TOPAZ Issue 9 / 2004
Welcome
Likes And Dislikes
North American Template Homestead
Balanced nutritional habits
In the Quest of the Man
The Honour between Men
Understandings about the xx and xy gender
Success: An end result or a way of life?
Gender and Singing - a Musical Exploration

Film Review: The Honour between Men

I find it an excellent pastime to watch films and use them to understand more about life and the formation and development of a particular human quality. Sometimes mind provoking examples in films can trigger perceptions about human qualities. This film review focuses upon ‘honour between men’.

Some examples and commentaries;

In the film Meet Joe Black, the honour between two men is put under the microscope where agreement and contract are concerned. The initial contract that is issued from the character that represents Death (Brad Pitt) will give hours and minutes of life to Anthony Hopkins as long as he keeps Death interested during his ‘holiday’ on earth. Some of the honour codes of Anthony Hopkins start to appear in the contract between him and Death as the story unfolds (which has a happy ending, of course).

Different kinds of honour have varying consequences. Some of them form new moral codes, whilst others break existing moralities to be able to meet new requirements or circumstances, make new choices and reach to new codes of honourable behaviour.

The film Black Hawk Down, concerns US soldiers during an intervention mission in Somalia. Their company code of honour is ‘to leave no men behind’ and this keeps the honour of the soldiers intact during the mission, but it also results in many more soldiers being killed than would have been the case without the code. It is the price they are prepared to pay for honour. For these soldiers their first responsibility and honour is to the company and their fellow soldiers, and they are prepared to fulfil any mission providing this honour is intact.

There are always specific values, standards and moralities attached to honour, because honour doesn’t only play itself out across one dimension of life but across many. This makes honour a very interesting but also mysterious, unexpected and unseen player in the theatre of life and it certainly plays itself out in us in different ways at different times. Choices have to be made as dilemmas are faced. Choices that propose different levels of honour, which then propose different questions, for example, ‘Which is the highest honour that one can have and why?’ or ‘Which honour allows the most dignifying way forward?’ To give an example, there is the honour to defend the sovereignty and safety of one’s nation at all costs, but there is also the honour to protect one’s own life and the lives of others from harm.

In the film The Four Feathers, one of the dilemmas that is attached to the formation of honour is played out. It is the honour between men to not allow their personal feelings for a lady to spoil the friendship and the respect between them, and to not allow rivalry into the part of them that upholds that honour.

In the film Spy Game, the anatomy of two levels of honour, personal honour and group or national honour, and the values, standards and moralities that are attached to these are played out between two men. Robert Redford carries the group or nation code of honour (of the CIA), whilst Brad Pitt carries a personal code of honour. Because of his personal honour Pitt cannot set out to rescue his girlfriend because of his entanglement with the CIA. Both men wrestle with their own loyalty to their own code and wrestle with each other about the persuasion of the code of each other, which leads to unexpected choices and prices paid, which is always an important sign of honour being at play. Honour allows for strange and unexpected shifts and changes of priority, only grasped by someone that understands and knows the code themselves.

Similar unexpected choices are made in the film The Edge with Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins. The honour to preserve and rescue a small group that is lost in the wilderness is reflected against a lack of honour in the struggle for personal survival at all cost. The first honour triggers new perceptions, new solutions and creativity, whilst the absence of honour in this film attracts panic and fear, despair and self-centredness.

Then in the recent film Gods and Generals about the American civil war, there is a graphic display of men fighting on opposite sides of the battlefield, wrestling with the same dilemmas as they strive to form their personal honour in serving the same God and the same nation. This proposes the remarkable idea that the same honour code between two men, yet polarized differently, can cause them to die at each other’s hands. Somehow in this instance the honour lacked the reasoning to elevate the code beyond the battlefield.

Although the next film, The Thin Red Line, is also staged on a battlefield, it does offer some philosophical and elevating codes about a deeper reasoning and motive inside honour formations. This film is riddled with very interesting examples and questions about the formation and elevation of codes of honour between men. A poem from that film that illustrates this is: “One man looks at a dying bird thinking that there is nothing but unanswered pain..., and death got the final word..., it’s laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird..., feels the glory..., feels something smiling through it.” Two men, with two different types of codes of honour in how they perceive the reality in that war.

So often it seems to come down to the way and reasons from which we think about things and what we tell ourselves about what we see!

Sander Funneman, The Netherlands

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