Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Isnin, Februari 16, 2009

#120. Famous biopics on screen

16th February, 2009
The Star

Our Silver Scream columnist gets introspective (and a tad self-absorbed) analysing the film biography genre as he reckons anyone could qualify for their own biopic.We've all heard the saying – “live every day like it’s your last”. On a more narcissistic and less morbid note, why not paraphrase this to make “live every day as if it’s a scene from a biopic” a new mantra to adhere to?

For those who prefer honest story-telling over the magic of make-believe in films, or better still, know how to appreciate both, many all-time favourite movies would fit in the category of the biopic.

Less literal than documentaries and more credible than fiction, good biopics are prime examples of the magnitude of inspirational material that can be produced when art imitates life. Within the parameters of a biopic, a life is examined, a unique character is recreated and the value of a person’s existence is analysed.

So if they ever made a movie about your life, what would it be like?

Before you dismiss the idea prematurely based on the assumption that you’re an insignificant nobody and pale in comparison to the likes of Gandhi and Muhammad Ali, consider the fact that at the very beginning of those stories, these two subjects of biopics were unknowns just like you and me. Movies like Erin Brockovich show us that you don’t even need significant amounts of talent or world-changing ideas to warrant having your life documented in a biopic. If we’ve learnt anything from biopics, it’s the fact that what matters is not who you are but what you do.

Optimistically speaking, once you’ve established that you want to do meaningful things with your life, you’re almost on your way to becoming biopic material. Some good biopics even forgo telling the juiciest parts of their subjects’ lives and focus on turning points in their lives that helped define who they are, such as the Motorcycle Diaries (based on Che Guevera’s life just before he became a revolutionary hero) and The Pursuit of Happyness (based on Chris Gardner’s impoverished life as a single father before going on to become a successful stockbroker). Take note of this since many of us may be just on the steps to the halls of greatness, as we embark on finding ourselves. We could already have compiled enough material to put together an interesting biopic.

Now that you’ve opened up to the idea that your life could potentially be projected onto the big screen in front of millions of people, indulge yourself further in this exercise to wonder who you would think suitable to act in your biopic.

Start off with the actor(s) who would qualify to play you. Although subjects of biopics rarely have input into the selection of the actor(s) who plays them in movies, let’s imagine that we do get to have a say about who would be in the film version of our life story. I personally would like to see a younger Joseph Gorden-Levitt (from his Third Rock from the Sun days) playing me in my teenage years followed by Ken Watanabe taking on the duty of fleshing out my adult life.

Clearly it might not be a good idea to be casting director in my own film since I might also get carried away and cast various hot actresses to play my love interests (do you reckon Zhang Zi Yi could put on a Malaysian accent?) and the entire Ocean’s Eleven to play the roles of my best friends.

Choosing actors to play real life characters is extremely tricky and we should steer clear of settling for choices based solely on their sex/box office appeal or even their close resemblances to the characters they’re playing. The actors’ skills play an immense part in bringing difficult human characters to life. An example of an excellent performance in recent biopics would be Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in The Queen which humanised an extremely complex character who could have more easily been vilified or played as one dimensional.

Whilst having a biopic made about your life may indicate that you’ve indeed led an interesting life, it would also potentially open you up to be judged in the eyes of the world. Some biopics seek especially to do just that, such as Oliver Stone’s W. (based on George W. Bush) and Capote (based on the life of Truman Capote).

Bearing in mind Socrates’ philosophical assertion that an unexamined life is not worth living, what better way to examine your life than through the lens of its very own biopic?

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