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“No one has succeeded in singing an epic of peace.”

Because I can’t make Kill Bill into the story I wish it could be, I’m open to suggestions. Are there cathartic quest stories about the search for forgiveness? Trite as it sounds, I’ve found forgiving worth the effort and pain, and I doubt that vengeance could be so satisfying (and certainly not for me), but is this a line of thought borne out in anything that isn’t a Lifetime Original Movie?


  1. Rick says:

    I’d reccomend giving Hero (With Jet Li and about any great modern HK martial artist you can think of) a shot if you can find it. That’s as close to what you’re looking for that I can think of…and even if it isn’t what you’re looking for, it’s still an amazing film.

    — 22 April 2004 at 2:48 am (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    Jet Li’s my favorite martial arts actor and the trailer did look lovely, so I will probably give it a shot when I get the chance. I’m glad it comes recommended.

    I guess what I’m looking for is a story in which the protagonist is hurt or wronged and decides NOT to seek revenge but to recover by some other means.

    I don’t know much about Hero, but it seems to be about something like how difficult it is to kill for the sake of something righteous and to protect or preserve other lives, which is another interesting issue. In Kill Bill, where basically all the characters are assassins, the idea of just/justified killing takes on a different significance, but I don’t think it was interested in explicitly exploring that side of things.

    — 22 April 2004 at 3:31 am (Permalink)

  3. Rick says:

    True. And you summed up Hero better than I did - you’re quite right. (It still comes as highly reccomended as a film can from me.)

    I know I’ve seen a movie along the lines of what you’re looking for, but it’s still escaping me. I’ll come up with it eventually, though, especially since it’s nagging at me now.

    — 22 April 2004 at 6:40 am (Permalink)

  4. aragonvaar says:

    Spy Kids 3-D has a subplot kind of like what Rose is asking for, but it’s hard to tell whether Rodriguez REALLY means it like that or just thinks it would be the best parody of “Trek II: Wrath of Khan” ever. Montalban, however, REALLY meant it I’ll warrant.

    — 22 April 2004 at 8:58 pm (Permalink)

  5. Rose says:

    Hmm, since I don’t babysit much anymore I haven’t seen Spy Kids 3-D, but that does sound intriguing, and potentially good either way! I don’t remember much about the second move, but the first was witty, touching and interesting.

    — 23 April 2004 at 10:06 am (Permalink)

  6. hcduvall says:

    Hero should be released by Miramax, well, eventually, but probably sometime this summer. It certainly is beautiful, and there’s a slightly longer version that they may release, not theatrically, but some other day, w/o certain studio forced cuts.

    Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner sounds like it has your ending, though its is a revision. I can only think of peace leaning heroes in violent stories being martyred, or violent heroes being cast out (i.e. many many westerns). But in non-violent stories, David Lynch’s The Straight Story is a good one.

    — 23 April 2004 at 4:56 pm (Permalink)

  7. Rose says:

    I think part of the problem is that internal conflict isn’t considered as visually compelling as stuff blowing up! I’ve been wanting to see The Fast Runner for a long time, so that’s a welcome recommendation. I think Atom Egoyan’s Ararat gets at some of this struggle, though mostly in a nonviolent way and without clear resolution, and I guess my beloved A Moment of Innocence is also about forgiveness and acceptance of the past, though in a different mode.

    It just seems that getting to the end of a quest and then forgiving the initial aggressor would be more triumphant and transgressive an ending for a story, and I’m surprised I can’t think of more. I think maybe it just doesn’t work easily as a culmination of a violent narrative or something like that.

    — 23 April 2004 at 5:24 pm (Permalink)

  8. hcduvall says:

    May’be a Wizard of Earthsea movie would be good? I only recently read it and was struck by how beautiful and humane its ending was, and how well it worked. I can only think of Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid and how its peaceful ending didn’t quite work. But I’m digressing. As a fan of the fantasy I was a little appalled that I’d never read LeGuin before, if this is what I was missing out.

    I think I’m hard pressed to come up with a contemporary movie that didn’t even end in the agressor not dying. When’s the last time a criminal was carted off to jail?

