The Motorcycle Diaries ( Diarios de motocicleta)
Back in 2004, when The Motorcycle Diaries was released it met with great acclaim. Lots of people told me to see it and that it was a great film. Although I am sure I replied back to those enthusiastic film-goers "Yes definitely I will see it." I was thinking to myself- yea, right! This sounds like a heavy-handed, preachy history lesson if I ever heard one. Sure I will get around to seeing The Motorcycle Diaries one day... in the very distant future. Right after I get around to viewing the rest of the canon of historical films I should see, but haven't.
However, the day did come recently where I thought I would sit down and view this film (secretly knowing I could always turn off the DVD if it got too "history-like"). And now here's the part where I apologize and admit I was wrong. The Motorcycle Diaries really is a wonderful movie.
The acting is fantastic, the scenery is magnificent, the message is subtlely wrapped into the screenplay and never comes across over-the-top or preachy. The movie chronicles Che Guevera in his early 20's as he takes a road trip throughout South America- from Chile, to Peru, to Colombia to Venezuela. He travels with his friend Alberto Granado. Brazilian Filmmaker Walter Salles really achieved a fine piece of cinema with The Motorcycle Diaries. The cinematography in the film is excellent.
The actor Gael García Bernal (Science of Sleep, Y tu mamá también, The King, Babel) seems to be showing up in just about every Spanish-speaking subtitled movie in Hollywood. In general, I always hope for a more diverse range of actors to receive parts. When I realized he was playing the part of Che Guevera, I said to myself "oh this guy AGAIN...oh-no." However, Gael Bernal did a fine job portraying the part and was extremely believable. Che Guevara is a legend, often when actors portray legends they let the cliche of what this person was like lead and dominate their performance. However, Gael García Bernal really made the part his own, and breathed compassion and intelligence into the role.
As a movie, The Motorcycle Diaries works extremely well. However looking at the movie as a biographical film, The Motorcycle Diaries does not work quite as well. After watching The Motorcycle Diaries and getting involved in the lives of the characters of the film, I felt as though something was lacking. The movie is about Guevara but does not really touch on the revolutionary politics which were the main part of his life. The audience gains a deeper understanding of Guevara, but then again maybe not. The Motorcycle Diaries only explores the rest of Guevara's life in a few sentences of voiceover. It leaves the viewer wondering do I really understand this historical figure any better now than before I watched the film? Still The Motorcycle Diaries succeeds with flying colors and is a well-acted and magnificently shot piece of cinema.