Two Brothers

Only 5,000 tigers remain in the wild today, compared with approximately 100,000 a century ago, according to titles at the end of Two Brothers, directed by Political Film Society awardwinner Jean-Jacques Annaud. The film is in effect dedicated to what titles call the “king of the jungle.” The story begins in the 1920s, when hunting of tigers was viewed not only as lucrative but also as a way to protect human settlements from the hungry mouths of tigers. By now, humans have won the battle for control, but the film draws the moral that tigers deserve to be preserved today. After Aidan McRory (played by Guy Pearce) learns that the ivory tusks, which he harvested from African elephants, no longer interest a London auction house, he decides instead to go for a more salable commodity–Buddha statues and other artifacts from the jungles of French Cambodia. In his new quest, he encounters two tigers, which are shot, but rescues two tiger cubs, named Kumal and Sangha. However, McRory is arrested by the French authorities for illegally pillaging Cambodia of art objects. Corrupt colonial administrator Eugène Normandin (played by Jean-Claude Dreyfus) releases him from prison after taking a share of the artifacts. McRory then sells Kumal to a circus, where he is trained to jump through a fiery hoop, while Sangha is retained by Normandin’s son (played by Freddie Highmore). One year later, a Thai prince (played by Oanh Nguyen) buys Sangha so that he can pit the two tigers against each other in an arena, where he charges admission and doubtless monopolizes gambling on the outcome. However, when the two tigers are placed into the arena, they realize that they are brothers and thus play rather than fight. Animal keepers try to goad them into fighting, but one leaves open an exit to the bleachers, so the two escape to the wild. McRory then is requisitioned to track them and shoot them, but Normandin’s son tries to dissuade him from his assignment. When the two tigers are spotted amid temples in the Cambodian jungle, a fire is started in a circle around them. Kumal’s training of jumping through fiery hoops thus proves to be an advantage in making his escape, though he must persuade timid Sangha to do so for the first time. The final scenes, in which McRory and Normandin’s son come face to face with Kumal and Sangha are particularly touching. Clearly, the genius of the film is how film footage of some thirty tigers can be matched to the story, and the cinematography of Cambodian temples almost consumed by the jungle are especially spectacular. Although the film is about animal rights, the Political Film Society has nominated Two Brothers for an award as best film on human rights for 2004, as there would be no human rights without human responsibilities, and one of the responsibilities of humans is to protect endangered species, just as adults must protect newborn infants.  MH

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