The Great Wall – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Tadgh O’Sullivan
Tadgh O’Sullivan was inspired to create this film by a short story of Franz Kafka “Beim Baum der Chinesischen Mauer” which has been translated loosely into English as “the Great Wall of China” and further shortened by O’Sullivan in his title of this documentary to simply “The Great Wall”. He omits in the title therefore to make any reference to China, which is understandable, as he concentrates his documentary on the European Union in the twenty first century. Less understandable is the omission of any reference in his title to the phrase “beim Baum” (In the course of building) as a comparison is drawn between the segmented and sporadic manner in which the Great Wall of China was built and the various structures which are being created and have in recent years been built in the South of Europe in order to keep aliens out.
Kafka wrote in German and the documentary is accompanied by various quotations in German from the original text of Kafka’s short story with sub titles providing a translation. As Germany is the principal country in Europe which speaks German (Austria also uses it, of course) the documentary obliquely gives the impression, whether this was intended or not, that Germany is the main protagonist for the creation of the current walls and by implication of keeping aliens out. Such a proposition is open to question given that Germany receives more aliens per capita than any other country within the European Union.
A strong visual contrast is drawn between the glistening office blocks of glass and steel in the City of London and possibly Frankfurt (it is not as visually distinctive) , in which the financial power houses reside and the abject poverty of the individuals clustered in immigration settlements or camping on the wrong side of a wall or fence. The dual ability of a wall or fence to exclude or protect, depending on which side of it, it is viewed, is made clearly. The power to determine who resides on which side of it is the more difficult question raised.
O’Sullivan does not make it easy to grasp precisely the point or points he wishes to make. Very few of his audience is likely to be familiar with Kafka’s short story. However he is to be lauded for making a documentary about contemporary Europe, using one of its great writers Kafka as his touchstone, to highlight that there is “something rotten” taking place.
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