After watching “Dirty Pretty Things”, I was surprised. Stephen Frears presented London in such a different manner. Before, whenever audience sees London, they think of the royal family, aristocrats and the Big Ben. They think of theater and the West End stage. With the popularity of “Harry Potter”, some London tourists are even fascinated by the idea that there might be a secret passage to Hogwarts in one of the train stations. “Dirty Pretty Things” is not about any of these.
The movie follows three immigrants who are struggling to survive and inter-act with one another in order to do so.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is Okwe. He is a cab driver in London. When he’s not driving, he is a bellhop in a hotel. Before he migrated, he was a prominent doctor in his native Nigeria. Audrey Tautou is Senay. She is a maid at the hotel where Chiwetel also works. Men lust after her because they believe she is a virgin, judging from her culture.
She is a Muslim and is originally from Turkey. She left Turkey because she did not want to live like her mother. Sophie Okonedo is Juliette, a prostitute and is a regular at the hotel. She often brings her customers back there.
It is not clear what Juliette’s nationality is. Judging from her accent, she is from London. Throughout the movie, the inter-actions among Okwe, Senay and Juliette come into play. Okwe indulges Juliett’s business of selling herself. Okwe, a Nigerian man and Senay, a Turkish woman are roommates despite the consequences of their living in together. When they are at the hotel, they barely speak to each other but when they come home to their apartment, that is when they converse. “The hotel business is about strangers. Strangers are always surprising. They come to hotels in the night to do dirty things.
In the morning, it’s your job to make things pretty again,” explained Signor Juan. Signor Juan is the hotel manager. He is Spanish. Another interesting thing about this movie for me is that the characters have different nationalities. The one thing they have in common with one another is that they are all immigrants. Legal or illegal, none of them are originally from London. Okwe’s condifante is Guo Yi (Benedict Wong), a Chinese who works at the hospital crematorium. Then there’s Ivan (Zlatko Buric), the Russian bellhop who mans the reception area.
It is Guo Yi who explains why Okwe cannot do anything in the situation. “I don’t ask questions and I’m a certified refugee. You are illegal, Okwe. You don’t have a position here. You have nothing. You are nothing. ” This is what most immigrants in London believe, which is shown in the movie. Typically, they show London to be a “bright and sunny place. ” The movie “Dirty Pretty Things” shows the exact opposite. The first few minutes watching the film, I see the inter-action of these immigrants, on how they rely to one another for professions. There’s the Spanish hotel Signor Juan whose employees are mostly immigrants.
Then there’s Okwe running to Guo Yi whenever he needs medicine for this “third” job which is providing medical services to other immigrants who are too ashamed to go to hospitals because their cases are mostly sexually transmitted diseases. The issue on “asylum” was also tackled in a brief scene in the movie. This was when two immigration officers knocked on Senay’s door. Okwe and Senay were having dinner. Okwe quickly went out of the window. He knew that Senay would get into trouble if it had been confirmed she was living with a man. Senay was seeking asylum in London.
The condition for her is she can have an apartment but she cannot have roommates. Since money is hard, Senay breaks this rule and takes Okwe in so that the rent is cut into half. “Dirty Pretty Things” show the audience the lives of foreigners, not the British locals, in the city of London. Surprisingly, these immigrants are those who work blue-collar jobs. They are the cab drivers, the bellhops, the chamber maids, the women sewing the clothes in the factories. This explains what Juliette meant by “invisible. ” London immigrants such as the characters depicted in the movie are hardly seen.
Ivan comments that Okwe will eventually dress up like an Englishman if he stays extra hours in the job. This only comes to show that sometimes some immigrants believe that by inculcating themselves into the London culture, it will make life easier for them. I like the relationship between Okwe and Senay. All through out the movie, Okwe really cares for Senay. Probably because they are roommates and because they are both immigrants, Okwe takes in the responsibility of caring for her. He feels guilty that Senay is in trouble with immigration because of his rooming in with her.
To compensate for this, it was Okwe who approached Signor Juan and asked for Senay’s remaining salary. Out of work, we then see Senay taken in by another London immigrant. Although his nationality is not clear, his accent gives the fact away that he is not from London. We also see how some immigrants are not like Okwe. Senay’s boss at the sweatshop takes advantage of her situation. Immigration officers do not stop chasing Senay. They continue to follow her in the sweatshop. With the warning, all the other immigrants working there hid, except for the owner. He talks to Senay and blackmails her. I would call the immigration. ” He scares her by saying that if she goes to prison, she will be raped.
“They do not separate men and women here. ” For his silence, Senay is forced to do sexual favors. I would like to bring up two important notes in that scene. First: Senay blackmailed by her boss is a fine example that some immigrants will abuse other immigrants. The reality is that wherever you go, not only in London, legal immigrants feel superior than the illegal immigrants. Holding this over the latter’s head, the former can do whatever they want with them. Thus explains Senay’s abuse by her boss.
