The Compensation is a simple and predictable story with sharply delineated heroes and villains. Despite this fact, and the thinness of the production values, it still makes a couple of good points about society in general, and has some stunning shots of Sri Lankan jungle that would well suit a travelogue.
It starts with a funeral, and I must confess that the keening violin running incessantly for the first 5 or 10 minutes really got on my wick. Yes, I know it’s tragic, but they needn’t rub our noses in it. This melodramatic touch continued throughout, with the heroes as innocent victims and the villains as more or less classic moustache-twirlers with no redeeming features. I’m not overly fond of that heavy-handed treatment, but when combined with the jumpy editing and shabby scene composition it at least gave a consistent portrayal of a film from a very young industry.
Despite all this, it was watchable, and demonstrated in sharp relief the perspective of peoples subjected to white colonial rule. You may say, “Yes, that’s all very well and good, but surely the whiteys weren’t quite so cruel, selfish, and unremittingly racist?” To which I can only reply that the Oxfam shop that I pass daily has a poster which says that every 15 seconds, a child dies from lack of clean water. If we allow that, while our governments try to force other countries to let us hoover up their remaining resources, then we are indeed just what the film-makers think.
The selfishness wasn’t confined to the whiteys, either. The local doctor (who went on to make a fortune in the gem business) was busy learning the lessons of the white colonials in order to further his own aims. His refusal to provide anti-malarial drugs for a dying baby was nicely highlighted by the fact that he was busy bonking a white woman at the time. The local gem-buyers are no better, being instances of the “greedy shopkeeper” stereotype, while the local hunters fit into the class of those willing to betray their own countrymen for a share in the loot. Reasonably realistic all, but still overly cliched.
My verdict? Watch it if you’re interested in the scenery, or if you’ve got nothing else to do, but don’t go out of your way.