Emotional Vacancy

I went into this film not knowing what to expect and not really wanting to watch it. However, that quickly changed after the first 15 minutes of watching. All four of the stories caught my interest, but the last story really piqued my interest. There is one situation that I was able to pick out from the last story. This is how Mbelo was able to deal with killing the young men in the “Guguletu 7” and not feel anything afterwards.

Constable Mbelo was one of the 25+ officers, and one of the 3 black officers that were involved in this murder. This was interesting in two ways, one being the fact that there were 3 black men involved, and two being the fact that he was the only of the 3 to come forward and ask for amnesty. My first thought was, “Why would you kill your own people?” This was the same question one of the mothers asked him. From the mothers’ point of view, he had no answer. But, from his jobs point of view, he was able to give an answer that was very unempathetic for the mothers to hear.

Mbelo mentions that he and Bellingan were not there on the same mission, and this was very true. He has to be able to face his brothers and sisters after killing their children. He says that he was following orders and what he did was not a personal matter. But how can you set up, and aid in the killing of 7 young men who are also black? Yes, I understand that he had an order, and was obligated to fulfill it, but how were you able to do this deed, or kill people period, with no type of emotion? I was not shocked that he was granted amnesty, but I still can help but wonder if deep down, he still has no emotion for what he did.

One thought on “Emotional Vacancy”

  1. Your post gets me thinking about the complexity of reading emotion, and more to the point remorse, in facial expressions. Linguists, psychologists, and social anthropologists would be quick to point out that even the most basic expressions of emotion – cries, smiles, intonations – are very culturally specific. Some of the expressions of grief we witness in the film signal this difference to me. So we’re faced with this double question of how we can possibly know what was in Mbelo’s heart, in part because we may not know how to read his face for cultural reasons and in part because even if we did that might not be any guarantee of real information!

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