day on the beach with Alan. But would her “disguise” of swimming topless with Alan really trick anyone watching them into believing she was a man? I somehow doubted it because if anyone living anywhere near where Zahra has her beautiful home and is either innocently or maliciously spying on others and willing to report those who are breaking laws, they will most likely have binoculars and will immediately notice, as we did, Zahra’s breasts. But as we know, if filmmakers can place sex and nudity into a film, of course they will.
The more interesting relationship was between Alan and his driver Yousef (Alexander Black) who I decided was a man encapsulating the idea of a person on the brink of two conflicting cultures.
So the film kind of ends with a happily-ever-after. But it doesn’t really conclude for us what is going to happen. We know that if the two lovers are caught by the powers that be (never mind that she’s still not divorced and he’s not of the Islamic faith and likes to drink alcohol) bad things will happen to them. And by bad, you know that could easily mean that they will be taken to the mosque that Alan had observed from his hotel room and be publicly executed with audience in tow, possibly for some as entertainment value as was done during the French revolution.
Maybe the film was supposed to bring out this feeling in me. Like the Iranian graphic novelist and director Marjane Satrapi (PERSEPOLIS ) once said in an interview, until Islamic men can treat one-half of their population with equality, there will never be peace in the world.