Watched 'Motorcycle Diaries' not too long after reading the book. The movie does the book complete justice and shows the evolution of the young Ernesto, a semester short of appearing for his final year medical exams, into the cult figure, Che Guevara as he travels over 8000 kilometres across South America with his good friend, the affectionate and highly gregarious biochemist Alberto Granado, on Alberto's Norton bike 'La Poderosa' or 'The Mighty One'. The young men start their journey in 1952 with the aim of reaching Venezuala for Albertos' birthday, in four and a half months.
Reading the book is one thing but actually viewing all those places, the hardships, the grit, courage and compassion of the young men is amazing. Almost all locales are fabulous but some take your breath away - Ernesto's girlfriend Chichina's home for example is incredibly beautiful. Their routes, the unpredictable and cranky La Poderosa, the tiring treks, con jobs for food and wine, journey on ship, on raft, on vans, bullock carts, and the many people who give them food and place to sleep make the story fascinating.
The most touching parts apart from the communist miner couple that they share a blanket in an open desert (an incident which makes a huge impression on Ernesto) are the times they spend in the leper colony in San Pablo. The best scene is of course when Ernesto, after making a semi political speech wishing for a United America in the midst of his birthday celebrations at the settlement of the healthy doctors, nurses and nuns across the river from the leper colony, strips off and dives into the river - one that no one has crossed before. The sight of the cheering lepers egging a tiring Ernesto, the amazement of Alberto and his friends on the other side is a big moment in the movie. It is the final stamp on the man that Ernesto was bound to become - one who would not lie even if he was starving, one who would not wear gloves in a leper colony, one who plays soccer with them, dances and hugs them, on who would go to any extent for the cause and people he believed in.
'The road has changed something inside me,' says Ernesto to his friend who invites him to stay back and set up practice with him. The two friends part finally at the end of their trip - and apparently meet only after 8 years in Cuba where Ernesto is now a Marxist leader in Fidel Castro's fledgling government.
The movie is in Spanish with English sub titles. The actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna excel, the former intense and brooding and the latter fluid as water. Watch it.