The lack of energy in a city renowned for its vitality is amazing even in the late nineties when this was made. The slow pace of Paris is contrasted with a frantic abusive controlling relationship with an older man “you can see a bed but not a personality” Cecilia (Sophie Guillemin tells Martin (Charles Berlin) as this is seen natural in a disarming drama of societies values and morals. It looks crude and ott with no good things on offer.
Moral – If your bored it’s your own fault!
Mad and Bad
Martin is a mad philosopher behaving as a bully with fits of jealousy when he becomes infatuated with a young intelligent actress. Cecilia is making her skills work across her world. It doesn’t slow down their sexual appetites but intensifies it. A little death every time.
Empire review synopsis is almost perfect (later I raise some historical concerns) in its vision.
From Empire Review this extract ‘As the philosopher who has almost eradicated sensibility from his life, Berling expertly combines curiosity, lust and despair as he loses control of his intellect. But it’s Sophie Guillemin who provides the truer portrayal, with a display of dispassionate adolescent volition that is almost capricious in its innocence.’ David Parkinson Empire 1998
Obsessions in different periods
There is also an observation of French films of this period being observed as obsessed with copulation.
It is what reviews ought to do and challenges through cinema self mockery the genius of our accepting art film as moral guidance while at the same time is obviously a dark morose triangle, at times voyueristic. It’s a surprise there is so much sex but souls are also bared. Also obvious is the lack of guile in the young woman who is confused and unable to reject the enabled freedom she is locked into.
It’s a functional fast moving film with few surprises navigating an earlier time, and almost provides an obsession philosopher/psychiatrist R D Laing would love, as it becomes in mood a retreat to the streets where in the 19th and previous centuries a large part of the female population were forced into being sexual objects satiating a powerful male run society. Their is even a crudely placed appearance of that industry with unreal and contrite conclusions. It leaves the screen with Cedric Khans Cecilia lost.
The David Parkinson Empire Review has insightful parts though even it is caught in the sexual prominence the film uses. This for example, …..
‘Initially baffled by how such an unprepossessing kid could have enslaved so cultured a man, Martin is soon besotted with her, too.’ He passes on the ‘use’ the ‘cultured man’ has made of a vulnerable girl.
He also has habits of the time with this extract.
A Parisian professor becomes sexually enslaved by a monosyllabic teenager.
These words are vile and judgemental for any reviewer to summarise the complexity of youth.
David Parkinson arrives at the same rating
Red Sorghum a story from 1919
The way this ancient story deals with love and betrothal is again with the women of principle young girl auctioned off by her family to a wealthy man nearly four decades her senior and he is riddled with leprosy.
Opening scenes introduce us to the girl she travels enclosed in a red sedan with four bearers who lead by a paid bodyguard. They make the journey jolting her on her way and along with six singers pipers, are going through the red Sorghum fields. Tall reeds of corn stalks conceal the imported grains secrets. Wine is made from the gluten free Jowar grain.
The fields stretch beyond the horizon and huge blue skies dominate the curvature of the Qingshako province removed from the cities and relying on this highly nutritious food.
Twists of fate and government control shapes how they live.
Plant with healing binding properties
Little wonder its benefits allow for some diversions. Rich in protein iron and copper, this gluten free grain has been known to play a crucial role in cellular function and repair. The rich quantity of potassium and phosphorous helps lower cholesterol and manage high blood pressure. Jowar grain is rich in fibre and hence should be part of your daily diet.
A cup of jowar has 22 grams of protein.
Jowar has essential vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. It is loaded with good amounts of calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorous, potassium and cell-building B vitamins.
Red Red Wine
The young girl believes she is ill. The community tell her “Sorghum wine kills all germs”.
Red Sorghum wine becomes the source of goodness for the community as they revive the winery. The cooperative practices the rest of society lacks is found in abundance selflessly. It is out with the old and in with the new.
Zhang Yimou examines the future,
In a way as this film was made while the renewal of China and the course taken since, it forms revalue the optimism this period that had gone along with imperial imperfections that were to suppress the Chinese later.
Almost a replication of the revolution. The time China is now in as a fascist undemocratic is far removed from the filmmakers writers vision of the true meaning of Communism or his providing expression of what might be.
His vision as a filmmaker is within a culture devoid of a revolution, and he shows a community is basically only as far as the horizon and that’s all it need be and visitors would be neighbours not family.
Zhang Yimou sees the power structures in the world and shows us the character of the girl Little Nine becomes an equal in her new environment and circumstances. She comes with qualities unfamiliar to the men in the community. This is a rebirth not just of the cooperative and communism but a lesson in human values base and real.
Known as a Fifth Generation Director, Zhang Yimou was seeing a wave of predetermining Maoism, that would follow the eventual defeat of the Japanese. The Fifth Generation he belonged to suffered from the forced outcomes that came from the Chinese tragic and inexcusable massacre in Tiananmen Square, of their own, among them student’s, women, elderly and children. I know I’ve seen the unaltered pictures in the Royal Destival Hall.
When this was made it won the Berlin Film Festival Award in 1988 one year before the wall came down. Did it inspire that long awaited act?
As Germany was to take down the wall thus became a symbol as Tiananmen Square symbolised with it’s bloodbath suppression the opposite direction China was heading.
Within the film there is the exploitation by a militia gangster element who know no morals and act as a barrier to the freedoms asserting themselves within the community. The Sangou are against liberty and intimidate by spoiling progress.As Angela Merkel planted her Eastern German feet in the liberal capitalist machinery of West Germany she ritualised the false premise of wealth gathering as the epitome of human endeavour.
Red Sorghum makes a story of nature’s abundant giving, when respected. Becoming a catalyst for harmony but the ceremony of seasons are trivialised by the love lorn former bodyguard who demolishs all goodness in a feature of brokenness. The triangle is of a young girl, her betrothal to a much older man, the uncirculated jealousy. Meanness from a the bodyguard initially paid to protect her is met by her rejection of his base and controlling ways.
Just as L’Ennue was full of poor treatment of women this again goes into the barbed relationships routinely faced. French films had their sojourn in the ‘69 spawning of tales of revolution, wild ambition alongside female intuition were contests then. Here is another such battle, and a decade or so on the French have abandoned that for ‘the philosophers angst’ and a base treatment of women as this reflects the ‘eighteen mile hill’ high above the plains in China so a community in isolation is not safe from its own inherited demons. One brutality is followed by more and the red becomes a symbol of occupation, oppression and waste.
This story really concerns the imperialism of neighbours devouring hope. It’s as if the brutality is customised by race. Here the Japanese destroy thousands and show bitterness divides. The combination of evil and oppression is mirrored across red lines.
Zhang Yimou has as the Empire review link below – this interpretation – ‘The disease-ridden winery owner (to whom Jiu’er was exchanged for a mule) clearly represents the corrupt Ching dynasty that was toppled in 1911, while the emphasis on collective action suggests the nation’s predetermination for the Maoism that would triumph just five years after the vanquishing of the Japanese.’
Making such a film debut with writing and concepts that are politically charged is astonishing when you consider the interrogation of an emerging China within a global context.
There are times when the cinematography reverts to a tonal black. When silent compliance under a form of penitence or servitude is embarked on. The contrast are raw in ceremonial playing out of the forbearance, of their kin, like a stage drama. A dance in a non existent universe.
Conjuring tricks evoking thoughts like babettes feast are played out, or the last supper. The wine brought to the table as a cure for all ill. Another memorial is recalled.
In a local Church a wall ‘viamold’ sculpture by Rosamund Praeger shows a man in non military attire with a snake at his feet looking across a valley to a a large house hill as the Church remembers the two world war victims. The belief is Rosamund Praeger got the image from the Irish image of the famine, a sketch with a hovel where the solider stands and across a valley on a hill the landlords house.
The embossed text reads ‘Press on’ words that are repeated in the film. Like the future a corona eclipse sends us the message the laws of the universe are to be obeyed. It appears in the film as a visual reminder of higher things and beyond horizons that must be returned to.
A reviewer stuck in recent boredom (L’Enneu again) thought two recent pieces he’d read, Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem and Bill McKibbens’s Falter, explored if we are “hard-wired” (somehow) for empathy/altruism.
The book Babettes Feast holds a community around the one table with outsiders among the gathering.
Martine the convent caretaker says, “Now you will be poor the rest of your life“,Babette replies, “An artist is never poor.” It is set in Jutland in 19th-century Denmark. Again an isolated community.
Written in 1950 post ww2 it examines humanity – “And it happened when Martine or Philippa spoke to Babette that they would get no answers, and would wonder if she had even heard what they said Orshe would sit immovable on the three-legged kitchen chair, her strong hands in her lap and her dark eyes wide open, as enigmatical and fatal as a Pythia upon her tripod…..”
You couldn’t get more isolated than a convent and here the symbolism of a women’s retreat is evoking simple rules for simple pleasures.
Isak Dinesen the writer of this short story had been a five star chef in Paris, having sought political asylum in Denmark.
Open palms. The resurrection as a film is simultaneously in the period when the Berlin Wall came down, when Red Sorghum was made.
Cinema seeks to capture the zeitgeist of one period through another and act as a unifier of our perceptions and thoughts stimulated by instant immersion. The immediacy is without an instance, until this form of review or after film discourse takes place, and often carrying the plain speaking superficial meanings around at the time. Or like my own choice of best ever film, Ordet, untangles a whirlwind of thought and discovery.
Through this period of forced reflection during the Covid 19 epidemic it has thrust us forward into needing reference points evaluating what we know, what really is and how the future is part of our own making.
Red Sorghum is seen in a wide lens also. The table is a constant source with wine central to the sharing and its properties are teased in so many processes just as life’s forces. The intoxication taking over and many succumbed to its altered energy.
Zhang Yimou is a Chinese film director, producer, writer and actor, and former cinematographer. He is part of the Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers, having made his directorial debut in 1987 with Red Sorghum.
The Empire review below sums up the political point here –
‘But it represented life and death, birth and renewal, and the physicality and humanity of the villagers as much as it did the Party’ – is how the Empire review sums it up as a forceful political essay.
By setting the story in the barren wilderness around the north-eastern Gaomi Township, Zhang departed from the lush southern landscapes that Beijing preferred to see extolled on screen. He also depicted his protagonists in a far from idealised light, as he permitted them to indulge their basest instincts, right down to urinating in the wine vats (which, ironically, improved the flavour). Moreover, by allowing the only avowedly Communist character to perish at the hands of the invading imperialists, Zhang also suggested that the workers resisted their tyranny through their own innate heroism, just as their own labour and ingenuity had revived the fortunes of the winery.
This was reviewed after seeing the films again on a domestic screen and still the magic of Cinema creates feelings never touched on by the ingenuity of the creative community. The genius of Cinema is often traumatised by badly conceived forms and weird unrecognisable scripts. But story and the human psyche is a minefield of conflicting ideas. Tread carefully and Be Safe.
This title is a starting point. I’ve chosen it as it speaks of the anticipation of looking at the new exhibition by Ursula Burke, ‘A False Dawn’. The word anticipation is our expectation ahead of time. On 31 May 2020 plans were to close the exhibition here in limbo. While we consider time and second waves there is alteration in our vision and it is not only the wounded concerning us but those who have tragically lost their lives in the outbreak of Covid 19. Despite our experiences in the face of a plague it is human nature to consider the methods we employ to understand it and the wider dangers everyday life has in store. By no means a reflection but a catalyst for thought this exhibition currently hidden away from us speaks of many things.
The introductory title photograph I took and titled to head this essay is obviously showing the Lockdown confinement of the exterior that hides (in March/April/May 2020) the exhibition lying behind the 5th floor Upper Gallery wall.
Inside, on the other side, the drip painting lies behind. The wall suddenly becomes a current edition of the angry it leaps from. This present protection the enclosure provides, shields the new work, creating an extraordinary sense of the present as its original conceptual form centuries ago is reinterpreted somewhere we cannot experience in the intended installation. The prescience is un-calculated but if anything, maybe in the mould of prophethising is shockingly realised and the prophet being here, Ursula Burke.
On the 5th level of the Ulster Museum, traditionally the Art being the highest entry to the confines of ours and the museums strata of telling discovery. Augury is a word Ursula Burke fastens onto and it’s emblematic place in the sculpture sends us in several directions. The repurposed fresco with birds is resonant of several contexts across a longer period of time.
In the Artist statement this is said – “Often, I take a Northern Irish context as a critical point of departure from which to generalise my approach outwards to international concerns.”
