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The Monsters We Make

Monstrous Movies


Hotel Rwanda  and  Van Helsing


           The 2004 film, Hotel Rwanda, written and directed by Terry George, is a powerful example of the monstrosities of prejudices and war.  Hotel Rwanda recounts the true story of a man caught in the 1994 war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in the impoverished African country of Rwanda.  When the Tutsi Rwandan president is killed by Hutu radicals, the country breaks into a civil war.  There were over one million casualties, yet the majority of the western world closed their eyes and ears to the war.  The film points not only to the monstrosity of the war but also the apathy of those who could have stopped it.

            Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is the manager of a high class hotel.  Hotel Des Mille Collines is an oasis for white tourists from the impoverished city of Kigali.  When Hutu extremists attempt to wipe out their Tutsi neighbors, Paul is the deontological hero amidst the terror.  As a Hutu, he is able to bribe Hutu forces and provide a refuge for his family and hundreds of other Tutsi “cockroaches” in the hotel, though this brings down horrible consequences upon him.  The only protection left to the refugees is the minimal UN force led by Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte).

            George crafts his film well, displaying the ridiculousness of the prejudices taking place.  A reporter (Joaquin Phoenix) staying in the hotel reveals that the two tribes of Rwandan people can not even be detected without papers proving their identities.  The look just like one another and were originally the same people.  Paul’s own family is evidence that the prejudices are impractical and monstrous.  His wife Tatiana (Sophie Okenedo) is from the opposite tribe; society is continually pushing them away from each other. 

            When word comes that the UN is pulling out, the Colonel breaks down, admitting that he and most of the western world are monsters.  They still see the world in black and white and are unwilling to help their darker neighbors.  The remaining tourists at the hotel selfishly force their way out of the country to escape the controversy with the knowledge that many of the natives they had befriended in their stay would be massacred.  The film imposes contempt on the West’s reluctance to acknowledge and do anything about the slaughter.  The evasion of a US government spokeswoman in calling the conflict genocide is disturbing and mocks the fight against prejudice and war that Paul is pursuing.

            When Paul is left to his own devices to protect the refugees he sees the true horrors that the war has brought upon the land.  Thousands of Tutsi bodes lie strewn across the roads and those remaining are tortured prisoners of the Hutus.  Paul loses the respect he once had among his Hutu friends and finds that his only powers left are their greed and fear.  Cheadle’s character performs remarkably as a foil of his Hutu neighbors  who fear only consequences and refuse to help the Tutsies.  He has numerous opportunities to abandon the consequences and find safety among the Hutus but feels that his duty towards his family and friends is of greater importance.

            Terry George does a noteworthy job with Hotel Rwanda in presenting the war and apathetic west as monsters.  The film exposes the harsh certainty of terror and hatred among ordinary people.  While depicting the war as one monstrosity, he also alludes to a greater one; the apathy of those who have the power to stop it.  Many of the effects of the war upon the Rwandan people could have been avoided if the West had taken a greater interest.  A similar event could take place many more times without intervention, yet one can make a difference.  Amid the evidence of man’s inhumanity, George shows there are people who represent mankind’s more compassionate side in times of trouble and stand against the monsters in difficult times.


      Van Helsing (2004) directed by Stephen Sommers can be described as monstrous, but in a slightly different way.  Van Helsing is full of fictional characters whereas Hotel Rwanda based on real life monstrosity.  Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) has a mission to search out and destroy the monsters of the world.  Though ridding the world of undesireable creatures Van Helsing is an outcast.  He finds himself sent to Transylvania to get rid of Count Dracula.
      Throughout the movie, alienation is a common theme.  Van Helsing is an outcast himself.  Though he has been fighting off the monsters that the world fears, it has only earned him the title of monster.  Frankenstein's monster (Shuler Hensley) is also alienated.  He does not wish to harm anyone and only want to live in peace, yet people are afraid of his appearance and of the power of life that he could give to Count Dracula.  The two begin to act monstrously towards others to defend themselves because that is the way that others have treated them.
      Another thought presented in the movies is where the line between monster and nonmonster lies.  Van Helsing is killing all of the world's nightmarish creatures, and many think that he is becoming one himself.  He kills simply because he is ordered to do so.  Though he is killing only monsters, the apathy that belongs to monsters is beginning to show through. 
      Count Dracula is the movie's obvious monster.  He cares only for himself.  He selfishly uses those around him for his own desires.  Wanting to bring his children to life and to live forever, he uses Frankenstein's monster and Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) with a complete disregard for human life. 
      Van Helsing is a good example of a monstrous movie, not because it has monstrous looking creatures, but because it shows how society creates monsters and looks at the difference between a monstrous appearance and a monstrous soul.


Works cited:

"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary, men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."     -Joseph Conrad