Hopefully not too many patrons attending screenings of this film expected to see the return of a previously believed dead Labrador sans Jennifer Aniston, Marley is of course the documentary film about the life of Bob Marley, world renowned reggae artist and Rastafarian. Bob Marley is revered by many for his music and his message of peace and unity and by none more so than Kevin MacDonald. Respect oozes from every pore of Marley and rightly so, the man changed the face of music and united his country. This film wields the power to convince all who see it of his greatness. If MacDonald has only spent a little more time analysing the music then this film would have felt more complete, instead it feels like it is aimed above the Marley novices.
One of the most interesting disclosures is that of Marley’s competitiveness. Although the cliché of the Rastafarian indulgence of marijuana is fully justified in much of the footage,it is striking how many friends and family members characterise Marley as competitive. To see how much the man wanted to succeed in the industry and would discard others who did not share his vision is amazing; it added to his status amongst his followers however, they would do anything for him. The realisation that his wife still looks after him despite his infidelity becomes astounding when she states that it was her duty, a jarring instant.
The film itself is stunning, from wide panning shots of Jamaican hills and forests to montages of photographs creating a collage of colour and vibrancy. Even old concert footage from the 70s has been given some digital enhancement to help it match the glossy ultra professional finish of MacDonald’s camera work. The film could have been shorter than its 2 hour 22 minute run time had some of the countryside sequences been shorter but they add a mythical, ethereal quality to the analysis of this Christ-like figure. The end credits sequence is definitely worth staying for.
MacDonald is looking to educate, he assumes everyone knows about Bob Marley’s music already so dispenses with that pleasantry. While what he creates is a very in depth and informative account of Marley’s life the music is left marginalised, which is strange considering just how important it has been. A thoroughly detailed picture of events occurring around and shaping his life is drawn but there is always that want for some musical analysis that distracts.
A perfect example of what the film needed more of is the scene wherein MacDonald explains to a distant relative of Marley’s that the song ‘Cornerstone’ was written about the encounter Marley had with their mutual father. An amazingly revelatory moment for the man and the audience, it fosters the question of why there were not more scenes like this.
Even though there are a considerable number of aspects to Marley’s life, his infidelity and occasional neglect of his children, the reggae and his message are triumphantly positive. There is no shutting out the light that his presence brought into the world and what his music meant for many people, especially those of Jamaica. MacDonald masterfully shows that even when things are looking down, Marley stayed on message and proved love conquered all. An illuminating and humbling viewing elegantly constructed by a Marley expert.