Friday, June 29, 2012

A movie about the Middle East

One of my many interests when it comes to foreign affairs is to see how the 'weapons' of soft power are used in order to send messages and build perceptions about countries and regions of the world. Of course that  not all or rather most part of those representations are not innocent, but my interest is to understand where the wind goes.
For instance, I've spent a lot of time watching Cold War movies - will start writing about very soon about some of them - but I discovered that there were not too many movies about the Middle East. Thus, when I've discovered The Prince of Persia at my local library, I couldn't wait to see this Hollywood production. A couple of days before the new sanctions against the Iranian oil, I was almost sure that at the end of the 100 minutes of the movie I will have at least a new idea about his mysterious country. 
However, nothing happened by far. The movie is the story of the powerful kingdom of Persia - a description that fits very well the way in which many Iranians introduce their own history - trying to expand its influence and enrich their conquests. Prince Dostan - played by Jake Gyullenhaal - is adopted when a child by the powerful King Sharaman impressed by the courage and strength of the then child (it reminds me of more than one popular story from the Middle East, maybe the 1001 nights). Dostan grows up and he will lead successfully the siege against the city of Alamit. The entire conquest is in fact set up by the uncle who wanted a mystical dagger that could give him the supreme power to turn the time back. If the uncle would have the dagger he will be able to do not save his brother in danger of death as a child and thus he will be automatically the one and only King of Persia.
The movie has a lot of action, romance and many video-game suspense. In fact, the source of inspiration of the movie was a game with the same name, very popular in the 1990s. You will have a lot of conspirations and cruelty and it is how we often perceive the politics in this area - and the politicians from the area are doing their best to confirm this image; if you do not believe, think about what is going on in Syria right now. But in comparison with the usual Middle Eastern tragedies, the movie has a happy ending and the brave prince Dastan fought the sources of evil and will save the world from evil. 
More than 90%, the movie is predictable - to be read, boring. For me, one of the interesting apparitions was the group of Hassanassins, apparently an Islamic sect. They are mentioned around 1092 and were considered a secret order of killers originary from the current territory of Iran and Syria, that used to consume hashish (maybe qath as well)– their name is a transliteration of their hobby which increased their cruelty. This is the popular version, but they were subject of academic studies. Dastan will fight them all, but since I've seen the movie, I am more than curious to find out more if there are any descendants of the old assassins in the present-day problematic Middle East.
The final recommendation: if you have something more interesting to do - as for example, reading about the assassins, you better don't waste your time with this movie. 

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