This work takes in some pieces from previous exhibitions that lend their heft to this particular ascribed process. The following text from those earlier exhibitions, in part description, shows the process of thought employed by Ursula Burke.
“A large proportion of my work at present is made using Parian porcelain, a hard paste porcelain that is famed for emulating Parian marble, the substance used for carving many of the Greek and Roman sculptures from antiquity. Even though Parian is extremely hard after firing, the nature of the material exudes a kind of softness and elasticity, (almost fleshy) which at the same time formally emulates the characteristics of marble. In content, the reference to the classical period that the work allows enables me to make a conceptual bridge between idealised versions of society much in debate during the classical period and the necessity for continually suspended versions of the ideal within a post-conflict society. Northern Ireland as a region is consistently working towards peace; persistently speaking and striving to move towards an indeterminate point in the future where real, meaningful and lasting peace between tribal communities has been realized. The schism between idealized forms of civil society and consistently suspended versions of the ideal in post conflict society is at the heart of this work.” From the troublesarchive.com Art of the Troubles, The Ulster Museum Belfast, 2014; Arafudo Art Annual, Fukushima, Japan 2014; March & June Mostra, British School at Rome, 2014; Spazi Aperti, Romanian Academy, Rome, 2014; Hope for a Better Past, The MAC, Belfast, 2013 & Instances of Agreement, Kao Yuan Art Centre, Taiwan, 2011. They resonate again here.
The vision here It summons up a thought process on life as seen though the past as a vision of the future. Called ‘A False Dawn’ it supposes also a negative position maybe where we are at, but it covers a lot of ground. The past is seen in the referencing spatial sense of the original fresco and it in part a reconstruction of. It also is a gathering of violence against the person, posing in an array of mediums the entry to the debating chamber, meeting places to discuss differences and forge policies of unity an opposite prevails into the present day and beyond.
The work seems to presuppose the history of humans default to former patterns that negatives will ensue. Far from obvious are the immemorial themes point to the wasteful oblique way we see the environs and world we live in and all its inhabitants. These only appear with scrutiny of the ‘fresco’ with images contained within it. Some local and as I alluded to the wall takes on more genus loci with the wall having in the view hidden our ‘Parliment’ a few miles out the other side having, and it’s very probable Ursula Burke had that symbolic an immovable part of our reckoning or at least a fixture of it.
Further on here I will refer to other works that seek to use art as the countenance for or own debates.
There is a reaction to repression of every kind here in the work and at its core is the politically ardent will that caught out post war worlds. Reconciliation is never over. After these ancient inherent human abstract relations pattern in nature survives beyond us. Made as each are in that miracle of combinations that under the microscope only retain pattern and forms of symmetry our abstract world is incurable evident.
The Italian fresco is a beginning but the core is the restlessness borne of dreadful pain mirrored in the apathy with which fine art beguilingly transports us towards as some judgement or acceptance of the absurd.
Fight with flight The birds are the only animals seen in the exhibition and they figure in the settled full wall perch of the blue diagraphic take on enterprise. The glory of a fresco is simulated in the form of a testing pseudo deterioration by strands of dripped bud paint, speckled distempered plaster. The appearance is less fecund than any original fresco but holds an arresting scale in the soft light of the Gallery. It is based on the Villa of Livia which has been restored at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome which is, in this iteration, a bit like the https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/home Van Gogh simulator without the colour intensity.
The villa was abandoned in the 5th century AD, and subsequently pillaged and looted for antiquities. In 1863, the famous statue of Augustus of Prima Porta was discovered on the site, as well as the birds and trees frescoes in an underground dining area. These were moved to museums in the city to conserve them.
The deterioration as depicted here is arrested and an arresting state of compromise for our satiated souls. Reclaiming it with this mural effect is taking the visitor into a world that is outside the former and is evoking through the use of the flightless birds sorrowful dripping tears of paint and the abundance of natural things an anotherness we cannot see. It goes beyond us. To this Ursula Burke brings a presence of mankind’s intervention and confinement. In today’s compromised world it has wild connections. Nowhere will there be a more relevant juxtaposition in Art installation. The terracotta wilderness is the only comparable example of these themes as this has advanced new infinite interpretations.
The terracotta wilderness of the former is obliterated by the intensity of a blue landscape with grid mesh patterns and inserts of hand held lenses capturing a circle of place, Carson’s Statue or The Stormont Mile. We are pulled into the wilderness of our transmuted political lives.
The allegories may be there but the tonal qualities of the former fresco as a vehicle are explored as an effect less intensely or otherworldly here as Ursula Burke realises her ‘Augury of the Birds.’ The Villa of Livia is the original title and this alternative is extending the reach of the original due to its pastiche allegory of a beautiful location, even garden of Eden. … “La Villa di Livia a Prima Porta da praedium suburbanum a villa Caesarum”.
The place here, it’s genus loci, is compared to this former mythical imagining which itself is captured in its frozen fall from perpetuity and is a relic of another view of the world. The meaning is placed in either location to be one where we aspire to flourish beyond expectations held across the fence in the fresco. “Livia had a fresco painted on the walls which reproduced the nature outside. In fact there are several types of trees, and there are also 69 different types of birds, like those found in the woods around the villa,” said Biondi.
Other Portraits That illusion is not far from in both the former and Ursula Burke’s own latest interpretation here, one perceived by the Artist know as the old man of Modern Literature, one James Joyce, whose eyesight, with another ironic twist of fate in this context, was about a tenth of normal sight and therefore he was unable to invest in the visual much other than an observant contempt-or, while being in the opposite a master of the language lingual he contritely put a verse to this connection –
Buy a book in brown paper From Faber and Faber To see Annie Liffey trip, tumble and caper. Sevensinns in her singthings, Plurabelle on her prose Seashell ebb music wayriver she flows.
His book was of the two shores of the Liffey, on the harbour of people, the brown paper bag the admission it was censored and contained connections with Finnegans Wake..
Not the enigma poetry expected but a blunt instrument of a sales pitch. This is itself a play with words as you are invited to enter a tributary of life where the rawness and morality is cast in metaphors of the rivers proximity to us. The river is carrying away our thoughts. The changes in the tidal flow are stilled only by the momentary galina.
‘What he was doing was leaving a literary ghost mark for a world that was unprepared for it. Anna is both woman and river and “her fluvial maids of honour”, from all corners of the world, constitute 350 river names.’ Edna O’Brien.
This is the same wilderness an author felt able to enter and express while H.G.Wells, Nabokov, DH Lawrence, thought the less of it, TS Eliot was along with Samuel Beckett no stranger to its strangeness as ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ became a morality tale of the river as the conscious being, once entered you cannot return to join in the same place again. The essay by Edna O’Brien is simply a testament to that works genius. bit.ly.2uuHOrI
Bleakness lies before the precious and it is not recreational, recreation is a simile after all and it is an escape while being present. What appears is the thought Ursula Burke is in contest with the world as seen. That she attests to other consciousnesses and parts and gives here a very formative tale to investigate. Along with Joyce she is a companion to the diversity and is gathering in throwing porcelain of her own concepts in bruised and battered allegories which for a long time have proven solid and robust conquests of authorative voice.
The wonderful new book by Colm McCann ‘Apeirogon’ which he snatches a story of combatants he met as lives witnessed in the Middle East to convey the union of ordinary people through the common loss of a child, is illustrated in physical existing metaphors wherein the entry points A,B,C, in the occupied areas are under surveillance of drones cameras and watchtowers the lines of movement that must be adhered to. Gate A is to a Palestinian area, it is illegal for Israelis to enter it. There reasons might be collaboration and assistance? Gate B is to an Israeli held area which Palestinians can enter with adherence to the areas rules as they provide services to the area. Gate C is a settlement occupied only by Israelis. Only Israelis are allowed in. This is the real manifestation of a global human malaise. To take it to another level is the containment of the rooms, a truth, an encounter then a reflection. The broad scope is a problematic one in this confined space. Later I suggest reasons for this opinion.
Just as another fine line of connection there is a review in Los Angeles of the novel being also about birds. ‘Also About Birds: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’ in Colum McCann’s “Apeirogon” by Ben Libman
Beyond malaise is the witnessing of such division and conflict and Ursula Burke has produced in the area of the 5th floor something akin to the separate rooms, at least for my purposes of analysing what I’d seen within its pictorial walls that similar guise. Akin is the name VSO call their volunteer magazine which centres on the junctions of family and repair. This is also a part within the scope of Ursula Burke’s vision here. The many pieces of sculptured heads themselves are displayed on trestles and Dias as types of singular grief and fortitude.
The typed imprint sometimes seen in Ursulas work, of tattoos and messages is again used but less dominantly. The tattoos are in fact the bruises and broken defaced, literally heads full of self image and identity harmed but unbowed. Each forms a art of the same collective. The ‘rooms’ – Gates I eluded to – are usefully given mapping in the accompanying exhibition booklet.
The collective is known as ‘The Wounding’. In the same room, the point of entry are two smaller pieces, Blue – The Sphinx greeting you as you enter and the foremost image identifying what the exhibition is taking you toward. Due to the limitations of space there is only a small explation of the aims and it is immeasurable how much can be taken away or witnessed in calculations of meaning and the exploration of the work.
It is brutally beautiful from the onset. Delivering a coruscating abundance of tales in principle using humans at its core. Natures supremacy is also our configuration. The birds are in an evolutionary state, as we happen to have common migratory processes instilled within us. The flight as opposed to flightlessness is adjudicated in poetry, Seamus Heaney’s works are peppered with birds. As local artist Jefferey Morgan has often in his paintings, his fellow Artist in words, Michael Longley has himself a fascination with birds and their flight. Even in this same space (RUA 2019) birds were appropriated in Jeremy Morgan’s painting of Wiggenstien, as a perch for birds, his trusted companions placing context to philosophy in the edges of Connemara.
The Sphinx is an art subject since it’s earliest embrace. In essence power is anthropomorphic with this creature a heraldic peaceful force showing control, the complete opposite of ourselves of its innate image of pure evolution. This is no Tutankhamen (another tomb is believed to exist beyond the famous Egyptian find) but it is emblematic of faith, virtue, spirit and soul all equated with blue and light blue is associated with the Throat Chakra in eastern mysticism. The element of ether belongs with this and the bruise signals I am here, a human, both the yellow and red absent from blue transition to the physical take it to a stage statues do not have.
It is hard to speak of the delicate forms the world takes without seeing the contrasts presented. They are a dialogue of themselves. The hanging head ‘Augury’ in the third room is a synthesis of a beam, a pressure treated, well selected, worn railway sleeper of a crossbeam, a bodyof woolen torso. Who am I? – it seeks an answer to. Both of itself and the visitor under its presence. The stainless steel grille of the sixties ventilation above and behind it is brought into it in my view, with its rational place occupying the space also and filtering away the august air of the solemn interior in which we invent time and thought.
Inherited. A congress of anger. In ‘Augury of the Birds’ is a context which is as I recently reminded a commentator having a pop at a geographer in a political context, of the animal having a locale and no borders – pinemartins. One of the Irish animals that possess enough guile as to be from even further away. These common carnivores are found in Scotland and the species mustelid have been around a long time. They are not confined by fences while birds are even less confined. They find a way to cross boundaries.
Here there is a joy alongside a trying contest with hope in this display and conceptual world. By creating, and arches sanctity of place, light and stillness take the visitor to a similar room or series of spaces as the La Villa di Livia a Prima Porta. No longer a place of restful pastoral solitude here there are cast relics or people. The heads and bruised elegance given to the new born is cast with its brethren’s burden. The baby is a clear embodiment of this veil of sorrows already inhabited by the person. James Joyce spent years developing a new dialogue and who is Finnegan? Who is the wanderer? The point from one place to another is taken by allowing seeing places symbolising your existence. A habitat or vantage point like the Martello Tower.
The man-made is like a Seán Hillen postcard montage/collage sustained with images taken in combinations and gathered. Like a rickshaw on the canal towpath incongruous and accepted. The allegory of Birds is one which goes beyond our eight mile, for most experiences of that scale, vision unlike the birds whose flight allows them elevation and survey. Often looking at horizons it is observed or intuition tells us, why would you look for meaning in it, what is meaning and why would it have to have meaning.
