Hard Day at The Beach
By Tracy Martin
UNDER CAPITALISM the beach is a paradise where we go to escape. For the Fox studio, however, paradise is The Beach, a film with Leonardo DiCaprio made by the Trainspotting crew. It is set on a beautiful beach pumped up by rave music. DiCaprio's character arrives in Thailand and is told about a beach that is unspoilt by tourism. He sets out to find it. He discovers a group of travellers who are living as a community, supposedly free from ideology and nearly self sufficient. He joins in, and life is good.
But director Danny Boyle aims to expose the idealism of the travellers' trail to Thailand. The travellers are gradually exposed as empty. They have taken far more ideological baggage with them than they have left behind. Secrecy is the code, conformity the way of life, and every transgression is punished. So when one traveller needs medical help he must die in agony rather than risk the secret of the beach.
I was uncomfortable with the depiction of the Thais, who are either one-sided or downright sinister. Theirs is the "foreign" language. Is this to expose the elitism of the community, or just badly done? Although DiCaprio carries his part well, he is ever-present and the other characters are left poorly developed. Stories abound about the tussles between the studio and the director. The Beach's early cut was changed because preview audiences were surprised by the film's darker side. So whilst the final cut has pace, action and serious scenes, things are trivialised by cutting the tension with a joke or special effect. But in spite of these drawbacks The Beach is not a bad film.