War Stories (Film Thoughts: BPM)

bpmI am one of the generation who ‘grew up’ with ACT-UP. I remember once going to one of its meetings by mistake. It was at the “Keith Haring Room’ at The Center in New York City in the Mid 80s, and I thought I was going to a group meeting of some sort, and walked in to ACT UP.  And I was scared, I was trembling. It was a whole group of very militant people, all garbed in black. of course, I knew what they were fighting for, but seeing their faces and their hostility face to face was an affront i didn’t expect. I ran out of there right away. I couldn’t handle it – their intensity weakened me. I look back at that now and think, can you imagine being on the receiving end of all that energy? Well, darn right, I could, and it was that rage that spurred the action that was needed at the time. I often saw the news reports of their activism, and then I would kind of shake my hand, but with my eyes now, knowing what I know, and after time has passed, I can only view all of as great bravery – hand battle in the war that is still on going.

BPM captures the Parisian energy of the time. Directed by Robin Campillo from his screenplay (with Phillippe Mangeot) this film is a depiction of a war, in the same vein as one would see ‘Schindler’s List,’ for example. While we are fortunate to be living now in a time where much of what was discussed here as battles won, it is good to see how we got to this place. This film tells the story of the activism in Paris that went on, and the loves and battles they lived through. It has the great performance of Nahuel Perez Biscayat as Sean, who is one of the activists who got the disease from his teacher, and his unlikely partner in Nathan (Arnaud Valois) who is negative. They form a bond that is unflinching in its honesty.

But, like all war films, it’s too exhausting to watch for me. In these times where we see resistance in form everyday, it is a reminder that we never do stop fighting in life. This is the opposite of the feel good movie, and I spent the evening after seeing this in deep solitude. I thought about the friends I have lost, the friends still affected by this. I thought about my life – how I survived all of this, and how I still do not feel completely safe from it. I slept with these thoughts, and this morning still could not figure out how to feel, how to write. I think this film is a great representation of the war a lot of people had to go through, and I hope people see it.

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