Library of Congress Like Joyces work this Gallery is a ‘book’ of ideas subverting the ordinary scroll of everyday blindness. Joyce’s tenth of normal eyesight comes with the baggage of having to find other ways to create. Recently I have been discovering how common the impairment in sight is found in art. Locally the colour blindness encroaching in degrees and in severity was occurring with Paul Henry and Basil Blackshaw. Ursula Burke is using the head as the all seeing self and its variances are dispersed with degrees of damage and all physical with the awareness there is damage within always.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.’ Kafka. In the current ‘Democrat’ debate a commentator pointed out – literally – if Elizabeth Warren had an axe/sword at the discussion Bloomberg was all over the place, he would be ‘shish kebab’. Perhaps those words should be removed from any political context. There is a plethora of subjects in political debate for violence which Ursula Burke has brought to this and it is a wild card I throw into the cannibalism of political discourse. Discursive not constructive. The view being, it is present in chambers of supposed governance.
There is another oblique observation which I throw in as it comes from the family of ‘The Origin of the Species.’ Gwen Raveret, a very quick mind and Artist when a boarder at school in France wrote when returning to the comfort of the Darwin household this.
‘In all that time there is only one vision that I keep: a flash, seen through the garden hedge, of some sheep in the next field, with the frosty, winter light running along their backs. It seemed like something from another world: the real world, to which I should escape again some day. It kept me alive.’ Gwen Raveret. (A Cambridge Childhood)
In that clear mind the outside vision is seen through nature. People happen to inhabit that world along with the animals she recalls. The words are extraordinary well in keeping with the Darwin insights.
The Wounded With the tenderness of porcelain Ursula Burke is calling out “the company of self-obsessed fuck-offs who squandered and destroyed the world …..” Gabriel Tallent. Except they continue to preside over the collapse. As in Dresden the mercurial pliability of the material as manipulated in the Dachau Concentration camps is once again primordial in its fragile solidity. These works are combined and brought from each singularity of a human entity, to become the assembly of The Wounded. The scene graceful and stark. Each head has a four cornered timber dias and they rest on the flat top at eye level. The combined display’s each suppose a human scale though they are at times not at the human scale but either or above or below. The child’s head for instance is larger than its normal size as is The Sphinx – Blue. As Colin Davison has in his Lives series and as is his practice the energy of a person is advanced beyond the know parameters thus confronting another aspect, that of an outside deliberate context. Apathy, hurt, fortune, fortitude, resilience, absence, they are all there and more besides. That is the gift art brings, as the lie Picasso referred to. The False Dawn maybe is presaged in the baby at the beginning of life consumed by applied identity.
There is an ever more disturbing connection to be made and it is with regard to that pliability of the Parian Porcelain. In a tragic irony it became a fixation of Himmler as in the Edward de Waal book ‘Figurines in Dachau’, of The extraordinary story of Porzellan Manufaktur Allac as it is further testified, the delicacy was a fine art beloved by Himmler and Hitler. Himmler called porcelain ‘one of the few things that give me pleasure’ and Hitler gave it as gifts. That skill advanced in Dachau a violation of human life.
The Concentration Camps became a crucible, some surviving it is presumed due to their skills and competency with the material, within Dachau. The factory in Allach became too small, and at the end of 1940 it moved to Dachau concentration camp. There were many advantages of having the factory here. There was the immediate gain of using the prisoners. The Allach porcelain company – as with the porcelain manufactory in Meissen – was losing skilled workers to the eastern front, and here they could draw on the talents of inmates. The few prisoners brought in from the camp in 1941 grew to over a hundred by 1943.
Geography and Boundaries While a heaviness of subject is somewhat eased by the actual area of the exhibition in what is a very large space within the Museum in the three parts of the 5th floor it has a difficulty. This is so large a subject the confinement of it is problematic. The particular and evident use as much is possible of minimal presentation by exhibiting one piece on one wall emerges as a tentative approach. There is little room for reflection.
Embroidery is a dominant presence which it is possible to approach as well as view from afar. This is seen as a hanging of an image created with the softness of thread while being the concord of hate in the image as people assailants each other or defend themselves. Blood is threads dripping in tapestry. The Politicians piece is given largesse and prominence and the wooden star frame is accentuating the methodology. The piece is however crowded in the sense it has companions in the room and they are not linear. If only the pace was larger and it were possible as would happen in a linear Gallery or Circular, Getty type space, lead you through from a piece to another piece. Instead it is a conflict of images and though the earnest use of light and separations is used effectively as much as is possible it seems a narrative is lost.
Despite my ‘eulogy’ on certain aspects and being able to draw interpretations from it on a vast scale at times, it torments by not being a story developing as it could. This is evident in seeing it with others and hearing responses and the quickness of a journey does not help. Would it be better were The Wounded be confined to their own room and reflection be removed from the other works? It is difficult to imagine. Another thing I found was not being able to describe its arc to an artist before they visited and it is not entirely obvious where the story begins and what the nature of the fresco analogy is. Is it important to read the ‘fence/bird’ metaphor as the original had foreseen? Is it suffice to take the fresco for what it is by long objective observation? It was long silent before being revealed.
This is a unique reconstruction and was delivered by work on many levels by a number of people under the artists instruction. It is formed with architectural references also in the entry point and the articulation the Gallery, a modern sixties space with delights of formation and detail familiar and a shift in art presentation in itself. Now sans Pirelli Black Rubber Floor unfortunately.
Embroidery is a method deployed as an invocation of political abuse. Comparisons for me are to be made with the work often carried out by local artist Brendan Jameson. It was not long ago he replicated a war picture with plastic bricks and fired pellets at the pixelated plastic image and it showed the connection of a bombing and burnt presentation in a soft caricature the hardness of violence. Often Brendan Jameson produces work similarly contextualised of hard subjects developed with soft materials, sugar cubes towers, cranes and wool is often employed. It is a demographic pluralised by many in art. Often troubling images are significantly made impactive by use of colour and texture. All art is a combination of the signatures, symbolic, icon, index. The hardness softness is a vocabulary which will last long and be emotive.
The use of tapestry is often seen as belonging to Power bases but that is long gone as a means of expression except the clothes and dress attire is often still predicated on status and power. By creating this soft expression of the subjects it is a dynamic pushing us to new collections of ideas. There is a thought of the location becoming a debating chamber itself, of the aftermath of debate being scrutinised by us. This is part of the envelope of any art project, to transmit and alter and show a way of seeing which is the converse and opposite of normal perceptions of the same thing or realised in an alternative shocking or engaging way. Our familiarity of the discourses is of course a point to hold and it is also capable for other universal viewpoints to arrive at much the same thought processes.
Of all art work with a narrative centred on human conflict and Guernica apart, I found the ballet ‘The Green Table’ by performed by The Bathsheva Dance Company of Israel the most powerful I have ever witnessed. As our own ‘troubles’ spiralled and became a proximity of human harm visited on many taking away lives and their future this recoiled as a parallel depiction performed as a ballet, it arrived without warning as acts of violence do. Other forms of art could provide similar responses, it so happened to commit totally to the horror of war and human disagreements being at the core.
If we go back to the original and the notion earlier, ‘this Gallery is a ‘book’ of ideas subverting the ordinary scroll of everyday blindness. Joyce’s tenth of normal eyesight comes with the baggage of having to find other ways to create.’ it presupposes a normality in that the original was designed as a dining area. Imagine what discussions might have fed those at the table. The outside is perceived as harmful while dining is a convivial and discursive learning rewarding essential social norm. While dining there is withdraw to a safe refuge to take in the harvest of all they survey.
‘The Green Table’ is that place of discourse and it is used not for dining but as a place to reflect and act out positions of difference and the meaning is held all are equal while a temporary lapse in normal hostilities are replaced by conversation. It seldom works as conversation is held among people as they swamp agreements or common purposes while energising other equations as a test among their piers. So the table is a mediator on levelling out. The people are of course ardently different holding outside ideas they must attend to, adhere to and visit so they are not confronted once they’ve left of change. That is also a spiral of centrifugal force. Like a satellite of thoughts much as the reverence held by the construction of Newgrange and other core layline driven spaces. These rooms are a place of discovery in the most part. They reflect on what is. They also offer food as the dining room is destroyed and in limbo while we navigate the pieces while discovering thoughts fresh and recalled.
Paucity in Religion As the work is attempting to take on a huge subject and our lack of mediation among nations it races toward the singularity of existence seen focused on individual choices and from the sign of the baby holding a flag on entering the world it is apparent this is individuality with context. The onrush of societal norms are that contagion it is difficult to remove ideas away from.
Predicated by the notions and practices instilled since birth it is rare that independent thought perseveres without some identity context. None more so than religion. I can see the argument and that is a toxic word in some places is that our times have always been trapped by war and conflict with Northern Ireland a place known primarily through its troubles near past. So I have found the following story from a pioneer going to another place, taking with them no doubt their own societal convictions, some puritanical and conflicted with the freedoms of others, to be very tangible.
The aspect of faith or belief, in which peace is a foundation sought through religious positions is brought through in the context of the USA sate of Montana a narrative which is brought by necessity into the thinking of a pioneer. I have not seen a clearer statement on the examination of religion as seen through the individual and their own choices and the fundamental need to be observant of their own actions and place it in context of a worlds mission. Progress through peace. The exhibition alarms us and covers this – Religion – Passage – without having the place to display it.
James Fergus – Montana “I said religion often had something to do with the fate of nations… the Christian religion brought about a long period of ignorance still known to us as the dark ages, during which thought was curbed, common education banished, and conscience given over to a rude, vulgar and ignoranat priesthood.
"And whatever good Christianity may have done since, much of the degeneracy of mankind during this period must be laid at its door... Christianity alone was left to darken and degrade the masses of Europe with only an occasional flash of independent thought, until the 14th century when we gradually see the flicking lights of a coming dawn. Gallieo, Bacon, Luther.
James Fergus as many pioneers sought a new dawn to live a life somewhere identity was not fixed but hindsight brought those words spoken above. In a nation never conscious of the Indian belonging to their lands and the desolation of a form of life caused by the migration into their lands it became, evokes another false dawn.
Another analogy I find in the film The Ghost Story by David Lowry which in this context unravels life backwards in a place revealing a past and positioning a future.
….walks over to to one of the pressure treated beams that line the road. She sits down.
This essay has taken many turns and has remained unpublished for a few months as the nature of the exhibition takes on more relevance and meaning. Now published 01 06 2020 I have settled on a degree of understanding and interpretation and as this world shows there is every truth in the individual having their own view in this compellingly complex world.
To finish I have noticed another reality. The Wuhan ‘origin’ of Coronavirus 19 was from dead bats. Bats it is pointed out in another book ‘Quarantine’ by John Grace, hang from caves upside down and their ‘eyes’ having limited vision in the conventional ‘sense’ are fixed as they hang on the ground, not the heavens above. The Bible uses the ‘quarantine’ of forty days in the desert to get across the story of ‘human examination’ where prayer expresses inner most thoughts. The daylight fasting contrasts with the bat and it’s lack of sight, no need for daylight and living a life in darkness without a canopy of exterior wonder as colour, our use of vision, gives us so much apparent contrasts that ultimately are illusions.
The day Victory in Europe 75 years after peace was obtained the days of remembering continued.
Here we are in 2020 with a sense of connection and humanity has had its say in the face of a virulent disease. We can prepare for making a stronger peace by realising the world we share for a short period of time as the Creator has given us. The strength of kinship and the selflessness of the National Health Service Carers and the Care Homes Carers along with the family’s and isolated who are facing up to their mortality whenever it shall be brought as it is to all, we give collective thanks for the treasures life has given and the hope that stays within us through every moment the Creator has given us. Amen
Catherine the Great The new subscription series, Catherine the Great delivers a suspect history while illuminating the vestiges of contemporary Political and Sovereignty in Europe. Starring Helen Mirren it is made for her electric acting skills and lineage appropriate for her own history. Some critics have said of it there is no magic sparkle or gold-dust in the drama for an audience expectations of provocative spellbinding theatrical lustre. It is just not hot enough and Potemkin is as near as it gets to a potboiler.
In ‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the making of a cosmopolitaCulture’ by Orlando Figes has formed a theme in his book around three characters one of which is Turgenev; Focusing on the intertwined biographies of a famous French opera singer of Spanish descent, her French impresario husband and one of Russia’s most beloved novelists, and as a historian remarks on the leaders taking forward Europe in this period.
Pauline Viardot – became Turgenevs supporter in more ways than one and mari complaisant where Figes attempts a continent in constant change – technology not being the least alteration.
He has again written in review, his account of his viewing of this tangential series with some ‘warnings’ he describes thus ‘But there are many small errors, a few large ones, and dramatic licences abound (spoilers ahead).’ By his account and depth of knowledge and no spoiler alert needed as I won’t reveal the ‘allegations’ of discrepancy here, The Times 4 October 2019, Review (2 Arts article) does deliver the needed autopsy on the drama and fulsomely, with if it’s anything to go by, a promise of an excellent twist of the History seen in the Banquet of the Vanities often seen through English historians eyes though this is unintentional but my viewpoint given our recent times.
