Drawing Connections Between 'Young Karl Marx' And 'The Cured'

Feb 23, 2018
Originally published on February 23, 2018 7:16 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In the new biopic "The Young Karl Marx," a 20-something activist proposes a cure for an ailing society's rampant injustice. In the Irish zombie movie "The Cured," an ailing society decides it prefers rampant injustice. Critic Bob Mondello admits maybe he's stretching a point in connecting the two films, but he sees a link.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: A world where the privileged few have everything and if you're not part of that group you're treated like dirt - it's the 1840s as "The Young Karl Marx" begins with peasants picking up dead branches in a forest and men on horseback running them down and slaughtering them for theft. The logic is that those dead branches, though they've been left to rot, are property. Peasants don't own. They work.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YOUNG KARL MARX")

MONDELLO: In France at that very moment, philosophers are arguing that work has value, that property is theft. Among those philosophers are a couple of young firebrands - 25-year-old Karl Marx...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YOUNG KARL MARX")

AUGUST DIEHL: (As Karl Marx) What you call profit I call exploitation.

MONDELLO: ...Who has a rebellious, aristocratic wife with whom he's fathering lots of kids, and 23-year-old Friedrich Engels, who is himself aristocratic but has a rebellious girlfriend who is not. She is in fact the fiercest young worker in his father's textile factory.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YOUNG KARL MARX")

HANNAH STEELE: (As Mary Burns) But now she can go off and die. You call that a job?

MONDELLO: Marx and Engels are an odd couple but young, virile, smart, rock star philosophers, you might say. And for quite a while, their exploits are a real kick as director Raoul Peck has them running from the police, pounding back pints in bars and tossing around terms like Hegelian. They're young. They have lives. They bed wives. But as a dramatic strategy, that only works for so long. Eventually the film has to explain the birth of communism. And on the way to that famous manifesto about the specter that's haunting Europe, the term Hegelian is joined by dialectical. And by the time Marx writes what his wife calls a...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YOUNG KARL MARX")

VICKY KRIEPS: (As Jenny von Westphalen-Marx, speaking French).

MONDELLO: ...Critique of the critical critique - well, my eyes glazing over at the dialectics, I for one needed an antidote. Happily, the Irish thriller "The Cured" is all about antidotes for a virus that turns people into flesh-eating zombies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CURED")

SAM KEELEY: (As Senan) Dr. Lyons will find a cure.

ELLEN PAGE: (As Abbie) And what if she can't? One of them gets out, and we're right back there.

MONDELLO: Back there is that period before doctors came up with a zombie serum. It cures most infectees. And as with chicken pox, you can't get re-infected. But it doesn't cure everyone, and that's created a three-class society - the uncured...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CURED")

MONDELLO: ...Who are locked away; the now-cured resistent, who may be pariahs but who are less scared than everyone else...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CURED")

PAGE: (As Abbie) We're all in danger.

TOM VAUGHAN-LAWLOR: (As Conor) Not all of us.

MONDELLO: ...And the never-infected, who aren't real keen on integrating even rehabilitated zombies into society.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CURED")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) They're murderers - the lot of them.

MONDELLO: As with the movie about Marx, the privileged few - in this case, folks who are healthy - are desperate to hang onto their privilege. Ellen Page is an exception. She welcomes her cured brother-in-law to live with her and her son. What she doesn't realize is that the cured folks who are now resistant to the virus have started talking about revolution. They're forming a resistance to protect the resistant, as it were.

Their arguments about police tactics and oppression and their insistence that they should be running the show sounds so much like the ones advanced by Marx and Engels that it may occur to you that a specter is haunting Ireland with the fortunate few looking at a sea of outcasts and being conflicted over whether to fling open society's doors.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE CURED")

VAUGHAN-LAWLOR: (As Conor) Do you think we deserve forgiveness?

PAGE: (As Abbie) Yes.

VAUGHAN-LAWLOR: (As Conor) And if you were faced with the man that killed your husband, would you forgive him?

PAGE: (As Abbie) They weren't in control.

MONDELLO: Protesting integration tends to feel the same no matter who's being integrated. So as these characters struggle to come together, you're encouraged to consider other prejudices, other social movements. Like "The Young Karl Marx," "The Cured" is never less than intriguing when it's concentrating on how people treat people. Also like "The Young Karl Marx," it takes a turn at the end not towards political propaganda, of course. "The Cured" drops the politics to become a straight-up zombie flick not nearly as intriguing, though no doubt better for box office. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.