As a Marxist, I am often asked what my opinions are on Che Guevara, the revolutionary Argentinian guerrilla turned counter cultural symbol. Personally, I believe Che was a victim of his own political views. His ideas were radically progressive, and certainly leftist, but they were based inherently in petty-bourgeois anarchist logic. Che was brave, and his intentions were well, but without adopting a proper Marxist-Leninist line of thought, his adventures were doomed to fail. That answer is enough to raise eyebrows of some other self proclaimed communists, and even anti-communists, for many believe that true Marxists hold Che as the epitome of a revolutionary. This is untrue, however. At any rate, I can say that the explosion of what can only be described as the cult of Che, has indeed intrigued me. There have been countless tributes to him, from pro-Marxist and other perspectives. Some of them for business, some in the name of idealistic struggle. Whatever reason one has for making and promoting Che based media, the results always seem to captivate people on all sides of the political spectrum.
One of the better examples of “Che art” is the 2008 film “Che.” The film is a two part biopic, directed by Steven Soderbergh, who is more known for commercial Hollywood films than anything else, but nonetheless does a good job with “Che.” It is split into two parts, the first part dealing with the Cuban revolution, and the second part dealing with Che’s struggles in Bolivia, and his death. First thing is first, these two parts equate to roughly over four hours, so if long films like that aren’t in your interests, may as well stop reading now. However, despite being so long, I would say that there are plenty of reasons to remain patient and watch the film anyway, at least as long as you can. The fact of the matter is that despite its shortcomings, there is a feeling of realism in this film, unmatched by the majority of others dedicated to Che, at least from what I have seen. The guerrilla action is filmed wonderfully, the acting is great on most characters, the visuals are great, and so forth. Most important, the dialogue is in Spanish, so you know this is the real deal.
The most striking things in this film are all based on the action scenes. At times, it definitely feels like there is more emphasis on the action than the actual political ideas and conflicts, but I am aware this is merely a movie, so I won’t hold that too much against it. Still, a lot of length could potentially be cut if some of the longer sequences of skirmishes were removed. This emphasis on action not only weakens the politics, but also the true character of Che. A lot of his personality is left out, and so too are some key events from his life. Hell, even the negatives of Che are largely overlooked, and while obviously those negatives are extremely exaggerated by bourgeois frauds, there were still some instances of harshness in his mannerisms and leadership that weren’t entirely picked up on in the film. Because of this, you can tell that the makers of this film weren’t so much interested in details, but in revolution, albeit revolution for the sake of revolution, or in their own case as mere film producers, for money.
Still, while the film plays on hero worship in some instances, it does occasionally manage to vividly illustrate Che’s shortcomings. However, it makes the point that even though Che failed to accomplish his goals, in the end, he was still a hero for many, as his actions provided them with hope, morale, courage, and an idol to look up to. The more you think about it, the more believable this film is, in a way. The opponents of Marxism and Che need to look past their propaganda, and the fanatics of Che need to look past their blind devotion, and this film could be a good place to start, at least on the most basic levels, so to speak. There are indeed some factual errors in the film, but they are actually somewhat minor. Mostly, it’s just a matter of leaving out details. And as for Che’s ideology, there are some scenes where me mentions them, such as his speech to the UN, but otherwise, not much to satisfy me personally.
Ultimately, I would recommend this movie for anybody interested in Che at all. For genuine Marxists this is merely a source of entertainment, but don’t expect it to be wildly detailed or anything of the sort. It’s not something I would ever watch again, but that’s mainly considering it’s length, and also because it is more reasonable to read about Che than to watch about Che if you’re going for historical truths, his political ideas, and so forth. While I have not seen it, I hear that many people who watch this film go on to watch The Motorcycle Diaries, so perhaps if you’re truly interested that would be the next step; that is to say, this film does a good job at making the viewer more focused with Che. It’s not like other movies about famous historical figures where once you see it you forget about them, and for that I have respect for this film. The sounds are pretty good, too. There isn’t a soundtrack used in some of the more intense guerrilla scenes, which again fits in with the films sense of realism. When Che is shot at the end of the movie, the death sequence is shot wonderfully in my opinion: You see from his perspective as a man stands ready to shoot, and then without warning he finally shoots and Che falls to the floor, breathing heavily and then nothing but the sound of a harsh noise; the gunshot ringing in his ears. Overall, I’d say this is a pretty decent film, not amazing, but not terrible. Like with my review of “Battleship Potemkin,” I am a Marxist, so maybe I’m a little biased here and there, but I believe this was a fair review.