Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Mountains of the Moon

With these words, I’ll try to provide answers to questions that we've been asked to write about this film, which I’ve seen for the umpteenth time:
My friend Sir Richard Burton is an adventurer, who is obsessed by the need to understand and take part in the costumes and languages of the world, viewing his TRAVELS as purely knowledge-based; probably for this reason, he feels a strong affinity towards the slave medicine man. He adapts and mixes with the natives and enjoys it immensely in every place, representing a human explorer and free of moral pretensions. However, Burton’s character doesn’t contrast well with Victorian society, as he has no respect for authority or religion and isn’t conventional in any way. His outspoken opinions and writing about sex or his view of the world offends Victorian morality.
On the other hand, our unfortunate Speke is the traditional English gentleman of the Victorian Era and who wants to be famous or is persuaded to be famous at any cost – Lowry, Lowry!
In the beginning, both are fellow explorers, but with many differences in personalities. However, as time passes, their feelings become more compassionate and more caring about each other; although the disagreement causes their ultimate separation. Burton feels betrayed by Speke and his attitude of passivity is probably his way of dealing with Speke’s new fame and apparent devaluation of their friendship.
Certainly, Speke was proved to be correct, but at that time he doesn’t have concrete evidence and Burton feels strongly that he needs more proof, before he can say one way or another. In fact, in Livingstone he finds an ally, who is of the same opinion.
There is a scene in the film that struck me in particular, when a sculptor interrupts Burton and his wife, while they are packing (Isabel is an intelligent woman, who admired him before she married) and asks Burton if he can help him to mould Speke’s face, where we can see the love with which he caresses the sculpture and the certainty that Burton knew his friend better than anyone else in the world.
To conclude, Burton shows in his final speech that for him discovering new or important features are not the only objectives for him, people are equally as important, their cultures, rituals, celebrations and languages. Needless to say, we should aspire to do the same in today’s world.

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