Monday, January 12, 2009

Movie review of Slumdog Millionaire & the "body"

Yung Suk Kim

When the Apostle Paul talks about "the body of Christ" (as Christ's broken body) in his letters (1 Corinthians in particular), the image of the body provokes the image of the destitute, uncared, broken bodies in the Roman Empire. With this kind of imagination in mind, we can watch the movie, Slumdog Millionaire.

Then we can see the issue of body and suffering, love and destiny, and body and economy. Slumdog Millionaire shows the underside of the "normal" city in India, which thrives on its own fleshy desires, mingled with a manly will. The image of slum permeates the entire movie. The city has two faces: a machine-like uncaring fastidious city and the varied city people accustomed to it.

In particular, I am captivated by the word “destiny” in the movie. Slum children give into their destiny of living on the threshold of a city. It is a cruel destiny if any; they did not choose it. There is no immediate hope that they could get out of their misfortune. Their destiny holds them together wherever they go.

At times, their destiny is challenged, and yet it is hardly broken down. Salim, Jamal’s older brother, rebels against the slum masters to protect and rescue his brother. Yet he himself is under the control of the master, depending on him to survival. It is kind of vicious circle.

Although it does not answer the question of how to break away from the shackles of such a destiny, the movie raises plenty of destiny-driven questions: Who are responsible for this destiny if there is a destiny at all? How do they break away from it? What are roles of other people in the city who live normal lives?

On the last scene of the movie, the meaning of destiny shifts dramatically and emphasizes the bonding love between Jamal and Lakita: “it’s our destiny; kiss me.” Something destined for them is not a slum but a love that they want to keep even in the midst of difficulties of daily lives in a slum. Perhaps, my book Christ's Body in Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor would be an interesting read along with this movie.