Friday, January 27, 2012

“Declaration Of War” – Movie Review



The winter semester of my movie class has begun and this week we saw the French drama “Declaration Of War”, which opened the Cannes Film Festival.


When a couple’s son is diagnosed with cancer, will they be able to save both their child and their relationship?


A man and a woman meet at a party, quickly fall in love and soon thereafter have a son named Adam – given their intense and speedy romance, is it more than just a coincidence that their names are Romeo and Juliette?  As new parents, they are tested with a baby who appears to be crying non-stop and rely heavily on their pediatrician to help them retain their sanity without losing control of their newborn.  But after a year and a half, they begin to suspect that their son may have medical issues when he vomits regularly, doesn’t show signs of walking and has an asymmetrical countenance. 

When their pediatrician examines the baby, she fears the worst and suggests they take Adam to a neurologist immediately.  After a CAT Scan, the neurologist diagnoses Adam with a malignant brain tumor; the good news, however, is that it is operable.  A neurosurgeon is brought in to remove the tumor; although he is able to remove most of it, there is still a substantial amount that cannot be safely reached.  The parents are sent to another specialist who now diagnoses their child with a very aggressive form of cancer that has only a 10% survival rate; she recommends chemotherapy, which will keep the boy alive until about five years of age – thereafter, if he survives, radiation treatments would follow. 

As this ordeal continues, it inevitably begins to take a toll on the couple’s  relationship.  With their lives now surrendered to Adam’s survival, it becomes immediately apparent that the increased stress, absence of romance and lack of down time is driving a wedge between the two parents – both of whom consider seeking a little bit of fun outside of their relationship.  But will they be able to stay together and continue to care for their seriously ill boy? 



What we learned at the end of the screening was that this movie was based on a true story – that of the filmmakers, who appear in the movie and tell the tale of their own son who was actually diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We did not know this at the outset of the film because there was no indication of this, as is normally the case; instead, we were told this by our instructor, who saw a different print which did, in fact, inform the viewers that it was based on facts.  Without this information at the beginning, you definitely view the movie differently. 

“Declaration Of War” was supposedly a big hit in France, but I can’t see it equally that success here in the United States.  For one thing, it’s heavily stylized, both visually and audibly – the special effects and frenetic camera work are off-putting and distracting.  The soundtrack is absolutely schizophrenic, challenging you to take seriously even the most dour scenes.  Also, the very first scene basically tips off the end of the movie.  Only the French could’ve made this film – and, I believe, only the French could either appreciate or understand it, as well. 

Prior to the screening, our instructor interviewed producer-director Brett Ratner.  Originally, Ratner was supposed to visit the class a couple of months ago when we screened his film “Tower Heist”.  Unfortunately, he was forced to cancel because it was around that time that he was wrongly accused of making an anti-gay slur and in his whirlwind of fence-mending, damage control and apologia in these overly politically-correct times, he wound up being forced to quit his job as producer of the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony (his pal, Eddie Murphy, who was supposed to host, quit shortly thereafter).  A superior raconteur, Ratner talked about his beginnings and how he wormed his way into New York University’s film school, even though his grades didn’t merit acceptance to the institution. 


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