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

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

Advertisement
The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

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.