Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 27, 2019


Filed under: Film,refugees — louisproyect @ 8:23 pm

Opening today at the Film Forum in New York, “Styx” is an unnervingly grim drama that strips the refugee crisis down to its bare essentials.

Rike, an attractive female doctor from Germany in her mid to late 30s departs from Gibraltar on her sailing yacht destined for a vacation on Ascension Island, which is in the south Atlantic about a thousand miles off the African coast. An independent woman strong enough to pilot her own boat, she wants to see the island that Charles Darwin encouraged England to colonize as a botanical garden. En route to the island, she leafs through a coffee-table book about the island that demonstrates her affinity for off-the-beaten track paradises.

Little does she anticipate that a few days into her trans-oceanic crossing, she will not find a paradise but a hell, as the title of the film indicates. The river Styx in Greek mythology was the boundary between the underworld and the world of the living, in which Rike dwells. The underworld in this instance was a leaking and incapacitated fishing trawler adrift in the ocean filled with sick and starving refugees that she spots on the horizon. Reacting as would anybody sworn to the Hippocratic Oath, she sails toward the trawler but stops a few hundred feet as a number of the desperate refugees begin swimming toward her yacht. She knows that her craft is too small to save them all but she does carry aboard a young African boy who is barely conscious despite having swum near her boat—or perhaps semi-conscious because of the effort it took.

After nursing the boy back to a reasonably healthy state, she is caught between the underworld of the refugees and the living world of her well-off fellow European citizens, including the Coast Guard officials who warn her to stay away from the trawler in order to avoid “chaos”. It becomes obvious before long that despite the wealth of the Europeans, they are the ones who symbolize the condemned sinners of both Greek and Christian mythology.

“Styx” is hardly what I would call entertainment. For that, you are better off going to see “A Star is Born” or “Crazy Rich Asians”. Just remember to leave your brain at home.

In the press notes, Wolfgang Fischer, the director of this powerful English-language film, was asked “Your film presents a moral dilemma . . . could we all find ourselves in the same situation as the protagonist?”

He replied:

I absolutely believe we could. To take an everyday example: suppose someone is attacked next to us in the subway. We didn’t choose this situation, but we need to act. Looking away is also a form of action. We need to decide. This can happen to every one of us. It is something universal. It changes one’s life. As an emergency physician, Rike knows the rule: to first protect your own life. She follows this rule. But of course the question remains whether she made the right decision.

1 Comment »

  1. When I saw the title, I thought it was about the band Styx! You know, that sang “Come Sail Away”. Which is quite a coincidence, since this movie is about a woman sailing.

    Comment by Yoni Lingam — February 28, 2019 @ 11:32 pm

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