February 2, 2008
History, whether in word or image, is gummy glue, tacky tar, sticky honey. Once out of the can, truth and facts pick up bits of everything and are never the same again. So too with the filming of Mariane Pearl's book A Mighty Heart, The Brave Life and Death of My Husband.
Both the memoir and the movie chronicle pregnant Mariane's quest to find Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter. In 2002 he was abducted in Pakistan by Islamic extremists as he researched the story of Richard Reid, the British "Shoe Bomber."
In the harrowing weeks leading to Daniel's cruel death, Mariane orchestrates an international investigative team in a compelling race to find him first.
Anyone uncomfortable with Angelina Jolie's thick accent and pretty face must remember they are voyeurs of quasi-history. But under Michael Winterbottom's direction, the formidable cast still performs with an intensity that shuns anything schmaltzy or sentimental. (A limp Dan Futterman as Pearl was a notable exception.)
For Jolie, playing Mariane was a labor of love--for her friend and for her friend's cause. Written for Adam, born three months after his dad died, the book and the film are dedicated to revenging Daniel's execution. Not in anger, but by living without loathing and fear.
Mariane Pearl, of Cuban and Dutch descent, inspired a multi-denominational cadre of friends and professionals (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist) who united to search for her Jewish husband. In the movie, in her book and in life, Mariane finds solace in that. And so does the audience.
The real story has been fictionalized for the screen. Any autobiography or memoir is a personal interpretation of the facts. The biographer must recall - and interpret - and fill in the blanks - and sometimes embellish past events.
Even after every moment of our waking lives, we make up, morph and mutate memories of our own reality. Only living itself comes close to nonfiction. But living, too, is fictitious. We invent it as best we can as we go along.
As film fans and news junkies, we have to rely on second-hand reports and storytelling to broaden our horizons about the world, and to sow inspiration to change it for the better.
A Mighty Heart plants one of those seeds.
The Features help reinforce the theme of the story: "Not giving in to hatred," (quoted from an interview with actor Will Patton). Since almost all of the principals from the real ordeal had been contacted before filming, there was a personal connection felt by the cast.
And there was a certain intensity generated by making the film in sequence cramped inside a home for about the exact five week duration of Mariane's search. The actors share their feelings and the experience in interviews.
Additional segments cover two organizations that were inspired by Daniel's "Brave Life and Death." TV's Christiana Amanpour explains the Pearl Foundation which fosters international and interdenominational dialogue and music.
Members of the Committee to Protect Journalists discuss their mission to speak out for journalists facing persecution and prosecution in their pursuit of truth.
It's been years since Daniel Pearl's death, yet his Mighty Heart still beats.
Journalist Daniel Pearl
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Dan Futterman, Archie Panjabi, Mohammed Afzal, Irfan Khan, Will Patton
Length: 102 minutes
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2:35:1
Dolby True HD 5.1
Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
French & Spanish:
Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
English SDH, French,