Friday night’s movie fix, courtesy of Netflix, was a winner. Mr. Jones (2019) is the true story of a Welsh journalist who holds truth as the highest virtue. Gareth Jones is one of the first to interview Hitler. His warning falls on deaf ears. He wants to interview Stalin to see if Russia is prepared to take on the Nazis. He manages to get a week’s visa in 1933. While there he learns one of his contacts was murdered in a robbery. The man had mentioned Ukraine as being the big story. Jones travels there by train and manages to get away from his escort. He plods on foot through snow and brutal weather and discovers famine, even cannibalism. The death toll may have been as high as a million. When caught he is told to remain silent or six British engineers arrested as spies will be executed. He tells the story despite the threat and is repudiated by many. Fortunately, the six were not executed. At the time it was the hope of many that communism would succeed, eliminate poverty. One of the film’s best moments comes when Jones tells George Orwell of what he witnessed. Orwell appears devastated and mentions that there’s then “no hope” for humanity. The narrative suggests that this inspired Animal Farm. Two other historical figures are central to the story, former Brit PM David Lloyd George, for whom Jones worked, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Walter Duranty. George is portrayed as the typical politician looking at the big picture. Duranty has sold his soul to the cause, believing the end justifies the means. Directed by Poland’s Agnieszka Holland, an Oscar and Emmy nominee, the pace is slow but the payoff worthwhile. America’s Andrea Chalupa wrote the screenplay, an original story, to my surprise, not based on a book. Kudos to the women for bringing this piece of history to light. I recognized only one name in the cast, Peter Skarsgaard, although the main principals have extensive, even impressive credits. James Norton is fine as the young idealist. Jones was kidnapped in China pursuing another story. He was found dead a day short of his 30th birthday in 1935. 6000+ users at IMDb have rated Mr. Jones, forging to a consensus of 6.9 on a scale of ten. On a scale of five, I’ll go with 3.5. I was unable to find any figures on its budget, but it has the look of a big production. Not surprisingly, the film did not do well at the box office, bringing in less than three million worldwide. It is grim and, despite the eye-opening revelations, low-key. Its appeal is limited to those who appreciate the most serious works and those, like me, fascinated by what went on in the USSR. Those who still cling to the Bolshevik ideal will certainly not like it. And, while viewing, one may not be able to dismiss the sad thought of what passes for journalism today. Here are Mr. Jones and his portrayer:
I’ve mentioned the following several times through the years in this blog, even though it sounds like malarkey. While working on my first novel, Close to the Edge, I occasionally had nightmares that I was the killer. It would not be an exaggeration to say the dreams continued for a decade, often long stretches between them. I sometimes woke up panting. Last night I had a related one. I was working on the trading floor and a young man approached and said I was under arrest for a murder committed 17 years ago, which would pinpoint the time frame of the dream as 1995. I looked into the guy’s face trying to determine if he were serious or if it was one of the practical jokes common at the Exchange. That’s where it ended. I wonder if something in the movie sparked it. Using Freud’s belief that dreams are wish fulfillment, I can ascertain only that my hope is that …Edge is so real people should buy and read it.
I lacked the will to alter my schedule and open the book shop once the rain stopped. As usual, I missed not doing it. I look forward to tomorrow’s session.
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