The world of media is a fanfare of opposing histories and no more so than seen in the deliver of a certain kind of meritorious justice, so it is contended by the Judges of The Supreme Court on the material Considerations they avail of in reaching their decision.
It is looking more and more absurd and demonstrative of a blatant lie being conducted on behalf of the people of these islands, GB and Ireland.
How is that so you may ask. The series Catherine the Great is a fine element to attune yourself to history and the ‘Rule of Kings,’ delightful contexturalised by Lady Hale and her Supreme Court colleagues in filling us in on the remnants othering shared history and by dint their authority to preside and pronounce of difficulties of stewarding a country as it conducts itself among neighbours. Naked hubris called out
Orlando Figes has created a context which is invaluable to discerning not decreeing the formulation of the record. The drama series only serves a little recognition of history and its therefore a good question to ask this, Why is this drama altering in effect – it is also a version but without the spoilers of the above article – undoubtably off piste. It is due to the consumption of drama and partially though it was hardly a precedent, Downton Abbey conjecture of lives in smart antiquated buildings. Even they are confiscated of truth in these dramas. Stanley Kubricks red coated drama was an exception to the narrative swirl and conflagration in ‘Barry Lyndon’. The dramatic accounts are seen honestly dishonest in such as Shakespearian drama and No Theatre elsewhere displays of a version of the past. An appetite expects the formula to be as near cognition as the soul allows.
In his writing the review there are facts I wish to consume and add to a following narrative on ‘the rule of kings’ having written immediately previously my analysis of where that history leads us. A new history is upon us. It is no small coincidence Orlando Figes book has the title – ‘The Europeans.’
Catherine the Great he points out was one Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, a minor German state. Arranged Marriage would take her to Russia at 17 where in 1762 she became Empress of Russia. That is a pivotal point in any account of Europeans.
The advance of a form of rule by Catherine the Great is hinged on the male protagonists around her and allies or enemies to the throne she occupies. Several lovers and conquests, tested beforehand by a Countess Bruce who noted their willingness or aptitude for her appetite and patronage seemed a sure common means to stabilise and conquer her peoples willingness to be ruled. The imperial bedchamber is a retreat where she obtained as much male sexual comfort as she could and stayed relatively loyal to some of her consorts. Potemkin being highest in her affections and finding in him an alliance equal to her ambitions of statecraft. By her alliances she was in control of the destiny of Russia and she thought Europe.
By 1773 an heir had been conceived though the convention of the hereditary male becoming Emperor was a minor obstacle to Catherine the Great living up to her reputation and her offspring born in 1754. When Prince Paul the son assumed to be heir where normal protocols to hold but when he becomes 19, Potemkin is now embroiled in a relationship which savoured the expansion and nature of the Russian Empire sought by Catherine. With a historians insightful gaze Orlando Figes notices in the acting the chemistry ‘ – and there is a chemistry between him (Jason Clarke as Potemkin) and Mirren’s Catherine who is tough, tyrannical, emotionally closed, but more vulnerable in his presence.’
That sounds as though it has the convincing, authentic power of period detail in the portrayal of relationships. The mores were not a stricture of guidance to be morally bound to the Ten Commandments for example but a position of realism in turbulent times.
Her quest it seems from Orlando’s reading of the historical records is parallel to the religious one I see in the stewardship becoming more akin to the Lutheran doctrine she had left when becoming – it is perhaps legitimate to call it her arraignment in the sense she was completely and inducted – of the Russian Orthodoxy. It is possibly a century earlier the radical ‘reformation’ in advance of other European Kingdoms including a Great Britain the Bible was no longer an asset confines to elite Religious but now was among the people as an Orthodoxy and template for God and the influence of the Bible.
Emerging Configurations on knowledge.
The Russians had, in this open freedom to consume and debate the virtues of Religious belief systems, been given a tool which subsequently would overthrow the lineage of Sovereign authoriety as practiced by Catherine the Great.
It is a view which would take a lot of persuasion in practice though I put it forward as a possible bridge in the construction of Europe’s state. Were it not for the intervention of Industrialisation and another ‘costume drama’ enters my mind, with Antony Hopkins as an exile torn between the past and his ancestry and the youth testaments of his daughter and friends seeking equality and a positive socialist life ahead. The subsequent fractions and divisions came destructively to a head in the twentieth century. This drama ‘Howard’s End’ fills in, partly in a very apposite way the English dynamism in the abrupt departure of the slave ridden empire; Russia had abolished slavery, substituting it with servitude converting them to serfs in 1725 long before Catherine’s reign.
Unravelling the historical immorality it had perpetuated was in all of Europe a yoke which caused its own internal demise. Catherine the Great sought with Potemkin her long held belief; and it may have been from a uniquely Religious Lutheran Orthodox itinerant perspective been conceived as a role to follow in her sense of herself, the expulsion of the Turkish implantation in Greek and the Volga uprising as establishing an authoritarian based after all is said and done on a Religious philosophy equal and of the same consequence as the Age of Enlightenment. Paradoxes abound and Samuel Rutherford would have been found as not only a dissenter but a deeply flawed reader of The Bible in advocating the intervention, which was already in place in the regime of the Church of England but bound up in ‘rules of the Kings’ a theology requiring the believer to press allegiance to a higher edict and put in place something between them and God.
Orthodoxy did not prevail upon its followers any hidebound sense of Sovereignty but collided instead with the reverse Communism of Catherine the Great. It is an extraordinary complex construct to make but it might bear some examination.
There is a joining of stories in the work of Orlando Figes writing in both, ‘The Europeans: Three Lives and the making of a cosmopolitan Culture’ and the following review in The Times 4 October 2019, Review (2 Arts article) stresses the account drama and screenplays provide a view that conflicts and obscures understanding of history and narratives assumed then thought about. I….the above book for instance Turgenev is honoured with the praise for his toiling on subjects he has no reward for, … Turgenev acted as a peerless cultural intermediary, introducing Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky to western capitals and Flaubert to the Russians. Figes writes of him being an advocate of reason, progress and democracy.’ “a Republic of Letters based on the Enlightenment ideals of reason, progress and democracy”. The plasticity of the literature – not only his but all writers – it can be observed claimed the supremacy of the narrative by its own eloquent reasoning and ease of understanding. This was therefore the conveyance Kings Queens and Revolutionaries clung to and set there compass by.
Countenance of Religious Affectations
From the essay looking into the Supreme Court Judgement (the previous blog!) I arrived at the observations made in Niccoló Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ and again see so much to relate this to. I struggle to remove the image, the appalling image of a ‘judge’ with the fabric spider cobweb around her neck and telling us of the import of rule by – and this is where religion and the misuse of ‘the rule of Kings’ occurs – as an atrocious suppression of the Word. The situation in Italy as seen by Machiavelli is in his gift to repair. The notion the Florentine intelligence can be transported beyond its realm is not seen as problematic but possible.
So it is with Catherine the Great and the bold Potemkin who see their task to rid the world at least in Europe consigned to misfortune and bickering among sensitivities drawn down over thousands of years as surmountable. Little did they know and when discarding the preeminence of what appeared at least in part to exist within them, a dislike based on Religious doctrine, their replacement by royal decree and rule they were discarding with it their soul.
In a Puritan way there is reasonable course to disentangle religion from the methods of men. The reason delivered first to us arrives through light. Age of Enlightenment etc. are the runes of spiritual life. Indian culture is similar in its Diwali hinge. Our spectral vision is limited to the range the human can take in while wavelengths outside that human spectrum lie what in the past have accumulated thoughts subconsciously held and unexplained.
Overtures to 1812
Inspiral spectrums of thought are only realisable by the vast outside influences assembled by the mind. You will a phrase into existence and compose a range of notes to stimulate your life force. It is as though I do my work by sleeping and unconsciously combine possible futures as seen in the eyes of the past. Thought dreaming. Sleep and see the sunsets and act as though your passivity beyond the fact of death as you in that stillness absence of conformity as vers libre, that living octagon of constant revisionism and regularity. When the parameters outside n the daylight side of living exist to produce the combinations of Orchestra, Theatre, Poetry, Organisation of beauty in functionality and use it exceeds our worth and world of ourselves. This accumulation is the stuff of influence and the inspiration is without. Those rays of light and otherness begin to mean things and some cam detect the cosmic influence beyond rejection and elimination.
The modern Culture offered and absorbed seeks to provide an extreme of interest and the literary crime wave is itself a questioning ambiguity and surging by that confusion as artful cold crime analysis.
All contained in the lines of a book and screening of a reality formed of false indicators and misleading trails and analysis. We compose our curation of the world and ourselves by a distortion of self and created illusion. The appetite is growing and the Google super comport can only advance the churn of indigestible form of invisible history.
To join the histories of the ‘Continent’ is by any account a broad sweep using various reference point. For these observational viewpoints I use literature and the arts. The Drama and influences of the body politic often taking its directions from the canvas of Entertainment and visual metaphors sometimes transparently opaque.
The range of European History and its Collisions
Below are a selection of notes from Wiki, Common Eductional websites which are used here as another way to join the dots and see what – if it is at all provable – the actions present a confusion of objections while having some legitimacy and coherence. It asks why the paths taken were so intensely random and happenstance. Was it will by our inner selves?
The French has several Revolutions and the following is an introduction to the French then the connection with Russian and its role on the fervour of Revolution brought about in no small part by the lessons and paradoxes expressed by the literary elite.
Let’s begin with the royals sporting across Europe in aims to modify the world according to their ambition.
* (1494) France and Austria began the Italian wars * (1515) Reign of Francois I began * (1519) Leonardo da Vinci died * (1539) French became the official language * (1559) Cateau-Cambresis Treaty ended Italian wars * (1562) Catholics and Protestants religous wars * (1589) Henry IV was first Bourbon King of France * (1593) Henry IV turned Catholic; religious wars ended 1600s – 1800s * (1610-1715) Reign of Louis XIII followed by absolute monarchy of Louis XIV * (1720) Last outbreak of plague in France * (1756-63) Seven Years War; France lost all colonial possessions and Canada * (1778-83) France assisted the 13 colonies in the American War of Independence * (1789) French Revolution ended rule of monarchy * (1792) Louis XVI overthrown, First Republic created * (1804) Napoleon crowned Emperor of France * (1815) Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo; monarchy reestablished * (1830) The French Revolution (or July Revolution) middle class revolt, King Charles X forced out. * (1832) Cholera epidemics * (1848) Founding of Second Republic * (1851) Coup d’etat instigated by Louis Napoleon * (1852) Louis Napoleon III crowned Emperor * (1870-71) Alsace-Lorraine regions lost to Germany; Napoleon III overthrown * (1875) Third Republic began * (1889) Eiffel tower built.
Then the familiar 20c and wars begin a transformative World Picture begins.
Puskhin and his Literary Genius
The future of uncertainty is it’s certain.
It was something Alexander Pushkin might have thought as his departure from a promising life came in a duel at 37 years old and the malevolent Queen of Spades called three days after his being fatally wounded by D’Antes who had spoken pitiably and grossly of his wife’s family. He had in his dying, sought for his wife to be looked after by the Tsar. In facing into a future where his youth had gone he made some gestural indications in his folly to take comfort in killing an enemy or be killed so reckless was his vision of his future. He fell without his talisman ring having also returned, (never turn back) for a sable coat before proceeding to the duel site on the banks of the Black River outside St Petersburg in his coach, passing unawares his wife returning from sledging in the Winter freshness. It was a tad Byronesce maybe, this disastrous act being a supplicant of the romanticists Greece and Rome had entrapped him in affairs as society had witnessed the malevolence attached to circumstances becoming public. Now the history of Catherine the Great and Alexander Puskhin are intertwined as a people’s History told with an irony of Royals and Revolutionary thinking on both their parts. Some things never change.
The story of French Revolution precedes the overthrow of the Tsars. Known to his entourage as ‘The Frenchman’ his Moscow writing found him by 1820 banished by government who decided his poetry was dangerously subversive. They sent Pushkin out of the capital and into exile in the south of Russia, 1700 kilometres from his family and friends in St Petersburg. He was sent first to Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine) and then to Kishinev (now Chisinau in Moldova), moving to Odessa (now Ukraine) in 1823.