    — 23 April 2004 at 6:44 pm (Permalink)

  9. Rose says:

    Oh, I think as in superhero stories the villain can get away if there needs to be a sequel. But no, I guess part of the point of a revenge story is to go beyond the law, because merely getting someone put in jail would be insufficient punishment. I always get annoyed with car chases because I’ve never seen an explanation of who foots the bill for all the property damage.

    I’d say LeGuin’s work is mixed, but always interesting. I haven’t read all of her books and should probably read more. I never finished the Earthsea series.

    — 23 April 2004 at 8:17 pm (Permalink)

  10. aragonvaar says:

    Well, 3-D definitely isn’t quite up there w/ the first one, but it’s a moderately amusing little time-waster (funnier if you know video-gamers). The catch to the subplot I spoke of, is that the “forgiveness” angle is a twist sprung on the viewer very late in the game, so that for much of the running time what you’re looking at appears a straight revenge subplot (w/ the minor wrinkle that this is a kid’s story and and the child-protagonist is very worried by the whole revenge thing and how it could affect his family, so you’re kind of expecting a “revenge thwarted” resolution).

    — 26 April 2004 at 4:56 pm (Permalink)

  11. Rose says:

    Well, I do think I’ll check it out, though I’ll have to find out if my 12-year-old brother is too sophisticated to be my viewing partner. Defied expectations can be a good thing!

    I did find one movie that fits my desired paradigm, but it’s not exactly an action film. I was watching Nicholas Nickleby for the millionth time yesterday and realized that it’s an explicit theme, where Nicholas could probably have killed a horrible, abusive man, but says “I’m going to show you the one thing you’ve never shown anyone else, pity” and then lets him go. It’s not a revenge story per se, but it’s about how hard you have to work to get to a happy ending for yourself, and some of the bad people eventually come to terms with their badness and its sources and outcomes. And it’s sophisticated and beautiful and fun.

    — 26 April 2004 at 5:55 pm (Permalink)

  12. Dave Rogers says:

    “Are there cathartic quest stories about the search for forgiveness?”

    “I guess what I????????m looking for is a story in which the protagonist is hurt or wronged and decides NOT to seek revenge but to recover by some other means.”

    Try these:

    The Legend of Bagger Vance

    The Razor’s Edge

    Joe Versus the Volcano

    Cast Away

    — 7 July 2004 at 3:10 am (Permalink)

  13. Rose says:


    I haven’t seen any of those, and I really should eventually watch everything recommended here and do some sort of recap. Maybe in August. I’m not sure they’re all straightforward revenge/quest stories (but then again, what is?) but I’m not even sure that’s what I’m looking for anymore anyway. At least I got a lot of good recommendations out of this, and I’ve thought a lot about the nature of revenge.


    — 7 July 2004 at 3:35 pm (Permalink)

  14. Dave Rogers says:

    Not all quests are about revenge.

    Ultimately, all quests are about redemption, I think. Revenge is sometimes an unfortunate detour.

    In the movies I mentioned, the protagonist was wronged and, as is the case with most of us, there was nothing or no one against which revenge might be exacted. All wrongs are ultimately a kind of loss. All losses involve grief. Revenge is an extreme form of the anger/bargaining stage.

    One of the things that made The Shawshank Redemption, a recommendation I forgot to mention, such a good film was that it was about redemption, with just a little bit of revenge on the side.

    The Razor’s Edge is perhaps the most uneven film, but Murray gives his first dramatic performance, and it was his film, it was important to him to make it. He returns to the redemption theme again and again, most notably in Groundhog Day.

    Good luck with whatever it is you’re looking for. Keep looking.

    — 8 July 2004 at 1:18 am (Permalink)

  15. Rose says:

    I think you’re right about the meaning of a quest, and this post was initially prompted by similar thinking on my part. After a lot of writing about Kill Bill, I was getting annoyed by having to think about the cycle of revenge becuase it’s not redemptive (or wouldn’t be for me, certainly) and so it was frustrating to watch the characters playing out the same behaviors over and over and over across the two movies. Well, really what was gnawing at me was that each instance of revenge seemed cathartic or exciting to other people in the audience, when it was just chilling and unpleasant for me.

    Although I’m in a hurry and still not giving you much of a response, Spider-Man 2 plays around a lot with ideas of revenge and forgiveness satisfaction, with the intimation being that this will be the core of the next film.

    — 8 July 2004 at 7:32 pm (Permalink)