Thursday, 14 July 2011

A Painted Veil - A student's review

I watched this film a while ago and whilst doing some research for the group work we had to do over the past few weeks (my group did Haiti) I realised that its link to Geography was not as tenuous as I first believed.
The film is based on the classic novel by W.Somerset Maugham and, set in 1920, follows the story of a young English couple, Walter, a middle-classed doctor, and Kitty, an upper-class woman. They get married for the wrong reasons and relocate to Shanghai, where she falls in love with someone else. Then, in an act of venegance when he uncovers her infidelity, he accepts a job in a remote village in China ravaged by a deadly epidemic, and insists that Kitty accompany him - and this is where the link to Geography can be found!

The deadly epidemic that is ravaging through the Chinese village is cholera; the same water-bourne disease that claimed so many lives in Haiti after the earthquake last year. The film provides an insight into the causes of cholera and why it is such a huge problem in underdeveloped countries. It claims so many lives and simple things like a safe, clean water supply and sufficient sewage systems prevent it from doing so. It also demonstrates the issues surrounding the prevention of the spread of this water-bourne disease, with particular reference to the impact of religious beliefs - especially burial traditions. Many people, like the villagers in the film, like to hold on to the bodies of the dead for a while before burying them, often near water sources. This often further fuels the epidemic and this issue is something that is common between the film and the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The film also presents the oppurtunity for the watcher to make comparisions between the level of development (bearing in mind it is set in 1920) in London, Shanghai and the Chinese village experiencing the cholera epidemic and also touches on the political instability present at the time in China.

So, is this a good Geography film? Well, its link to Geography is slightly more tenuous than some of the other films I have watched lately, but it is still definetly worth a watch! Throughout you get to see some spectacular footage of the Chinese countryside and you get an insight in what life was like in China at that time. The reflection, provided by the film, of the impacts of cholera on a region can easily be linked to our current module and helps you to gain an understanding of the issues that Haiti faced whilst trying to deal with the cholera outbreak, whilst also dealing with the aftermath of the devasting earthquake.

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