June 5, 2007

Dictators of the World and their Stalkers

The title of this entry is in no way meant to refer to people (friends, even) who may have an unhealthy fixation on dictators of the world.

Instead, it refers to two films I recently watched. The Last King of Scotland (that’d be the dictator part) and Alone With Her (that’s be the stalker part.) We’ll have a couple of very brief reviews momentarily.

Of course, we are not above encouraging an oddball interest now and again if it makes for entertaining and enlightening blog material, as it did last time we had a Dictators of the World post. OK Patti, I was thinking of you. (See long comments section on previous Dictators of the World post.)

Alone With Her


I expected a horror movie and was pleasantly surprised. It’s more of a psychological thriller. It’s not that there is no “horror” aspect to the film, but the pacing is completely different from what you’d expect in horror.

The film follows the progress of a stalker as he tries to insinuate himself into the life of his target. The director has used an interesting gimmick of only showing you what the stalker has videotaped, so you only see what the hidden cameras see.

Any film has a voyeuristic quality to it. But by only showing what the stalker cameras see, the director reinforces the feeling of voyeurism. Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son) is creepy as the stalker who knows better than to just pounce on his victim once he knows everything about her. In a horror movie, the victim would be horrified for at least half the film, if not more. But our stalker here is not interested in terror, but rather control.

The film shows that it’s not all that hard for a patient and calculating stalker to manipulate his victim, even when he hits a few roadblocks. Isn’t a director, in many ways, like a stalker? It’s his job to manipulate the feelings of his audience and he has to do it in a way that isn’t obvious, or he’ll lose you. Also, they both like to use cameras. It’s a wonder we don’t see more stalker movies.

The Last King of Scotland


Conversely, I didn’t expect this film to be a horror movie, but it was. Forrest Whittaker is frightening as the new dictator of Uganda: Idi Amin Dada. We watch as a young doctor from Scotland is overwhelmed by the dictator’s personality until it is too late for him to escape the man’s madness.

While the film isn’t historically accurate, it does give you a glimpse of what it might be like to experience a budding dictatorship. If I have any criticism of Whittaker’s performance at all, it’s that he seethes instability. But maybe I’m letting my knowledge of Amin’s regime color my interpretation of his actions in the film.

I recommend the film highly, but warn you that there are some brief scenes that are among the most disturbing I’ve seen in film.

A dictator and a stalker, both are manipulative and get their jollies from the power they wield. One gets his power through charisma and force, the other through clandestine information gathering and sneakily messing with your life.

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Posted by James at June 5, 2007 2:11 PM
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OK Patti, I was thinking of you.

I was wondering.

Posted by: Patti M. at June 6, 2007 11:35 AM

Gee, now where have I heard Dictators of the World before?

Posted by: Roger Williams at June 11, 2007 4:23 AM

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