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Film Review: “Bel Canto” (2018) ★★


Movies made about hostages, whether based on a true story or not, is always intriguing to watch. As a viewer, we know that there are lots of opportunities for all of us to experience tons of different emotions as we go through one intense and stressful scene after another. But with “Bel Canto”, you will never feel that way. The situation with hostages is surrounded by pure harmony, peace, music and love; a bit far from what happens in real life.

“Bel Canto” is based on the Japanese embassy hostage crisis of 1996-1997 in Lima, while the events occurring in the movie takes place in an unnamed South American country where the group of rebellions hoping to take President as hostage, instead ended up having many high-profile guests including opera singer Roxane Coss (Julianne Moore). Despite the tension, the situation inside the embassy could not be any better. Hostages are happy, eat plenty of foods, play soccer, sing a song, play piano and even fall in love with each other.

It may sound banal and unrealistic but “Bel Canto” is delivering a romantic relationship in the least expected situation where everyone should be fearful of their lives. But everything starts with the Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) who travels to the country where he promised to build a factory but, had no intentions of doing that but all lies were meant to secure his spot at the private event where Roxane Coss was due to perform live.

After the opening scene, it takes ten minutes for director Paul Weitz to give a start to the hostage storyline. Of course, some may expect lots of killings, crying and despair, but in “Bel Canto” the situation was more humanized, romanticized and hopeful. The fact that the rebellions do not want to kill lots of innocent people, they agree, with the help of a Swiss negotiator (Sebastian Koch), to release all elderly hostages and women leaving only one, Roxane Coss, realizing that she might be the most important hostage they may ever get.

With the voice of Renée Fleming, Julianne Moore was able to portray the opera singer truthfully, a type you may see only in Maria Callas. Roxane Coss is not a character that can get scared quickly, but even though she’s a VIP persona, the movie never concentrates on her only, developing romantic relationship between Katsumi’s translator and a rebellion. Based on Ann Patchett’s novel, there’s a lot to digest from what you will watch. But be prepared for a casual hostage situation the president of the country was able to escape due to his love for telenovela, the new episode he would never agree to miss under any circumstance, even if that circumstance was a high-profile dinner where he could promote his agenda further.

In conclusion, Paul Weitz’s “Bel Canto” is a movie that many viewers may find as a sweet fairy tale that has no chance of happening in real life. And if to read the real situation that happened back in 1996, nothing what this movie suggests is close to what happened, and luckily for us, we did not have to watch the dramatized version of it. So, what’s the point of making a movie about bad guys holding good people hostage? The answer is, not everything appears or presented to us reflects the true picture.

That said, the point of this movie is not about showing how good the bad people are. But their motives, are sometimes too innocent and sometimes childish or naïve. Do we have to believe in them, like them or hate them? It’s your personal choice. But as far as this movie is concerned, it has another perspective to offer, which is again highly unlikely to happen in real life. But knowing that we sometimes know too little about the facts, you will be surprised by learning that ‘never say never’ is the only thing we should avoid repeating to ourselves every time when we find ourselves in disbelief, in the same way you may find yourself throughout “Bel Canto.”

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