marți, 2 mai 2017

Midnight Express, written by Oliver Stone based on the book by Billy Hayes, directed by Alan Parker

Midnight Express, written by Oliver Stone based on the book by Billy Hayes, directed by Alan Parker

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

This extremely tense biographical drama has won:

-          The Golden Globes for Best Picture- Drama, Best Screenplay for Oliver Stone, Best Supporting actor for the marvelous late John Hurt
-          The Academy awards for Best Writing
-          BAFTAs for Best Direction and Supporting Actor

The director is the fabulous man behind the very different:

-          Pink Floyd: The Wall and Mississippi Burning, the latter being one of the best films that I have ever seen

Midnight Express is based on the real story, told in the book by Billy Hayes who has been through one of the worst experiences in the world.

He makes a dreadful mistake that should be plainly pointed out but the resulting penalty and torture are unacceptable.
Billy Hayes, a young student with hours left before graduation from an American University is asked to smuggle 2 kilos of hashish.

I was reading that those working for the airport authorities are trained now and know where to look for suspicious behavior.
Back in turkey, in 1970 there might have been little training in searching for shifting, continuous eye movement, but Billy Hayes did look strange.

He was perspiring and showing all the signs that something is wrong and if one reads the classic Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by the brilliant Malcolm Gladwell, one understands that Billy Hayes stood out to be selected.
He was taken aside and searched and then the drugs were found on him.
The Turkish officials asked him to cooperate and give the names of those who gave him the hashish and who carried a much bigger responsibility.

From here on we have a descent into hell.
Horror movies are not my cup of tea and I avoid the genre altogether.

Nevertheless this is a horror movie wherein nothing stupid happens and there are no people with chainsaws.
And yet the moving picture is full with a different kind gore, maddening sadism and the terrible suffering of the protagonist.

It is difficult to know what will happen next, what the sentence will be in a system that is corrupt, chaotic and abusive.
Alas, the past few weeks have demonstrated that even now, people in Turkey have a penchant for tyranny.

They have voted just a short time ago to make their already dictatorial Erdogan even more powerful and able to rule as he likes.
This is not just a weird occurrence in Turkey alas, it happens in Russia, The Philippines and even the beacon of democracy – America.

Trump has expressed views about killing the families of suspected terrorists and torture that sit well with…Hamidou.
The latter is the prison guard who has a sadistic pleasure to inflict psychological and physical pain on prisoners.

The psychological impact on inmates and especially the young, impressionable Billy Hayes is enormous and horrendous.
Facing at one point a life sentence in the filthy, brutal, primitive, abusive, heinous, apocalyptical Turkish jail would destroy most people.

Indeed, suicide appears as a desirable, easy exit from Hades.

This is a very powerful story and in terms of positive psychology it could make one think of one rule of happiness:

-          Do not compare yourself to others who have a more expensive car, better housing, clothing and consumer good
-          If you want to compare, watch Midnight Express and compare your life to that of Billy and the other inmates…

“[to the Turkish court]
Billy Hayes: I just wish for once that you could be in my shoes, Mr. Prosecutor, and then you would know something that you don't know: mercy! That the concept of a society is based on the quality of that mercy; its sense of fair play; its sense of justice! But I guess that's like asking a bear to shit in the toilet.
Max: The best thing to do is to get your ass out of here. Best way that you can.
Billy Hayes: Yeah, but how?
Max: Catch the midnight express.
Billy Hayes: But what's that?
Max: [laughs] Well it's not a train. It's a prison word for... escape. But it doesn't stop around here.”

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