26 April 2015

Che, an Evaluation

A NOVELIC MEMOIR of Ernesto Guevara’s role within the Cuban—and later, the Bolivian—Revolution, Steven Soderbergh’s Che explores, through perpetually shifting camera views, plots, and time sequences, both Guevara’s tactical leadership of his guerilla troops in his moments of success in Cuba and his utter failures in securing loyal contacts and self-guided followers in Bolivia, documenting his life from his rise to revolutionary power to his eventual fall years later.

In Che: Part 1, The Argentine, a couplet of scenettes ultimately determine Guevara’s steadfast leadership skills. In the first, the audience is exposed to glimpses of men raiding a house—only later are they revealed as revolutionaries, leading to the assumption that they act to secure supplies for their troops and that all of the above is a portion of a larger mission of which the audience will soon be aware—cutting open bags of flour and stealing nearly everything upon the house’s shelves; afterwards, they march four locals, all the prisoners yelling and in tears. In the next scene, Guevara lines the guerilla men, facing him, with the locals standing behind them, and Guevara scolds each of them for their treatment of the natives, ultimately alluding to his greater belief that inappropriate behavior—in addition to stealing food, one of the men raped a native woman in the name of a better Cuba—on behalf of his troops discredits his own movement, the revolution, and cannot be tolerated. The film shows not the scavengers ever again.
Che: Part II, Guerilla, however, portrays a bleaker perspective of Guevara’s efforts. After several weeks, for instance, of his new guerilla troops’ ascent to power, they experience a shortage of food—while many passive onlookers often romanticize revolutionary warriors as dominant of their hunger and their familial needs, Soderbergh revels in the troops’ desperation in times of need. Immediately, the camera shifts to four guerilla fighters, one stabbing his knife into a can of unidentifiable food, all of them finally delighting in their rebellious and sinister attempt to satisfy their hungers; however, when a superior discovers their betrayal of the troops, their comidal joys, along with their dignity, wither. Once again, resulting from their behavior, in accordance with Guevarian policy, the patriots soon become expatriates.

Perhaps, Ernesto Guevara relied upon such strict behavioral rules in order to reach a limited level of success, first in his Cuban coup d’├ętat and later in his Bolivian—and international—rise to martyrdom, a fate he knew too well would be his own, and his revolutionary followers abided by his nearly perfect sense of morality, all infringements yielding exile, as Soderbergh’s two-part film may suggest. Or, more likely, Guevara was as flawed as his followers, only self-aware enough to silently glean wisdom from his own mistakes and to tolerate only the strongest recovery from his compatriots. Regardless, the repercussions of his roles within the Cuban and Bolivian revolutions—exponentially magnified in the timelessness of his writings, diaries to be analyzed for as long as revolutions continue to arise—transcend far beyond any questionability in his own moral code. Immortalized, Guevara will forever thread itself within the film and fabric of our world, Che only serving as a miniscule ink blot on the ironic tee shirt that is our world.

Ernesto Guevara (Benicio del Toro) discusses plans for an upcoming mission with his troop.
Image Courtesy of IFC Films

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