Another point I would like to bring up is the other workers in the factory. Clearly, they were illegal immigrants because they quickly hid when the two officers from immigration entered the vicinity. Illegal London immigrants are always on the run, meaning they always have to be up on their toes. We see these factory workers hiding the minute the immigration officers appeared. We see Okwe’s inner dilemma of reporting the incident (finding a human heart flushed down in the toilet) to the police. Another justification of the first point, of legal immigrants taking advantage of illegal immigrants, is the deal between Signor Juan and Okwe.
Signor Juan obtains information on Okwe’s life before he came to London. Upon knowing that Okwe was a doctor in Nigeria, Signor Juan offers him a deal that ironically makes him a participant of the incident he has been meaning to report. The deal is for Okwe to operate and in return, he gets 3000 pounds and passports for him and Senay. Also discussed in the movie is the organ donation. Realistically, human organs are expensive. In fact, a kidney can cost as much as ten grand. The need for immigrants to have money pushes them to engage in these activities despite its hazard side effects.
We see this real situation that goes on in London today, depicted in “Dirty Pretty Things. ” “Tonight, London is colder than Moscow. I heard it on the radio. ” I like this line from Ivan. Films have stereotype of countries. When Moscow is shown in films, oftentimes Russians are terrorists or prostitutes. Russia is shown as a country that is rigid and stiff. This is why the very moment Ivan said this was crucial in the film, at least in my opinion. Senay represents the young illegal immigrant in London. A number of them go to London to have better lives only to be disappointed with the harsh reality they see themselves in.
I’m guessing the London immigrants have the very same reaction I had watching “Dirty Pretty Things” on their coming to the United Kingdom. Surprised. The good thing about this movie is that it shows London in a whole new light. It is like what “Training Day” and “Collateral” did in Los Angeles. Most movies, especially those produced in Hollywood, are all optimistic when reflecting society and culture. “Dirty Pretty Things” is the exact opposite. It is produced by a European production company and shows audience the reality of being an immigrant in the city, organ donation and the dark deeds that can occur among those in need of legal papers.
To elaborate it further, there’s Senay who eventually becomes a prostitute. She tells Okwe, “You don’t know the work that I do. ” This was her response when Okwe suggested that she continued working in order to save money. Nearing her boiling point and fresh from the conversation she shared with Okwe, as she was about to do a sexual favor for her boss, Senay bites his penis off and scampers away, but not before stealing some coats. She runs to Okwe and tells him what happened. “He said he’d report me to the immigration and he made me suck. But today I bit. I bit. I bit. ”
Senay also represents the paranoia some illegal immigrants feel whenever they believe they are running out of options. Life is tough in the city and there is no time to spend in idle wishing. The reality catches up with them at the least moment they expect it to. They must maintain their balance or else they will completely fumble. Okwe properly words it as, “For you and I, it is only survival. It is time that you walk away from your stupid dream. ” This line from Okwe to Senay applies to every immigrant in London.
Heartbroken with nowhere to go and no one to turn, Senay approaches Signor Juan. Come on, relax. We can make you whatever you want. ” These were the Spaniard’s words when he and Senay were filling up the documents that would be crucial in her new life. The two practice their answers. Senay becomes a 22-year old Italian. “The trick, Senay, is to believe you are the new person. If you believe it inside, then immigration will believe it. ” This was a tip Signor Juan shares with Senay. Senay also gives up her virginity so she can be a legalized immigrant. My favorite scene in the movie was when Juliette hands Senay morning after pills.
The former exclaims, “Jesus” and Senay says, “Mohammed. ” “What a pair. The virgin and the whore,” Juliette comments. International Relations is shown in this scene with that subtle exchange. Women of different nationalities united at a time of need. Senay needed something to prevent her from getting pregnant which Juliette had. The movie ends with Okwe, Senay and Juliette coming together to escape Signor Juan and his manipulation. They convince him into Okwe actually operating on Senay when in fact, it was just an act, for them to get the documents they need.
Since this is still a movie, this ending is an allusion to the ideal solution of reality. A message most idealists want to present is that despite the dirty reality we find ourselves in society, we can make things better if we just come together. In the movie, we see Nigerian and Turkish pair working together in order to outsmart a Spanish businessman. With the help of a British prostitute and a Chinese mortician, they pull of their plan. It only comes to show that movies, as dark as the theme may be, still represents what our lives are now this very moment and our place in society.
This film shows to the audience the unimaginable things immigrants have to do in order for them to be legalized in the country. London may seem really pretty and it is. On the other hand, what most people do not know is that London too has its secrets. There’s prostitution, there’s underground exchange of human organs for money and legal documents. There’s the need to extort someone else’s dignity and freedom in order to gain something. This is reality as presented in “Dirty Pretty Things. ” It is such a huge leap from how “Harry Potter” depicts the city.
Cite this Dirty Pretty London
Dirty Pretty London. (2016, Sep 18). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/dirty-pretty-london/