In episode 270 of the Seeing and Believing podcast, hosts Wade Bearden and Kevin McLenithan discuss one of my top five favorite movies of all time, the cinematic adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. The discussion was prompted by the recent death of Sean Connery, who starred in the film alongside Michael Caine. I first saw the movie when my 12th grade English teacher showed it to the class and loved it immediately.
Both of the hosts liked the film, but didn’t seem to view it as an undeniable classic like I do. One of the things they believe is a major weakness is in the absolute othering of the people of Kafiristan, whom the British ex-soldiers that Connery and Caine play, are trying to rule. They are certainly right that these people are othered to the point of being almost faceless and unrepresented. However, I think that’s part of the point of the film. These are people that Europeans thought so inferior that they don’t even see them as individuals capable of agency and certainly not self-government.1 The film shows the danger of that attitude and how that sense of superiority can be destructive. In fact, that seems to be the main message of the movie. To that end, the othering of the people in the film serves to show us things through the eyes of the two British men and helps us to share in their ultimate lesson.
I just finished reading A Passage to India and this comes out heavily in that work, as well. ↩︎