Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gratuitous Stoning in 2006 Remake of "Murder on the Orient Express"

I watched the 2006 film Murder on the Orient Express, which of course has been done before and is based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same title.

I think I read the novel in my youth, but I can't remember.

At any rate, the 2006 film has a scene in 1928(?, definitely post WWI) Istanbul where Hercule Poirot, the famous detective, witnesses a mob chase down a woman and stone her to death for bearing the child of a man other than her husband. In the movie, this scene, along with a previous scene where a British officer whom Poirot has exposed commits suicide, are meant to establish Poirot as a Law and Order character who believes violations of law must result in their prescribed punishments, no matter the injustice of the law, the status of the perpetrator or the severity of the punishment. Later, he violates this code when he lies to the Yugoslav police to protect the murderers on the train.

There's probably a lot to say about how Poirot basically abandons law and order for the sake of people he likes and admires (in the USA context, "good clean white folk") but believes it should be applied to the letter in the case of anonymous woman in the streets of Istanbul. But I just hope that filmmakers never again portray stonings in this manner again. I'm not interested enough in Agatha Christie novels to read this one and see if the film follows the book. I have a feeling that, after having read Edward Said's Orientalism and seen a little bit of the world, I would not be able to enjoy Agatha Christie novels and their made-for-public-television productions where the non-whites are darkies carrying suitcases as much as I would have as a child.