The Death of Klinghoffer

"Good"

The Death of Klinghoffer Review


"I should have worn a hat," sings Leon Klinghoffer (Sanford Sylvan) to his wife shortly before his death. He sits in his wheelchair on the deck of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, hijacked by Palestinian terrorists, wondering what happens next, and worrying about sunburn on his balding head. It's a touching moment, because anybody going into The Death of Klinghoffer knows what happens next: Klinghoffer is shot in the head and thrown overboard, making a middle-aged American on a Mediterranean vacation into a symbol for a sad and endless conflict.

Penny Woolcock's film is based on modern composer John Adams' 1991 opera, which in turn was inspired by the Achille Lauro affair, which took place over three tense days in October 1985. (In an odd resonance, the San Francisco screening took place the day after the real hijacking's ringleader, Abu Abbas, was captured in Baghdad.) As a movie, it's not fully successful: Dramatic opera staging and dramatic filmmaking aren't the same thing, and Klinghoffer often drags. It can only move as fast as the music, and Adams is a composer focused on slow, swimming paces. Yet Woolcock mostly makes the film work visually - she's excellent at the pointed close-up and frenzied camera movements, especially as we follow the terrorists' lives in flashbacks. In the poverty-stricken camps in which they grew up, we see the turmoil and anger that drives their lives into violent fundamentalism. Mamoud (Kamel Boutros) carries the key of his childhood home, from which he was evicted when it became part of the state of Israel.

It's almost - almost - enough to make you sympathize with the band of killers, and that's made Klinghoffer a controversial opera from the start. Many critics found it to be pro-Palestinian, and it's true that it shows a certain empathy from the hijacked travelers; one young British dancer on board sings of the free cigarettes they offered, their general kindness, and the song itself has a blithe, pop-like feel to it. But Klinghoffer is balanced: Every shot of destroyed refugee camps is paired with shots of concentration camps. Woolcock renders the conflict in terms of dead Palestinian and Jewish bodies, brutal accounting in a ghastly ledger.

But all that means that the film becomes less interested in the story of a hijacked cruise ship, so Klinghoffer relies on scenes of frightened passengers, which can be repetitive. The ship's captain, played and sung beautifully by Christopher Maltman, is wonderful to watch as the sturdy and pleading voice of reason, telling the hijackers that "I would say you did not fail until you killed." Leon Klinghoffer's wife Marilyn (Yvonne Howard) has no sympathy for the captain, who by the end tells him, "You embraced them!"

Leon himself is a cipher, a handicapped man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. "I'm a person who'd just as soon avoid trouble," he sings, sweetly. But it doesn't matter. Woolcock shows him and the wheelchair sinking, slowly, into the sea. She gives it to us over and over, and all we get to do is wonder why.



The Death of Klinghoffer

Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 24th January 2003

Production compaines: Channel 4 Television

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Leon Klinghoffer, as The Captain of the "Achille Lauro", as Marylin Klinghoffer, as Molqui, as Mamoud, Houda Echouafni as Fatima, as Rambo

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Advertisement
Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.