By the time he had formed his thoughts on the wider possibilities history informed him of, at the end of 1825 Tsar Alexander 1 died and in the following year his successor Tsar Nicholas 1 freed Pushkin from exile. Pushkin moved back to central Russia, living some of the time in Moscow, some in St Petersburg and travelling a lot. He became interested in the reformer tsar Peter the Great (1682-1725) and dedicated historical work to him. At this time he also became interested in his own family history and wrote a story Peter the Great’s African based on the life of his ancestor Abram Ganibal. His mother having been of African descent. At the time of her death he bought a grave alongside her for him to rest.
The peculiar interest in tyranny and it’s place in society was a duel in itself within Puskhin. His friends included many who were involved in a political group which was later known as the Decembrists. They were a group of officers who disagreed with the very harsh political system at the time. They are called Decembrists because they had an armed revolt in December 1825 to try to stop Tsar Nicholas coming to the throne. Pushkin wrote Ruslan and Ludmila at this time, a number of beautiful lyrical poems, and also some very political poems like Freedom. This starts with the declaration “I want to praise Freedom, I want to attack the evil of kings” and calls the tsar “Wicked autocrat!”
That extract comes from the above link, a composite view for children so innocently removed from overbalance or overbearance. His innocence of the worlds harsh realities seemed to be distant when in this removal from the turbulence and complete reversals of fortune Politics and the Reign of the Tsar encountered daily. He ought to have discovered through his African aristocratic legacy when only obtaining minor status as part of the elite. Being amongst aristocrats himself much of his life he was neither elite nor poor hence his probable annoyance at exclusion. The expulsion nullified any part in the big events that were unfolding. The only scope was his literary genius. It was Tsar Nicholas 1 who freed Pushkin from exile.
History has it that Puskhin provides a narrative of change while the powers provide the history. The fascination of history was an occupation brought about by his South Russian exile at his maternal homeland.
The fascination of the pre-history is him seeking the organic outworking among races and this is tied to ‘The Frenchman.’ His knowledge is accumulating and in the dramas he filed his own life and visions of depraved rule.
Peter the Great (1672-1725)
Peter was Michael Romanov’s grandson and under his rule Russia underwent many changes. It was Peter who made Russia one of Europe’s great powers and who helped it recover from the scars left by Ivan the Terrible.
He did this firstly by opening Russia to the West. He wanted Russia to be as modern and advanced as Europe and poured all the country’s money and resources into making it a kind of European paradise.
He asked the best Western engineers, craftsmen, merchants and shipbuilders to come to Russia and help him to modernise it. He also sent thousands of Russians to Europe to learn these trades and receive the best education possible. He even went himself – and worked in the shipyards of Holland and England.
In 1703 Peter declared that a town was to be built on the boggy marshlands of the delta of the Neva River. Over several years of frantic and often difficult construction, a city emerged. It was called St Petersburg, and Peter made it the capital of Russia instead of Moscow. St Petersburg wasbuilt to be a work of art, whose beauty would rival that of any European city. In fact, many early European visitors to St Petersburg described it as resembling a theatre set, such was its uniform and somewhat unnatural beauty.
Here are some other reasons why Peter was such a force for change in Russia: 1. He tried to change Russia from what he thought was a deeply archaic, superstitious and closed country into a modern haven of European civilisation. 2. To do this, he took extreme measures to make everything in St Petersburg exactly how he wanted it: he told his nobles how to live, how to build their houses, how to cut their hair, where to stand in church and how to converse politely in society. 3. In one of his most radical reforms, Peter made the Boyars servants of the crown. In this way he laid the foundations of an 18-19 century European-style absolutist state, where the monarch reigns supreme. The new aristocracy was suddenly totally defined by its position in the civil and military service and its rights and privileges were set accordingly. 4. In a surprising twist Peter even banned beards across all classes. This was a particular blow to the Boyars who wore theirs long in the Orthodox style, but all Russian men were subject to the law. To help enforce it, Peter even introduced a Beard Tax, payable if you refused to shave your beard! 5. He also made big changes to improve the economy, education and Russia’s military strength. He built up the army and the navy, making Russia a real military force to be reckoned with. In particular the Russian navy was really created by Peter who had hundreds of ships built by foreign experts.
Lifeline even now
Pascal had written another book for the Church after Pensées he formed another view which liberated him from dogmatic theory. He denounced Christianity by His Vers Libre on mathematics and science reasoning he went towards parthenogenesis and being separate from the need to believe one thing or the other. This magical delusion was Pascals downfall. It lmeant his best thoughts were not received by the populist and staggeringly they are still there even plays we have not seen or heard of all trapped in a bibliographic cemetery. The mocking tones of the authors seen preeminent like Voltaire were very often favoured due to the splendid cloak they gave to Royalty such as Catherine the Great. Delusion is a wonderful thing Pascal thought. His anti-religious thoughts were consistent with the well known maxim, it is better to believe, just in case. Pyrrhonism of living by thought is a paradox sent to sleep and put asunder by scepticism lent by the creator. That creator is the author of all and us.
Seeing the nothingness of belief in it’s unconquerable reason and the formed reality faced of war and dreadful outcomes for the earth’s inhabitants killing to survive among animals and complacency the compact only civilisation can construct to alleviate pain.
Not to question the religious life but know nothing of the other religious life is a nerveless position. The truth is beyond recognition but it’s invisible cloak surrounds and makes us alive.
Although we can see that Peter did much to modernise and empower Russia, we can also see why many did not enjoy Peter’s reforms. After all, by forcibly Europeanising Russian life he was trying to rid Russia of much of her cultural history and heritage. Of course, he was not completely successful and much of the old Russia remained, especially outside of St Petersburg.
The Napoleon part of Russian history is also astonishing in its exultation, it’s compelling act of restructuring, on the part of Napoleon who would not have the same analytical sense of the land he sought to conquer that Puskhin held even greater than the Tsars and this accorded a total clash of cultural values neither religious or colonial but a federal universal purge in the fashion of Alexander the Great and many others before them.
The act of exulting; lively joy at success or victory, or at any advantage gained; rapturous delight; triumph. This is the human failure. The obtaining advantage through warfare. Triumph is a potent word. From sport to self awareness all is in gain or loss while nature dismisses all-comers.
Napoleon invades in 1812 French Emperor Napoleon was becoming annoyed with the Russians and their Tsar, Alexander I. Napoleon had placed a European-wide ban on trading with Britain, mainly because it was almost the last remaining European country that wasn’t answerable to him. But the Russians kept breaking the ban because it was bad for their own trade. So in 1812, to teach the Russians a lesson, Napoleon decided to invade.
It turned out to be a huge mistake. He hadn’t planned for the terrible road network in Russia, making progress slow. The farms didn’t grow nearly enough food to support the gigantic army of 500,000 men and 50,000 horses he had taken with him. Soon they were starving, exhausted, and ridden with disease. As a final blow, the bitter Russian winter came.While Napoleon’s and Alexander’s troops did take part in some fierce fighting, in the end the French army could not cope with the harsh Russian conditions.
Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Eventually, defeated, Napoleon decided to go home to France. Before he left Moscow he set it on fire. His armies had a terrible journey home and by the time Napoleon returned to France, only a fraction of his men were left alive.
One important consequence of this invasion was that some Russians began to reject the Europeanisation that had become such a large part of Russian life since Peter the Great. They wanted to go back to their roots, and to make Russia Russian once again, rather than an imitation of a culture and history that weren’t even theirs.
Slowly and over a long period of time, Russia began to recover its own culture, heritage and style.
The 1917 Russian Revolution The Romanov dynasty came to dramatic end in 1917 under the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, through an event commonly known as the Russian Revolution.
L-R: Maria, Tsarina Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas, Anastasia and Alexei. Tsar Nicholas II was married to a German Princess called Alexandra. Together they had five children, four girls – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia – and a much wanted son, Alexei. Nicholas was a devoted family man and he and Alexandra had a very happy marriage.
Unfortunately however, Nicholas was not a very competent Tsar. He was autocratic but lacked authority and confidence. Too often in the years before the Revolution, Nicholas made bad decisions, such as going to war with Japan in 1904 when the country could not afford it and was ill-prepared. Russia’s subsequent defeat led to riots and strikes, and in 1905, on a day now known as Bloody Sunday, demonstrators asking for changes were shot on Nicholas’ order. The Russian people were poor, hungry and dissatisfied and Russia was ripe for revolution.
In response to the growing crisis, Nicholas first reduced some of his own power by forming a government but this was not enough, and he abdicated in February 1917. A provisional government was formed but in October 1917 a man named Vladimir Lenin took advantage of the weakened state and staged a coup d’état: he took control of Russia.
Catherine Puskhin Voltaire Rousseau Here’s a thing as they pronounce now and again contradictions of their objectives. In currently historical narratives the personalities of the makers of Revolution – or the ones who recognised change as inevitable – the Religious having exposed evil and given moral guidance through various interpretations of ‘The Word’, as Russians sway to Orthodoxy, The Age of Enlightenment and the following outcomes of Democratic will manifesting. In England the King James Bible was a result of the Europeanise and the new ideology brought by Charles II and the recovery of Royal privilege in 1659 when his Europeanism brought about by compelled exile a bit like Pushkin, his thoughts had accumulated wider visions neither Puritan nor Revolutionary but liberal in universality. This is the Cosmopolitanism Orlando Fuge refers to presumably but with Turgenev came a worldly sense beyond perhaps European Enlightenment.
Catherine was also ambitious and ruthless. She dramatically expanded Russian territory in the Crimea and Ukraine, and three times invaded and partitioned Poland between neighbouring empires. Her reformism froze when the French Revolution erupted in 1789, inspired by many of the principles she had espoused, and she joined a European coalition to crush it.
Rousseau’s self destructive personal life saw the burden of the impossibility of perfection laying heavily having rejected his own children and consigning them to the Paris Foundling Hospital. This form of self destructiveness manifested in Pushkin as he floundered on the twin towers of hope and virtue. Power and Powerlessness with the ruthless Machiavelli streak The Prince again seen as humans fatal flaw. Flea bag with wings.
The strange demise of Rousseau is mystifying still. On the Public theorising he was proof of the power of ideas in placing into the domain of autocracy
Catherine the Great’s intellectual pursuits extended far beyond her collection of art. Exchanging letters over a fifteen year period with French writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire, she was spurred to bring Russia into the modern era through ideas raised by the Enlightenment and its supporters.
What is perplexing about Catherine’s relations with the Russian writers of her day – Radishchev and Denis Fonvizin in particular – is that she did not tolerate the kind of free thought practiced by her French protégées, Diderot and Voltaire.
Rousseau was a fierce enemy of Voltaire and he is not mentioned here in the history of Catherine the Greats love and embracing of French ideas. They played into her quest to involve in her project. The Greek project all of Europe so the reading of Rousseau would be bound into the philosophy around ‘The Age of French Enlightenment’.
It has been claimed that Diderot’s thought was a corner stone of the French Revolution, and while Catherine would never support such free thought in her own country, she supported Diderot financially.
To illustrate this contradiction even further, in 1790 during the French Revolution Catherine sent Radishchev into Siberian exile for 7 years after he published his travel diary A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow which documented the problems in Russia that surrounded her reign. Alexander Pushkin, the 19th century poet, novelist and playwright, was highly critical of Radishchev’s text, claiming that it did not comply with the poetics of narodnost’ – populism.
Catherine seems to be trying to save her image and legacy to force into the Russian psyche thoughts of a broad Europe.
Yet when we look at the content of Rasdishchev’s Journey today we see that Pushkin’s judgment is unfounded. Radishchev’s book is indeed an encyclopaedia of Russian life of the time. Pushkin’s evaluation may have been prompted by the censorship conditions of absolutism which prevailed after Catherine the Great in unmitigated form, demonstrating the impact of Catherine’s rule on not only Russian writers of her own time, but subsequently as well.
Pascal had written another book for the Church after Pensées he formed another view which liberated him from dogmatic theory. He denounced Christianity by His Vers Libre on mathematics and science reasoning he went towards parthenogenesis and being separate from the need to believe one thing or the other. This magical delusion was Pascals downfall. It meant his best thoughts were not received by the populist and staggeringly they are still there even plays we have not seen or heard of all trapped in a bibliographic cemetery. The mocking tones of the authors seen preeminent like Voltaire were very often favoured due to the splendid cloak they gave to Royalty such as Catherine the Great. Delusion is a wonderful thing Pascal thought. His anti-religious thoughts were consistent with the well known maxim, it is better to believe, just in case. Pyrrhonism of living by thought is a paradox sent to sleep and put asunder by scepticism lent by the creator. That creator is the author of all and us.
