Is Life Formulaic?

February 4, 2022- In the 2019 film, : “The Rising Hawk”, a small party of Ukrainians fends off both a much larger Mongolian force and their turncoat Ukrainian allies. This is reportedly based on an old Ukrainian legend, of a heroic fighter who lived into his nineties and his wife and helpmate, who in this telling is the daughter of the turncoats’ leader. It is a somewhat farfetched, and rather formulaic, action film, with people switching sides when convenient for the plot and brute strength displayed at exactly the right moments. It’s also a sign of the cinematic times that the film uses plot twists from at least three other films.

There are a few political movements, current in a few countries-including this one, that seem to be dependent on plot formulas turning in a certain direction, at just the right moment. It is no accident that the leaders of these movements have established their standing with a fair audience by borrowing shopworn tactics of demagogues past. There is a lot of wishful thinking on the part of those who believe that the world ought to unfold in a prescribed and orderly manner, as prescribed and ordered by a certain elite. Life, however, is not formulaic. There is an urban myth that Benito Mussolini made the trains in Italy run on time. Another credits Adolf Hitler with the humming of the German economy, by the late 1930s. Neither tale is true. Economies on a national scale have numerous moving parts, not credible to any one person-or clique. Effective strikes and slowdowns by labour movements can bring even the most hardheaded tactician down to size.

The film itself, ironically, demonstrates the humanity of the tough Mongolian leader, seen crying at the death of his son. There is also enough brutality on both sides-or on all three, if you will, to once again show the futility of war-even as there is a nod to valour. Finally, there is a split-second switch of fealty, near the end.

Is life formulaic? No, as it happens. Free will most often seems to get in the way of the best plot lines.

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