Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gran Torino

The 18.10 we watched the movie "Gran Torino". It is directed by, produced by and starring Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski.  It is an American drama film, released in 2008. The movie was chosen as one of the Ten Best Films of 2008. Eastwood also received an award for Best Actor from the National Board of Review. 

The film covers the following curriculum goal: "Elaborate on and discuss aspects of multicultural societies in the English-speaking world". In the movie we meet Walt Kowalski, an old cranky Polish man who's wife has just passed away. In general, Walt is negative towards other cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and religion, and uses a lot of racial slurs and cursing words. Walt does not have a close relationship with his son and his family, they clearly do not know each other well.

A new people move to his neighbourhood, replacing a polish family who lived there before. These new people are called "Hmong people", and Walt is not liking them.  Walt used to be a Korean War veteran, and at first he links them to the coreans who were his enemies. When learning that these people actually were on his side of the war, it does not change the way he acts towards them. All Walt wishes for is to be left alone, but these new neighbours keep interrupting his peace and quiet.

The Hmong family consists of a mother, the daughter Sue, and her brother Thao.  A Hmong gang is trying to force the boy Thao into joining them, creating a scene outside their house. Walt has no choice but to get involved, and acts out of selfish reasons rather than wanting to help someone out. He scares the gang away. 

After this, Walt is looked upon like a hero to the Hmong people. This is exactly the opposite of what Walt wishes to happen. They show their gratitude by giving him gifts and homemade food. Being the grumpy man he is, he still shows no kindness towards them. The person who is especially nice to him, is Sue.  What amazed me, was that no  matter how harsh or rude Walt was towards the Hmong people, Sue never stopped being kind, and trying to include him. 

Sue, Thao and their mother giving gifts of gratitude
Through the movie, you are dwelling on several questions. What is really Walt's problem? What has happened to him, that could have made him this angry? And last but not least, does he actually care about anyone but himself? Like mentioned, he is clearly not very close to his family, but there are several things you notice Walt values. He is a handyman, and likes maintaining his house. He also cares a lot about his Labrador Daisy, and maybe he feels she is the only one he can really talk to? Referring to the movie title, the car in his garage is also something that is precious to him. Walt wishes to spend his time on his veranda sipping beer. But something seems to  be missing in his life.

This "something" ,he finds in the Hmong people. In the beginning of the movie, Thao is forced into stealing  Walt's Gran Torino. He does not succeed, and according to the gang, he has blown his first "initiation". His family are very upset with him for trying to steal the car. This leads to him having to pay up for it by working for Mr. Kowalski. After some time, Walt sees something in the young boy. He sees that he is dutiful, willing to work, kind and polite. Walt starts trusting the boy, and wishes to help him in avoiding the harassment from the gang members.  A friendship between the old man and boy has evolved. At one point in the movie, Walt says he has more in common with Thao's family than his.

The ending was really surprising and touching. Walt has turned into a completely different person, and made a choice that might have saved Thao and his family's life. He actually shows affection for other people. More importantly, he has accepted a different culture, and learned that they are good people. He is finally at peace. Accepting other societies is not something he would have done before. In the end he has become the Hmong peoples "protector" and close friend. I think it was a really beautiful movie, because it describes the process Walt goes through, from being introverted to kindhearted. There were also a lot of humor in the movie, keeping it from being too serious and sad.

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