Seeing the nothingness of belief in it’s unconquerable reason and the formed reality faced of war and dreadful outcomes for the earth’s inhabitants killing to survive among animals and complacency the compact only civilisation can construct to alleviate pain.
Not to question the religious life but know nothing of the other religious life is a nerveless position. The truth is beyond recognition but it’s invisible cloak surrounds and makes us alive.
Cast : Barack Obhama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes. Producers : John Battsek … producer, Diane Becker … co-producer, Alice Bristow … associate producer, Christopher Buchanan … co-producer, George Chignell .. Production Executive : Passion Pictures, Christopher Clements … Production, Executive: Motto Pictures, Ann Rogers, associate producer, Kerstin Emhoff … co-executive producer, Julie Goldman … producer, Tyler Gurd … associate producer, Carolyn Hepburn … Production Executive Ann Rogers … associate producer, Andrew Ruhemann … co-executive producer, Nicole Stott … Production Executive: Passion Pictures, Erikka Music by Philip Sheppard Cinematograph by Martina Radwan, Erich Roland, Film editing by Joshua Altman, Langdon Page. Duration 1hr 29mins. Cert. 12a.
The Final President
Home Box Office have created a documentary of the final year in office of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama’s tenure of service from 2009 to 2017 an inevitable expectancy reaching a form of closure.
THE FINAL YEAR is a unique insiders’ account of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy team during their last year in office. Featuring unprecedented access inside the White House and State Department, THE FINAL YEAR offers an uncompromising view of the inner workings of the Obama Administration as they prepare to leave power after eight years. It is an ‘fly on the wall’ without the depth of the intimacy of private wrestling with the pervasive conflicting day to day manifestations of outfall not just of past history but managing the present. It is inside and insightful yet is disappointing and troubling to watch.
News Management has soared to the top of everyone’s truth seeking senses. It seems we are all on a course of becoming a component in an agenda of mismanaged futures through the choices made in elections everyone is on someone’s line of trajectory. People as commodities. Holding firm to truth and where it emanates from is as ever a pathos, as stories crush and compel arguments across Governmental desks. Challenges are of unique carefully drafted message enveloped in media forms confronted by the reveal of history none were anticipating. Paradise papers and whistleblowers. Julian Assange just recently became a citizen of Ecuador while the GB Government has him under house arrest. Democrat disjunction, disfunction, is here to be seen also writ large ahead of the triumphalism of the anti-Athenian D. Trump. Dialogue is free and interpreted instantly. This film takes us up to that threshold and we are in the arc following when the choke was taken off the master tapes of the White House and Twitter accounts tell of internal wrangling.
Term of Office
No longer is there a President of the United States but a franchise which is part an incumbent of enemies trading powers privilege staying off legislation. A News managed for the mass consumption in return for a route to launder currency is all it took to dismantle the final office frontier. Nations and boundaries no longer matter and instead a block chain of political dimensions untaught in manuals or educational establishments, for that is what they were, are grounded on blocks of power. High yield is a derivative played by arms provisions.
Adjust the War
Barack Obama was the last President concerned with solving the long trail of a Rothschild type Imperialist agenda which saw the Gaza Strip as a battleground. He could not avoid it but it was not an analysis of sufficient gravity but a long held (dis)belief it was not a religious warp. So religion and it’s many dimensions never became part of the guidance on either side. Read the scholarly Saeb Shaath on the legacy. Syria and The Middle East have held a long sword of unremitting horror over its own people extracting themselves from a century or more of exploitation through its own tyranny. http://saebpress.com/2013/08/saudi-arabia-funding-unrest-in-middle-east/. 20c Oil has been the catalyst for the resurgence of the Arab world to again become valid citizens in a fallible relationship with its surrounding neighbours and fellow followers of peaceful unity but it has harboured the hurt and damage caused by invasion and exploitation of corporate thieves. Now the calamity is in a frame of technicolour news as daily reports of intolerance, genocide and divisiveness saturate continents and infiltrate the outskirts of formerly untroubled Nations. Migration by displacement is a shared world problem.
Calmness is a convoy of aid and here in the film of the round up of conventions and diplomatic dancing comes another narrative. Blaming and shaming. The aid literally is blown up by an actor for the world to react to, showing the failure diplomacy is. UN outrage is blunt and name calling. Putin is intent on alarming the world by showing here it is a crime to want peace if you do not accord with a rule of one Federation. The former Soviet Union is revengeful and Ukraine which barely gets a mention in this documentary is as near as we can place a truth of division outside of the Middle East used as a bargaining chip by both sides. The Hillary Clinton input is put aside also.
Heavily featured here is the Vietnam veteran John Kerry. He justifiable carries the burden of spokesperson for the nothing war which claimed and still does the lives of many of his fellow combatants and by mines left unexploded awaiting a victim. The Vietnam War follows through from Kennedy whose armaments fed the Vietnamese regimes fighting Communism to the Johnson and Nixon destruction both of their own troops and many civilians in Laos and thereafter came an legacy where there is still a long unbroken chain leading into Presidency after Presidency. Obama is intent on doing his peacemaking tour around the world and finds it gratifying and just in going back to the past and looking to repair the broken shattered peace and being a fitting memorial for drawing a line. Japan and Hiroshima will also feature.
John Kerry is on the alternative narrative of dealing with today’s catastrophe while ignoring the elephant in the room of USA defence weaponry manufacture and industrial warmongering industries. Safe to say he is not a pacifist as late on he declares and at the same time purports to be seeking peace. On USA terms. The other handgliding drone in the room is a UN Ambassador whose job is to make the obstinate squirm and show up the fallacy of their ways. Samantha Power has the unusual insight of an Irish Immigrant background; disqualified from running for office by that origin but equipped by having been recruited on the basis of a journalists approach and her book on origins of war and where they are taking us, at least that was my original take on its premise. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (sic) was the institution Samantha Power established a Human Rights Foundation in. From writing about how 20th century genocide was ignored (wide generalisation given the WWII and continuation of The Great War) is lost in narrative with the title The Problem from Hell. Women’s issues are highlighted and it is neither seen as a fashion thing about wearing hijabs or subjection but a basic lack of equality. Religious dogma is not writ large. Kidnapping and slavery and terrible abuses are documented while the daylight of a USA where a form of women’s subjection is to open on news fronts across industries in a #me too narrative is in the shade here. Truth will out eventually. One of the guides they fail to recount is John Stuart Mill, not only on divinity recalling the individual broadly used not as freedoms footnote but as a economic distribution ethos.
Unintelligible is the strength and power of religious idealism and internally humanity overdoing any ‘value’ hierarchy brought about by trade. JSM relies on ‘constructive empiricism’ while seeing or rather not seeing ‘nature’ – the storms of civilisation alongside the natural phenomena of our daily bread – constantly putting us in our rightful place demanding reconciliation with it and ourselves. For JSM his wisdom also produced solutions peculiar to himsel& and in his relationship with Harriet Taylor evidenced an equality of existence even the Church could not form. Itself a ‘periclesian’ mode which was denying no one their individual freedom. The suffragettes at the same time conducted wicked and detestable bombing and created a scourge still not acknowledged as a means to an end. Democracy. Enemies were many and often with good cause. So this is a backdrop History is failing to include in the breath of those forces confronting the so called ‘leaders’ this film seems intent on eulogising in a passing river of consciousness as it reaches down rebranched tributaries and flows continually caring the waters which it will always carry.
Narratives are forms of life and no history of the world can be written without the diaspora having a say. From the Anglicised retention’s of rule in a Fedralised America to the Religious strength consumed and abused in the USA and nations from the tip of South America up to Alaska, Canada, across Europe and spread dishonestly as a rhetoric of truth comes another will. The will of America to prevail and be prevalent as values which we are overhearing in the everyday talk of the rooms of power. No mention of the G20 or Peter Sutherland, Goldman Sachs or any taint of monied America getting its hands dirty? Just another HBO narrative with displacing counterpoint in soundbites hurled with intended anonymity into the whirlpool of chaos two steps behind the developing story. At the beginning of the film comes a follow me routine. The feet fast and well shod on prepared ground. The diplomats timetable run out as prescribed in advance but always a beat behind. It’s as though they are insistent on not being their on time so as to disown the past.
Britain invented Israel as a removal of a family of languages and people. the afroasiatic form called Hamito-Semitic, a family of languages including as subfamilies Semitic, Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic, and Chadic. Syria is Palestine and holds a bitter division in opposition to the Imperialist Israel Project with Lebanon as a hideout. An interesting novel character is found in a speech writer whose compass matches Barack Obama’s. Ben Rhodes is an under forty master of spin and incisive vective. This is a part of Obama’s person he (Obhama) can’t devote time to so has allowed a surrogate to unfold his theories and unlock his wisdom. Unwittingly or is it intent, he is cast in the mound of a Jewish intern general with a false past which is possibly denuded of the Religious might he is from.
Religion is swerved here. His Episcopal Father and Jewish Mother are tongues he listened to and listens internally to now it would seem safe to assume. No faith is to undo the legacy of an infant Israel heresy. Muslim or Christian. Judaism in a bold type of monotheistic reason is adhered to in American eyes. Both these travellers, Obhama, Rhodes, are Religious in degrees privately it has to be assumed from other media but often as not it is left outside the Oval Office. Neither seems to realize their part is based in Religious heirachy and they are beholden by virtue of their cloth. That sets them apart and mitigates against their understanding of others values not matching theirs. Fundamentally in the Middle East. Winston Churchill is apparently their mentor or past leader of choice for guidance. He was beholden to America also and Blenheim Palace became the gift of the British Crown for his persuasion in getting the USA to enter WWII and send supplies into a Europe which was under siege from that genocide The Problem from Hell. More like the problem of Hell. How not to see it. How to not recognize its advance.
Hell is in the clouds and earth.
Speeches set the tone and every new room entered has a pathos to be delivered. For Barak Obama it is the American Declaration of Independence and is foremost in lectures to the gathered. It was what a Congress was derived for. July 4, 1776, and the words were set in Washington’s Presidency. Those words were conscripted from Ulster’s Francis Hutchensons philosophy brought forth by Thomas Paine as exiles of the yoke of imperialism they so detested. Unitarian in thought and principle their ideas were nevertheless based on individuals allowance of free thought. Less words would carry such might as those distilled here. Yet where are the notions of the Declaration in assignment against the tours of combat since embarked on. Only the hideous genocide of future generations in Africa and Asia would equal the waste of WWII and its legacy borne world wide. Now the countries are being stripped of their assets by new entrants from China and the G20.
Rich as this film is equipped with the sensory media behemoth of the United States of America in history mode it fails to direct the camera in any decisive illuminating way while illustrating a West Wing narrative which is high on ideal and lacking in scuprles or any game changer dynamic. The anticipation of office has been swamped by time advancing with greater perils opened up through truth emerging in histories recall. As a mission to complete the 44th Presidency many repairs were sought to be made by Barack Obhama while his steadfast troops both suited and fatigued were deployed on present day flanks with much of the common talk broken into slow burning flames of hope. It is a film worth seeing as a reminder of the removal from the political sphere a genuine worthy experience of mankind reckoning with their own failures and beholden by powers immensely conflated and misunderstood. Philosophy is in its a bit but it is a failure to define politics as a motor of governance for the common good which is all too clearly absent given the extremes of the states and actors involved at the heart of our world order.
18 January 2018
Opening at Queens Film Theatre Belfast 19 January 2018 until 25 January 2018.
Director, Christopher Nolan. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas.Written by Christopher Nolan. Cast, Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy. Music by Hans Zimmer. Cinematography Hoyte van Hoytema. Edited by Lee Smith. Production companies, Syncopy Inc. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Duration, 1hr 46mins. Country, United Kingdom. Cert. 12a
Reality is a different thing
A Narrow Sea. Every fully formed war film is required to adhere to the history formed beforehand without too much movement to alternative disparate views unless it is to provoke an alteration in the mindset held in perpetuity. Very clearly Christopher Nolan in firstly conceiving of this depiction of the Dunkirk evacuation is steadfastly complicit in the narrative of heroic proportions in its fullest conception, delivered and spun as a decisive turning point of the Second World War in the sounds of Churchill shaping the morale of the soldiers families sacrificed, lost at war and not returning these 300,000 upwards of 350,000 perhaps, of the troops, massed on the foreshore of Dunkerque – the French seaport in N France: site of the evacuation of a British expeditionary force, generally taken as 330,000 men who were under German fire May 29–June 4, 1940 have long been memorized in the accounts of the conflict of nations. The French were to suffer long after under their occupied lands and Great Britain had been fending for itself without the American assistance which culminated in the D-Day landings and bombing raids where frequent across the British aisles. The Warships and Fleet of the Navy were constructed by the efforts of one nation to be a seafaring warrior invincible force or as its motto pronounces –
“Si vis pacem, para bellum” (Latin); “If you wish for peace, prepare for war”
Seagoing vessels were the materials of war in the face of a stranded army of the numbers reaching 400,000. A city population. A measure, in only small proportion, of the military engaged in the War. Yet it was of unconscionable, irrational and unparelleled significance for a relatively small and diverse nation like Great Britain and Northern Ireland to believe it had come to this. So early in the War a catastrophe had been encountered and seen off albeit at great cost.
