Dark Matter – Academia, Questionable Ethics & Cultural Differences
In order to like this movie you either need to be a rabid Meryl fan (and even that may not help), really appreciate the academic mind & culture or be a hopeless insomniac in need of some Zzzzz’s.
It is loosely based on the story of the 1991 University of Iowa shootings.
What little I know about academic culture I learned when I worked for a small biotech company a few years back. What the movie depicts is rather mild considering what I had been told about research facilities, universities and hospitals – the director was being kind. Back-biting, stealing other’s work and faking results in order to win grant money happens. Superior intellect and moral conscience are mutually exclusive. High IQ does not equal sterling character.
A student from a more honorable culture would probably feel like they have been thrown into a blender when faced with the American academic environment.
There is a somewhat comedic element surrounding Liu’s rival Lawrence who thoroughly immerses himself in the American culture and is pushed to do so by his wife but at during the doctoral celebration party they decide to give a surreal rendition of “Madame Butterfly” to their bewildered hosts.
Meryl Streep’s role as a supporting character in this movie was sort of ambiguous. Her hair and make-up left much to be desired. The best way I can describe her is to say that her character is so immersed in becoming Chinese in her spirituality that she is unable to help Liu Xing, the Chinese student she has taken to mothering, perhaps because she feels that it would insult him. Considering the director Chen Shi-zheng has been very active in opera and theater direction, he may have felt the tragedy of a mother figure not protecting her son from self destruction would culminate the depiction of the destruction of a human spirit. She comes across as person with the diaphanous nature of a sleepwalker only vaguely aware of the world around her and uncomprehending of the dark undercurrents which run all around her.
Despite the tragic storyline, I’d say give “Dark Matter” a pass. I’ll be changing pace in a big way by watching “The River Wild” tonight.