In Bruges

November 14, 2013

In Bruges is a challenging work of art. it teeters between the European nihilistic epoch whereby the European man has lost his conviction and his faith, he has lost his religion to time and museums, and actually fundamentals. Principles. Ethics.

 

The entire scene is built around this cacophony of charming quaint tourist trap Bruges and the discipline and ethics of the enterprise in which the two men occupy the space. At start the charming city appears to be a dustbin of boredom, a place where nothing has taken place nor will take place. And yet that is what gives it its “fairy tale” allure, accordingly. It is frozen in time, moving nowhere except as a slice of history. And the history that it engulfs itself in is the Christian unification of Europe. There are many monuments and churches devoted to such unification.

 

Is this a digression from the thesis of the film? Not at all. The two hit men are confronted with reality and their place in time by exploring their ancestors beliefs about life and death. Judgment Day is one particular canvas in which both men reflect and meditate on the veracity of such a reality. Of course it appears anachronistic to them. Do they genuinely belief in hell? They are hit men after all. But they justify their murders as whacking evil people. Essentially, they are a necessary evil in this world, purging it from the demons that like to disrupt the peaceful activities of humanity.

 

The drama that unfolds comes when they intervene accidentally in another person’s life and must pay the price for the consequences. This very much follows their pontifications of justice and judgment day. Yet they decide to take matters into their own hands, versus following the code of conduct. It is not to say they seek to absolve their sin. It is to say they seek to acquire redemption, or salvation, for the atrocity committed.

 

The boss does not want any part of such a plea bargain. He wants justice as swiftly as possible. And the justice herein is rectifying the accident that creates the collapse of the entire film around the notion of divine justice.

 

Are men, the film asks, the arbiters of what is just? Or is there a metaphysical cosmic order in which man inhabits and in which he is a cog within, acting seamlessly in the machine toward some grander goal? Such a nuance suggestion is hard to unearth from the surface of the mild and dry wit of the film, but this is the real meat and potatoes that the central characters must confront. Is there good and evil, or just what men tolerate?

 

In some positive aspect, the men do believe there is justice. They do believe in a just cosmic order. What is their basis for such justice? Only their inherited culture, as Ken remarks how you are raised as a child still lingers into your adulthood. And this is why he believes in some sort of cosmic rationality to the events that unfold. He finds contentment in the decisions he has made in his life. He has found peace in dying in Bruges.

 

Thus clearly we can see In Bruges as a positive European reflection against the struggle of nihilism. These are men you would not find to be “righteous”, yet they believe in ethics. They believe in a rational order to the intelligibility of their actions. Why is another matter – the fact they still have belief or faith in justice is reassuring enough that the European civilization has not completely unwound from the inconsistencies of its era.

 

Grade: A

 

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