Here in Northern Ireland mortar shells and aircraft where made and ships repaired, sent out again to the battle for freedom. Other nations sent their battleships.
The troops stranded were of all ranks and former occupations. So we’re the masters of the little armada across the channel.
Virtue is requisitioned for the parade of heroics on the screen. The Everyman character of a South coast pleasure craft boatman in the shape of Mark Rylance who plays a key role in framing the ordinary understanding of militarism. Set against the other roles of Army Colonel Whose men are ranged along the beach of Dunkirk, all 400,000 of them, against the fleets force of around 50,000 to 70,000 there is a conflict of man management ranged along the stretch of the Mole jutting out from the port into deep waters. The draft of low and high water, as Kenneth Branagh playing the shoreline commander, advises his Army counterpart of the realities and nearness of danger, in some 21 feet, while both witness and are part of the shearing of piers structure in parts in the strange of heavy bombardment by German fighter planes targeting them and the prone beach. This is a Theatre of breathtaking life taking jeopardy and multi stories of bravery weave in and out against the backdrop of a constantly returning sky and ceaselessly flowing tides. On the tides of men journeys are taken as the conditions present. Ships, even Hospital Ships are no safe heaven, some even becoming victims of the constant barrage from above. The Royal Marines are also in close proximity as agents of the Navy and Infantry which is summed up in their motto –
“Per Mare, Per Terram” (Latin); “By Sea, By Land” Royal Marines.
As this was a conflict with opportunist pilots of the Luftwaffe targeting the beachheads and any approaching or leaving vessels the strength of the Spitfires and the training of British pilots was a key element and behind the visors of three Spitfires feature some of the dramatic air dogfights and in a suitably masterful expedious treatment the Tom Hardy we relate to is a standout hero of invincible acuity. He brings hindsight – the Directors fashioned role relating writers conceited backward motioned nod to the British Bulldog and delivers in waves. Whether he is a victim of the deep or survives is for you to find out.
The role of the Infantry is very interesting in the whole composite of War. They are the masses and in this film they are the victims alive or dead. Captain of the tiny Moonstone vessel Mark Rylance ponders this axiom in the spoils of War. The spent shellshocked men who live and will survive to march on Remembrance Sunday remembering their comrades and even families bombed in uderground railway stations or their homes. The indivisible invisible death toll mere memory. Mark Rylance has reflected on it to his youngest son, the eldest having flown a Hurricane. He puts the imparted knowledge of his son into full speed dial at the helm of his boat in the face of danger the nearer they are to France.
In the recently broadcast Reith Lecture choreographed by the indulgent Sue Lawley, Hillary Mantell strifes gallantly to address the consciousness of raw History by telling us in mild self adulation that she ‘got the reformation done in two pages.’ History is as you navigate it and the preposterously Catholic hating or hurtfully damaging, telling of the brush strokes of Cromwellian liquidity was moderately annoying in the books themselves. They are big selling books with hierarchical hubris and English conceit pressed and sold in vast blocks of paper. The film Dunkirk has a backdrop in which Historical advisor Joshua Levine states “Everything that’s celebrated about World War II – in Britain, in the United States and …. is about the preservation of freedom”. So Christopher Nolan is caught finely balancing too much glorification of the spirit delivering the evacuation and the enormity of the catastrophic losses and effect on moral brought about by the cornering of 400,000 British, French, Belgian and Canadian troops.
Taking the participation of the removal commanders, with Kenneth Branagh prominent as the British Naval Commander who strides the border in Dunkirk between land and sea with the knowledge the tidal difference is 21 feet between tides and the majority of the time it has a shallow draft beach which is suitable over long periods to land small craft only and evacuate as many as possible. 26 miles separate England and France. Stories overlap in this multilayered film as many incidents are followed as they occur in long passages over a week say with the troops stranded for over a week, the Spitfires in action in just a day and in rough seas the boat crossing over 12 hours passage.
While Writer, Director, Producer, has set aside using CGI and has mounted a three tiered plot interweave it has in all three elements large gaps un-filled. The beach warfare may be suitable, but not in my mind, for a younger audience, the darker, weather beaten, weakened force who have trekked to this staging post to find it is not an established escape route, are themselves embattled and are by the fact 16 groups of Infantry form a bastion of defense all around Dunkirk, this element does not feature. It also for my viewing begun with a shaky start as a more film school prologue in its arrival of a group of soldiers and they have not yet reached the Infantry line and the soldiers on that line practically stand up in the face of gunfire from an unseen enemy. There is no enemy seen, even in the Messerschmidt’s our on the ground. So it lacks credibility on those counts in my mind.
On the sea there are several things despite the magnitude of the production which the production designer has dropped in some unaccountable scenes of a small flotilla seen at a critical point as if Enid Blyton like, the Famous Five have arrived and the very, very, heavy densely packed seas are a tokenistic gestural vision. Even the lack of Warships is noticeable. The French, Belgian, Dutch, English vessels which lifted 95% of the survivors were unaccounted for visually. The weather also played a part in the sky as well as the beaches and the cloud cover was much heavier. The Spitfire combat sorties were much bigger. Two squadrons each time with air time of no greater than just around an hour came to 24 Spitfires. A group of fighter planes no matter how effective and startling they convey the rawness of the or mission fell well below actual events and in more were conducted in more compact and hostile weather windows. We see instead a trio of planes in most action.
Every sequence is differently approached. For the filming of the air battles it is the vastness of panoramas IMAX is deployed. Very little us of CGI or underpinning digital effects is utilised. In doing this the audience is pulled into the action in as realistic a way as Cinema can provide in the comfort of a movie theatre. Primarily it is a world away from actual events and due to its familiarity as a feature of the British inherent spirit long embraced, it is harder to suspend the immersion and maintain viscerally the connections sought through the screen.
Very little can be faulted in the enormous logistical planning and forming of each time cycle with its fast interweaving edit by Lee Smith. Cinematography by Hoyle van Hoytema. Special effects supervisor Scott Fisher co-ordinating a legion of extras as stunt men – the credit roll shows a vast number of participants – in perilous uniform motion diving from ships, climbing ropes, ditching from planes boats and bridges, along with the onrush of cascades of water within confined below decks, tilting sinking footholds and the rip of explosions behind in from and on top of the many deployed in scenes of hugely impressive action sequences.
The onward beat of the several lucky strikes, unlucky strike conveyed the bitter irony of the arbitrary nature of victim and survivor. Medals are despatched with notes and worn in memorial and posthumously by the few who saved the many and sacrificed unfathomable courage and their psyche to the destructive violations of war. Ever town has its memorial and each is related to particular events formed under the broad church of what is know as World War II. For the task the technique of IMAX utilised before in The Dark Knight, along with those that followed, Inception, Interstellar, gave creative credibility to scenes with a tautness, fixity, and tension unnerving absorbent.
Cockpit scenes in particular are key to this connectivity of motion, while scenes skip from the burning oil slicks of sinking ships with men floating every which way and submerging, bouncing on the rough seas, some atrophied corpses not suitable in either imaged or perceived form for young audiences given the determination of the production to convey the brutal ‘nature’ of war. Wide shots of static Spitfire with the pilot maneuvering to which we are quickly returned as cockpit scenes sometimes in submersion tanks take on a screen wide frame of the pilot working out what to do next.
Natures is life’s balance and the removal from of life artificially through abhorrent actions and resulting tragedy is very difficult to absorb even cinematically. It has the effect of being voyeuristic and removed while done in the name of ‘informative entertainment’ drawing you into a consumption of a false concoction of a historical unfathomable, except for those who were present, even then their memory has sent the worst of the experiences to the depths of their minds beyond everyday retrieval but instantly recalled.
I went away recalling the pacing of the frames as in beats of five, five, for around particular scenes the jeopardy is quickly drawn in, five, five then as the science became more intense closing in on conclusion, it became three, three, and over it built a factory of sound echoing and firing around the walls of the cinema ramped up indecorously by the overly absurd music of Hans Zimmer. I was put off by much of the score for reasons put down below. The pilots I reference in Primary Roles below.
Mark Rylance is the common denominator I take, in firstly describing the cadence of this Movie epic. It has no restful reflective moments. Except one or two in the reading of text on the way home and on arrival – in England where apparent insults and majorly mistaken guilty bitterness of a survivor who is processing his survival it is already a case of wrong interpretation as reflection begins.
Mark Rylance as Mr Dawson, is for me a key entry to this film and it’s construct. He is an acknowledged master of the stage an fully versed in directorial tasks. It is his stage presence he relies on here. He is not concealing his nature but immediately strikes you as what he projects. A man in his late fifties, a pleasure craft boatman in Weymouth Harbour with a 19 year old son Peter, very neatly played by Tom Glynn-Carney sidestepping the more ‘deliberate’ style of Rylance, creating his own in what is a confined environment of the boat, to assist and share the short journey across the sea to Dunkirk. The boat is a mini theatre like a stage inviting into its world stranded soldiers, airmen, and important amongst them it the battle worn unarmed character played by Cillian Murphy. As Moonstone leaves Weymouth Peter’s friend George leaps on board and he is determined to have a role. He is played by the very young Barry Keoghan expertly in shy reservation once on board this haphazard cause. Young Barry (George) has gathered in a number of recent roles and a while back appeared in ’71’. He also has a presence in the Irish TV drama, ‘Love/Hate’ so is no stranger to creating a self image of the role he takes on here with brilliance again, as with Peters role, a measured layered performance.
The boat also brings out the claustrophobic mind adopted in war situations. Adaptability is no stranger to tight situations and Cillian Murphy majorly fails to adapt having gone through one version of hell. This is why the boat is symbolic of the drift of war violent and subdued at the mercy of outside things off stage and on it.
To be apart of an ‘orchestra’ scored and conducted by US/UK citizen Christopher Nolan, it is proper to set aside the small tokens of acting currency and rely on firmer and clearly understood portrayal of the person within the event. Multiple viewpoints are used in the intrinsic three act memorial to a time which has fastened onto the British psyche for better or worse. Despair is kept hidden and remorse and memorial elevated so the bulldog spirit can be called upon as is the root and knot of the Dunkirk spirit.
Nolan has through necessity found a way to inter weave the various components of the evacuation by segmenting Infantry, Naval, Airborne sequences in a series of set pieces. In the very beginning, Fionn Whitehead playing Tommy as the young soldier having made it to Dunkirk with a few of his comrades, on arrival on the beach he is without a regiment and he encounters another loner, Aueurin Barnard as Gibson, busily burying a soldier in sand. For the story of the Infantry men Nolan takes this ‘model’ soldier to interpret the trap of the beach and he takes his story to other places, sometimes confined, sometimes alone again and it mixes claustrophobic environments with, proximity, close proximity to death. Attempts at leaving are thwarted several times and likewise onboard frigates there is no certainty of escape. One scene relatively short on dialogue like most of the film, a conversation on escape routes from below deck. Every vessel hold has a submarine type door locking and compartmenting zones of the ship. Escape hatches are needed in and are sometimes the only means of escape. The frenzy of the moment of survival is sharply hit like a tuning fork alarm reverberating under water heightening enclosure.
The RAF despatched fighter planes, Spitfire’s for brief combat sorties and our introduction is into the cockpit of plane where their base controller (sounding a lot like a muffled Michael Caine – playing Commander Maurice Michelwaite?) briefs them on the fuel carried. The pilots are Collins, the youngest, played by Jack Lowden. Tom Hardy plays Farrier and he is small enough and physically and mentally well cast as the rest bust leader of the squadron. His fixity to objects was a talisman. Every loft of the head, hand, adjustment was noticed and noted as precise as would be required.
Bring in Luftwaffe planes as tailgaters and every manoeuvre can be your last one. Over the boats and over frigates targeted by the Luftwaffe planes the planes would dogfight with witnesses in the boats below. The pontoon built on the rocky breakwater known as the mole jutting even further out into the Channel was another site of claustrophobic warfare as hordes of troops packed onto its whole length in readiness when summoned to embark upon a moored vessel. Farrier overfly this as do the bombing German planes and the random hits are arbitrarily the bringer of fate.
