Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Match Point: Woody Allen asks one of the biggest philosophical questions

Woody Allen has a long career both as a film director and actor. He has managed to create his own unique style and create movies that have gained him a spot in the film-history. He is famous for his intellectual comedies which criticized erotic relationships. In this film, though he abandons his favorite style, the erotic comedy, and his natural environment, Manhattan, to make a dramatic film placed at London.
An Irish tennis player manages to marry into money. Thanks to his father in law he climbs the social ladder rapidly gaining a well-paid work in the business world and a life-style fit for a class that has assimilated wealth through several generations. He makes though, a fatal mistake. He fell in love with his brother-in –law girlfriend and starts an illicit relationship. When his mistress threatens to tell his wife, he murders her in order to be able to keep his job and social status.
Woody Allen has done an incredibly suitable casting. Great actors give great performances. The spectator understands the kind of life that tempts the hero to murder. In this case luxury and wealth are the means not for over consumption and vulgarity but the way to insure a higher way of living by having access and enjoying higher art. Opera, music, theatre, refined taste in food and clothing are the motives that push the hero to murder. Contrary to the mass believes that wealth can provide the privileged ones with a better car, a luxurious house and maybe a boat, Allen’s hero pursuits more spiritual goods.
In reality Match Point is the re-working of an older Woody Allen film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. In Crime and Misdemeanors a middle aged man hires a professional assassin to kill his mistress. He lives in terror waiting to be discovered and punished for his crime until he realizes that nothing is going to happen and goes back to his life. Both films are actually philosophical analyses. The question asked is whether there is higher power or not. If there is no god and no higher justice then what stops from committing a crime? If we actually believe that there is no justice in the world than we can do whatever we want and get away with it. If there is no fate, all we have to be is lucky. In both films the killers are never punished. On the contrary after their deed they manage to remain guilt-free, happy and to prospect economically and socially. So what does Woody Allen tell us? That there is no God and we are free to conduct ourselves as we wish? If that was true though, we would live in a world without restrain, a world full of crimes and violence. But then again we already live in a violent world don’t’ we? The choice to believe or not to believe is personal. If you don’t believe you are free to choose your morality. In the end living by a moral code is also a personal choice.

1 comment:

OJAY said...

There is one decisive element in Match Point which distinguishes it from Crimes and Misdemeanors. Whereas your argument rings true for the earlier film, in Match Point, Chris (the murderer) is close to being found out. The question of whether or not this happens depends on pure coincidence. This is the "Matchpoint" from Allen's title. It is the moment in which the victim's ring falls not into the river but onto the pavement (mirroring the tennis ball going over the net or not) which determines the future development. In consequence coincidence takes the place of a higher power here, as it often does in our lives.

What I like in particular about this "Match point" is that Allen manages to misguide even the most observant of viewers here. By taking the cue from tennis: "a ball that doesnt cross the net is bad", everyone thinks that Chris is condemned when the ring doesn't fall into the river. But, unexpectedly, it is exactly this that saves Chris. Every viewer who easily discovers hints and trails will be tricked into a false expectation, a stunt only a true master like Woody Allen is able to pull.