Filmed in 1939 and directed by John Ford, Stagecoach is a wonderful character study of 9 people – mostly unconnected to each other – traveling together from Tonto, Arizona Territory in 1880. They are on a dangerous journey through hostile Apache territory. They range from poor outcasts to society’s elites.
Mr. Gatewood (played by Berton Churchill), is one of the elites. He is the town banker who meets the departing Stagecoach on the outskirts of town. Since his bank is on Main Street, the drivers are surprised. He says he had a last minute telegraph message causing him to rush home and pack a bag.
Today I’m back to the movies, looking at the same issues through the 2015 Dutch historical film, Admiral (Dutch with English subtitles).
The Admiral opens with these words…
In the 1600’s the Netherlands is the only republic in the world.
The surrounding monarchies see the young republic as a threat to their own political and economic power.
The Dutch country divided between Republicans, currently in power, and Orangists who want the country to become a monarchy.
In the midst of this internal struggle and the external dangers, Johan de Witt – a Republican – becomes the new prime minister.
In his opening address to his contentious legislators, divided between the Republican Holland and the provinces supporting the Prince of Orange. de Witt says…
I understand your concerns. I do.
There is no one in this country who understands you more than I do.
My father was imprisoned for disagreeing with the Orangists.
I found out what it means to live in a country where you cannot say what you are thinking.
Do you want to live in such a country? I don’t.
I don’t think you do, either.
Let me pose you a question.
We’re a nation of merchants. We sail the seas with 20,000 ships. In trade we all work together…to get better prices and to help each other. And what do you think? Does this work or not?
Some members became so successful they hardly fit in the benches.
When you do business in the East or the West do you do so as Orangists or Republicans? And why are the English trying to block our shipping routes? To disrupt trade.
Is that because you’re an Orangist or a Republican?
No, the English want to wage war against us because we’re Dutch. Free Dutchmen.
Large monarchies consider our small nation too rich. and too free. and on top of that, we’re a republic. In which all men are free to live their own lives. We decide how we worship God.
No leader is more important than the country itself.
The English begrudge us our freedom. Our freedom frightens them. Because we’re prepared to die for our freedom. Because we paid for our freedom with our own blood.
And I’m asking you. Haven’t you lost a relative to the Spanish or the English? And was that Republican blood or Orangist blood?
No. It was Dutch blood. It was our blood.
Your freedom is my freedom.
I’ll defend this freedom until my last breath.
As the movie progresses, the Orangists who seek to make the Prince of Orange the monarchist head of state, distribute lies to weaken de Witt and make him the enemy of the people, who eventually murder him and his brother. It is left to the king to send The Admiral – the brilliant strategist Michiel de Ruyter – on a suicide mission. After defeating the English and the French, he Admiral’s crime was becoming more loved than the King. The King describes his act as leadership.
Admiral is a film worth watching (it’s on Netflix) as we go through our own crisis of leadership in the U.S.
As I continue to try to understand Donald Trump’s assault on the country I love, I find myself exploring many sources. This blog and the next I will post are about moments in movies I have seen.
You can judge their relevance to today.
Gladiator was released in 2000. Directed by Ridley Scott, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. Russell Crowe won Best Actor for his role as Maximus, a Roman General whose family was destroyed by the Emperor Commodus, a disruptive and demented figure.
The struggle in the Gladiator is for the soul of Rome, whether it will be governed by a Senate cleansed of corruption, as representatives of the people or by an emperor.