Robinson Crusoe, 1997

I was too busy and consumed with the great domestic enterprise of bearing children and tending to them when this movie first came out, which is why I completely missed it in 1997.  But all these years later, thanks to Netflix’s great feature of viewing movies on demand, I had the pleasure of watching this most recent adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s great classic by the same name.

One of the very first thoughts that occurred to me regarding the theme of the story was the many movies and television programs it has since inspired.  Before there was Tom Hanks’ Castaway, and the hugely popular Lost series on TV, there was Robinson Crusoe. 

A most awe-inspiring tale of courage and perseverance in the face of adversity on an island populated by savages, Robinson Crusoe is a man’s man.  Ship-wrecked and devoid of help but not hope, Crusoe goes about the business of examining the broken pieces of the wreckage around him, including his life, and one day at a time builds it up again, all the while mindful of the hand of providence that gives and takes away.  Notwithstanding the shock of his utter misfortune, and the obvious fear and despair that must have come from it, we see next to nothing of any bitterness in Crusoe; instead, we see this larger than life man who is as clear about shooting down savages to rescue those placed upon a sacrificial altar as he is to befriend one of the natives and teach him his ways.  It is from this forging of a friendship that the famous Man Friday character comes forth.

Before you are quick to dismiss the story as a hallmark of eighteenth-century propaganda advocating imperialistic notions of empire and hegemony, I would recommend you take another look at the somewhat more subtle themes of egalitarianism, friendship, tolerance, and peace-building as exemplified in the characters of Crusoe and Friday.  It is these concepts that form the foundation of civilization, and Defoe explores these in greater detail in the book– that was authored in 1719.

As for Mr. Pierce Brosnan as Crusoe, the man is in fine form, and wasn’t offered to play the role of James Bond for nothing.  He handles both gun and and gun-powder as skilfully as he builds tree-houses and befriends Friday, and, as a bonus– to set up the story, we are also offered a glimpse of his life prior to the big shipwreck where he is consistently the gentleman in love and war.

Defoe’s book is an epic story that transcends class, culture, and religion, and this most recent adaptation of the story on film is a worthy rendition.


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