"This isn't a tale of heroic feats. It's about two lives running parallel for a while with common aspirations and similar dreams."
And thus begins The Motorcycle Diaries, starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna as Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Alberto Granado, respectively. I decided to re-watch this movie after seeing it a few years ago in the theater. Initially I went to see it because of the obvious likenesses to On the Road and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Yet again it didn't fail to make an impression on me after the second and subsequently third time watching it.
The movie opens with Ernesto, a medical student on the verge of graduating as he and biochemist friend Alberto plan a road trip taking the two around the continent of South America. The adventure is set up as an experiment: plans, equipment, methods, and goals are outlined beforehand as they pack up their belongings in Buenos Aires. Even though the plan for Ernesto and Alberto is to live like outlaws while 'the melancholy of what's left behind fades to the excitement that lies ahead', can they really prepare for the unexpected challenges of life on the road?
This is one of the major themes found in TMD, the metaphor of life as a road trip. You lose things. You get dirty. Curves, signs, forked roads, kindness/cruelty of strangers, they all figure into the quintessential experience of these travelers leaving the land of their birth and into the heart of their country. Of course themes of friendship, honesty, love, sex, death, and others are found in the movie, but they are all subtle--understated with purpose.
"All of Latin America is ahead, Buenos Aires behind..."
Along the way Ernesto or "Che" (or "Fuser" as his friend Alberto nicknamed him) meets people with different problems. Some are sick. Others are not welcome in their own country. It is after an encounter with a poor mining couple that we really begin to see the shift in Che's consciousness from a naive youth to the more idealistic man for which he will be known and ultimately judged.
This movie keeps Che's politics in the background. As mentioned before, there is an obvious change in his attitude, but the movie ultimately leaves it up to each person who watches it to decide exactly what kind of change this is.
Great acting. Great cinematography. Great music.