The White Feather of Cowardice

 

 

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The White Feather of Cowardice

Dr Alex Tang

 

The Four Feathers is a remake of a timeless romance based on a novel. This movie was made in 2002. The previous movies were made in 1939 and 1977. Like all great stories, it is about love, honor, loyalties and discovering who we really are.

This movie is set in the 19th Century when the British Empire ruled the world. In Sudan there was an uprising led by an Islamic fundamentalist called Mahdi. This was the time of General Gordon of Khartoum. The British garrisons in Sudan were annihilated by the local rebels and fresh British troops were being sent in.

Harry Feversham was son of General Feversham, a famous British general. He had always drifted through life, doing what his authoritative father wanted him to do. After college, he joined the army. His intention was to hold a military commission for two years (as expected by his father) and then resign and get on with his life. He is in love with a beautiful girl who loved him and they were about to be married.

Harry's life was shattered when his regiment were sent to Sudan. Harry suddenly discovered that he really do not know who he is. In his gesalt of self discovery, he discovered that he did not want to go to war. Harry resigned his commission. In the 19th century, it was regarded as a noble task to fight for the Queen and country. To refuse to fight is regarded as an act of cowardice. This is symbolised by three white feathers sent by his three best friends in the regiment. The fourth was from his fiance!

 

The story is about a man who set out on a journey of inner self discovery. His refusal to go to war and resignation from the army branded him a coward. So he set out to Sudan to face his inner demons. One by one he redeemed his white feathers by saving his friends in heroic situations. He found that being brave is not the courage to face death but to face life.

This is a period movie with costumes and cliches. Yet, it is timeless because it deals with a basic question. Who are we? When the houses of card on which we built our identities collapsed and we are flat on the ground, then we will really know who we really are. How may of us have the courage to rebuild with solid bricks and a strong foundation? I suspect many of us will prefer to rebuild our houses of card again.

The key scene in the movie was when Harry told his fiance that he was refusing to go to war. They were in a nave of a church. The next time they met at the end of the movie in the same place, Harry was a changed person. It is symbolic as it reminds me of one of Elliot poem that in searching for ourselves, we will end up from where we began. The search is within, not without.

There is a lot of fighting and bloody scenes, comparable to Zulu but not like 300. Bloody good show, what?  

 

|posted 26 September 2007|

               

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