Thursday, March 15, 2012

Iron Lady the movie

To the people of Hong Kong, Margaret Thatcher is a familiar name.  Therefore a movie on her life story is both easy and difficult.  It is easy being it does not need any introduction or advertisement.  We know her life story pretty well and will want to see how the movie interprets   If is difficult because we know it too well.  We will consider any depiction in a two hour movie incomplete and full of omission.  The greatest omission to me is that the Margaret Thatcher era was the crucial years when the British returned the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China.  It is not mentioned in the movie but we can still see the political scene in UK during that time.

The first reaction to this movie in UK was that it paints a biased picture of Margaret Thatcher by presenting her throughout the movie as a senile old lady.  This approach adopted by the script can be argued on the artistic angle.  Art has a protective armour in that it cannot be bad; one can only say he does not like it.  Notwithstanding such criticism, legendary stories and biographies are often told as memoir or a reflection of life when one gets old.  Unlike many stories which only tell a part of the picture, biographies should be complete in presenting the whole life.  The reality is that life is only complete when one is old.

No matter how well one knows Margaret Thatcher, it is only a movie.  From the cinematographic point of view, you just cannot miss Meryl Streep.  She is the soul of the whole movie.  When she received the Oscar, she said the American would say oh no not her again.  This is precisely the point.  She did it again.  You really have to admire the professionalism of this actress.  She is Margaret Thatcher in reincarnation in the movie.  She looks like, moves like and speaks like Margaret Thatcher.  She also projects very accurately the character of Margaret Thatcher, her obstinance and persistence.

The ideology of Thatcherism, or the liberterianism, or individualism is portrayed in the movie as the basic philosophy of Margaret Thatcher.  She considered that individuals should care for themselves, rewards should be commensurate with the contribution of the individual.  She also considered a social structure should be based on public choice, to be made on an aggregate of individual choices. 

She even argued her philosophy and justified it in the theological sense.  In a famous speech when she addressed the General Assembly of the Church on 21 May 1988, which was referred to by the press as the Sermon on the Mound (not mount), she told the religious gurus that Christianity was about spirit redemption, not social reform.  This event is too controversial to be included in the movie, which I would call a grave omission.  Margaret Thatcher quoted the bible to the bishops: in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, St Paul said "If a man will not work he shall not eat."  She also claimed that choice was Christian as Christ chose to end his life, and that God has given all individuals the right to choose between good and evil.  This is a mockery to the church because this argument was made up by the church desperately to save her from the paradox that the almighty god cannot prevent men from doing evil.

In the end, her management style led to her downfall.  She was furious at her cabinet members of cowardice because, same as many politicians, they cared too much about public opinion instead of upholding principles.  She accused them of relying on feeling instead of thinking.  So, the movie ends with a whisper of Margaret Thatcher saying an old proverb:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
You are what you think.


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