The Motorcycle Diaries
I did a paper on Argentina in my first year in university. Beef is one of that country’s largest exports. There will be a lot of cows in this movie.
So Che Guevarra, known as Ernesto ‘Fuser’ Guevarra (Gael Garcia Bernal) was my age in 1951 and is best friends with a guy named Alberto (Rodrigo De la Serna), aged thirty, both of whom are passionate young adults who are kind of lost just like I am? Sweet and comforting, actually.
The Motorcycle Diaries follows the two men as they try to make it from Argentina to Venezuela by a motorcycle they call The Mighty One or The Powerful, depending on the translation, hoping to make it there for Alberto’s birthday. The film oscillates between the innate greatness and the precarious uncertainly of young lives of these two future leaders.
Although they are the main characters of the film, they’re also not necessarily the heroes since as young men, their strengths won’t be as well moulded. The movie’s technically about Ernesto, sometimes he steps aside for Alberto, who’s more charismatic to women and is a better dancer than he is. Both the young men also take the same humble attitude and watch great actions from the people they meet along their journey. Alberto, on his birthday and far from Venezuela, stumbles and says that traveling up a hill isn’t humanly possible, then we see a Native walk uphill. The two city boys learn from the people they meet and gather the fortitude to do impossible things themselves, like tell a doctor he can’t write or refuse to wear gloves while shaking hands with lepers or swim across a dangerous river at nighttime.
The trip is an educational experience in all the ways they have intended or otherwise, finding out for instance about specific restrictions. The two are kicked off a mining site while trying to watch out for a Communist couple, or the Natives are kicked off their land by corporations, both examples fueling outrage within Ernest and Alberto’s young minds.
Comparisons are inevitably drawn between this film and Bernal’s other road trip movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien. Ernesto fools around with his girlfriend in a car, although the scene’s tamer here. He and Alberto are also going to fight along the way. However, unlike the comfortable distance Julio and Tenoch has inside a car, ‘The Powerful’ becomes ‘The Deceased,’ the young men have to go on foot as they stubbornly continue their journey. Walking, as these guys say, makes them actually meet and talk to people along the way. They have informative conversations with drifters, or lepers who aren’t being treated well by the nuns in the settlement. The desolate injustices hinted at in Y Tu Mama Tambien are more pronounced in this film but the impact somehow seems lessened.