Historical drama, be it costume drama – along the lines of a Wolf Hall and the Elizabethan fairy cake dalliances are designed to serve up an expected version. This too as a Historical drama has to conform to the widely held perspective, looking backwardly into a dark history as the narrative and direction takes on itself the tones and words of a dark perilous fate, while viscerally discharging, with a roll of the dice, sacrifice in the lives of men under semi directional bombs and mortars. Scenes of carnage on a scale unprecedented in military warfare are captured and sent into the history books as events with casualties living and dead.
Key to Reading the Film Mark Rylance is for me a key entry to this film and it’s construct. He is an acknowledged master of the stage an fully versed in directorial tasks. It is his stage presence he relies on in not concealing his nature but immediately strikes you as what he projects. A man in his late fifties, a pleasure craft boatman in Weymouth Barbour with a son to assist and share the short journey across the sea to Dunkirk. To b apart of an orchestra scored and conducted by US/UK citizen Chrstopher Nolan it is proper to set aside the small tokens of acting currency and rely on firmer and clearly understood portrayal of the person within the event. Multiple viewpoints are used in the intrinsic three act memorial to a time which has fastened onto the British psyche for better or worse. Despair is kept hidden and remorse and memorial elevated so the bulldog spirit can be called upon as is the root and knot of the Dunkirk spirit.
Mark Rylance has created many roles but in taking on in Peter Kominsky’s TV movie the role of The Government Inspector I’m afraid he was beaten to the delivery of the punch in my view as it was more brilliantly played (on The National Theatre Olivier stage) by Rik Mayall who was compellingly brilliant and I revisited it as it was an astounding production a number of times now less enthralling then when first encountered. So the BFG is not on Rik’s roster.
There is in view of the broad brush strokes of epic film making, without for long periods any dialogue other than formal outbursts and acknowledgement, recognition, signaling, an overtly simple reliance on the auditory experience. Mixed into the cocktail of petrol laden sound of mechanical collapse and engine expulsions are the over layered raw sounds from the music repertoire. With no hint of irony, Germans don’t do irony, Hans Zimmer adulterates firstly Edward Elgars Nimrod whose whole metre is one toxically balanced on the hatred of loss and final judgement. The Enigma Variation is very crudely deployed for popular audience consumption and it stigmatises otherwise photographically infusing moments. A relentless barrage of gut and wire (the violin is such a beast) is suffused into a digitised melancholy savagely corrupted as ‘experience of wars corruption’ inset as a pedal of connective minor scales and frivolous tinkering on a carefully realised piece of adored music. It would not work in its unadulterated form neither would it convey appropriately the sense it sets out to project.
It irritates and diminishes the whole. Elgar had originated the piece as one of a combination of pieces illustriously, industriously, as epigraphs of people and characterises live’s with a humanistic majesty lasting way beyond this removal. It’s like being at a wake in a parallel universe. Hans Zimmer uses with similar ignorance and brutal thievery, Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings. It has been done to near extinction by such as Yamashta, Dolby and less adequately by any number of chill baroque artists. Along with Pachabel (not used) Elgar is noted in credits while Albinoni is not. The adulteration is just as bad. In sequences of resolving the events just experienced, the music overlayering of the adagio, is sequentially interrupted in an almost loop version, before, until, until, sic, its resurrection, in an uplifting deliverance of the denouement familiar to a great number.
It is another irony that Tomas Albinoni, Vienna 1671-1751, was unknown to the 20th century music world until a sonata was discovered in the ruins of a library the Allies bombed in Dresden in World War II. An Italian, Remus Giazotto, created from it the piece we now know, which itself must have and does in his arrangement, alter the baroque melody within. It takes on a Vivaldi like distinction he may have eschewed (probably accounting for musicologist’s turning their cloth ears away from it). The discovery lead to the recovery in the annals of his place in music history of several other pieces and I have a 1995 EMI edition of Concertos and Sonatas illustrated with a painting in The Louvre, Titelseite, En couverture: “Concert”. It has three sets of performers, Orchestre de Chambre Toulouse, Würtembergisches Kammerorchester and The English Chamber Orchestra. Engineered at Abbey Road. So it covers as a legacy of music a singularly liberal and wide history of our listening.
For Sale. The figures of Christopher Nolan films in net income are staggering and they are redefining the way epic films are made. No longer are the heights of usual event films such as Star Wars able to conform to raised expectations and never make it to the award ceremonies with any advancing clamour. The Dark Knight Trilogy was a series of inventive leaps of imagination utilising a Mercedes SUV mounted crane, its equivalent being a water based catamaran with the nimble fast throttle needed to deploy its 26 feet long telescoped IMAX camera at sea level and over and above action. The reconstruction brought in adapted gaint replica ships, as minesweepers readapted for example to be destroyers, and within the Moonstone the bulk of wide screen hand held camera filming required a lot of planning and effort so as to not prolong the shoot to levels of exhaustion. Rain and the elements of offshore winds and tidal surges conducted their own manners on actors who took on the sense of the drama as well as many Dunkirk residents as extras whose place in the work added for many a real sense of historical unfolding events that preceded them.
Craft of every kind were sequestered and today if not sold already their is a 1926 sailing barge, 86 feet long called Xylonite which took on a role of conveyance but it will cost you £450,000 to acquire and its second hand. It is in the Limehouse basin.
There is no doubting the production achievement of this task of portraying the unimaginable scale and magnitude of the event we refer to as Dunkirk. The expansive far reaching form of the film is searching through depiction of real events the sequence and efforts put in place for the evacuation of around 400,000 troops by the assorted allies of French, Belgian, Dutch, English sea going vessels and the armada of small boats here represented totemically by the Moostone which forms a fulcrum of balancing fate and tragedy. Christopher Nolan is primarily an auteur of the kind which imagines juxtaposed conflicting memory and alternative viewpoints. From the time we see one of the principal actors, Kenneth Branagh as the Colonel set onto land or a pontoon as the person in total command of the evacuation it is apparent this drama is to be bold and as accurately conveyed as is possible. Even with the mastery of a legion of production elements and the brilliance of the interweave which is at levels rarely seen in Cinema and indeed heightened by the distinction, literally brought to the screen – very clear and apparent as not digitized in the broad sweeping cinematography as whole coastlines and sky is evident in its presence before your eyes, also expanded by IMAX delivery of which I’ve put in quite a few notes on how it is achieved, the whole composition is a reach towards a reality we never visited nor are even capable of receiving. The drama is not Shakesperian, Becktettian, Millar or Welles in its heft for our perception of an unreachable truth but a very dogged attempt with severe limitations in providing an immersive experience in recognition of the act of courageous determined bravery and the cowardice of war in confronting the reality of a failure in ourselves which brought mankind to this. Repeatedly. One thing I see rewarding in this is the shock of War and the fact this is rated as a 12a. Parents should be aware it has not received this from a softened projection of War but because it has not relied on bloody scenes of shock value maiming and un implied violent acts. Instead it is very clearly a violence in the aftermath of explosions where drownings, disappearances, loss of ships. planes, troops shown in the grave moment of loss and the suffering is very potent. Seeing men floating in boiling oil and submerging to avoid that burning fate of death as given the choice between it or drowning it is I believe a purpose of Nolan to convey to the young – don’t become involved in war. In fact don’t sanction others to go to war.
As Colonel Branagh directs the only ‘joke’ or lighthearted banter of the film to a group of arriving small vessel rescuers it’s a biter/sweet moment which falls on a worn path lacking insisive alacrity. It is a mere indication of the impossible transposition of viewer into this scenario as being hidden from view in immense proportions. Far from providing it with gravitas it spells other voids. When another conversation between D’Arcy commanding the Infantry and Branagh takes sight of ships, the growling lipless KB summons an element of facial relief and the result is pale when you take account of – the lack of scope for KB – the dramatic intent. Somehow it is vexed and awkward despite its purposeful conveyance. That is not to deride anyone on the score of the portrayal but to fasten onto the point that drama has to be segmented much more incisively and rawly to be drama. We learn through this film but it is primarily not its function to be valued but to be taken on the tide of other versions, other war films as entry to the complexities of conflict. Others – recently Churchill, previously The Imitation Game, came at the subject in oblique abstractions with sole events making up around ssixty seventy percent of the storyband the wider bigger scale providing context and connection. The smaller stories are here but the big connective pieces are not – the prologue, the aftermath, the embedded centre and the enemies viewpoint. It’s understably complex and this is a bold and excellent attempt but it certainy underscores the brutality of the whole event.
21 July 2017
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Director: Jonathan Teplitzky. Cast: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, James Purefoy, Ella Purnell, Richard Durden, Julian Wadham. Screenwriter: Alex von Tunzelmann. Producers: Nick Taussig, Paul Van Carter. Production company: Salon Pictures. Cinematographer: David Higgs. Production designer: Chris Roope. Costume designer: Bart Cariss. Editor: Chris Gill. Music: Lorne Balfe. Casting Director: Daniel Hubbard. Cert. PG, Duration 1 hr 38 minutes
Too important a History to portray wrongly
There are to some unbearable conceits within this film as it twists historical record and contorts speeches and rhetoric making at times a banality of its very gripping subject. I on reflection, some time after seeing it, do recognise the scoping of the film to place Churchills ‘black dog’ – he practically made this term ubiquitous, handling the tormenting angst of war and its repellant outcome at the heart of a hostorical period. The twist is that while this film shows it differently, Churchill had come round to the possibilities and the necessities driving the D-Day landings in France. Here he is depicted at being totally at odds with Eisenhower right up to the daybreak on the final push and landing.
How are errors excused?
The choreography is not too clever as it is diminishing what are very able and extremely well carried performances, not least that of Brian Cox who to my mind comes home in the part. His inflections, minor facial expressions, language spoken and in his bodily bulk; he put on nearly a stone in weight to get the swaying walk and posture spot on and it convinces immeasurably as a great performance despite the mistakes of script and history.
Light Aircraft etc.
The budget was restricted it seems. No planes, tanks or ships are shown as this is in some ways a psychological drama in its determination to portray Churchill as a mentally crippled individual full of compassion with a deep dark hole of self doubt and awareness over the magnitude of the role he has. Firstly as Prime Minister during the war having successfully dealt with the Blitz three years earlier it is now 1944 and D-Day for which years of preparation, a large part of which was the training in places throughout Northern Ireland, Kilkeel , Co. Down being a particularly good example where 8,000 young American airmen went on training missions, trained in dark barns as gunners shooting at projections in the sand and setting up fun attacks on the beach, in the shadow of the Mournes. The planning was Eisenhower’s own as a Commander of the Allied forces. Churchill was a politician and strategist. He tried to hold the moral high ground but was at times considering chemical weapons as a means to defeat the enemy such was his commitment to the UK.
Chaptered we move
The film takes its time scale as chapters of the countdown to D-Day, Operation Overlord, D-Day minus 3 and takes us into the minutiae of the dealings between the leading militarists. Navy, Airforce, Artillery and Eisenhower heading the campaign and responsible for the ultimate decision of when to land. Some details are overlooked, like the French airman, General Maurice Challe, on the day before D-Day handing over the Luftwaffe order of battle to Britain giving a significant indicator of where the firepower was to be directed while the Allies were planning a precise attack. They were disposed, in other words elsewhere and surprise was a key element. Encounters between Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) are somewhat theatrically driven and the screen widens to show majestic columns or stately rooms, as locations heightening modern versus old.
The Modern World
Modern Eisenhower uses language which sours in historical terms. He would never I suggest have been so dismissive with slighted barbs of Winstons role and place at the battlefield table. His input was invaluable. This is one of the reasons I think the script has taken a hammering in critics eyes. Eisenhower would in fact go on to forge an open America having seen Democracy in action in the U.K. and two decades later would be working (when he wasn’t spending half the year on the golf course) with Macmillan in forming alliances to gain access to the Suez Canal. MI6 and Middle Eastern Committee’s arrived to advance a new world order and to enter the Cold War. So the script was light on the forging of these continents. It was the real beginning of Western power gripping modernity and Eisenhower knew it and gained from Churchills wider world view.
The Australian director Jonathan Teplitzk has set up scenes which stand apart, are mini bites of action and dialogue; a quasi chamber piece, from the very beginning where we see the ‘black dog’ staring into the black dark ocean and having visions, to the internal arrangement making of the Palace of Westminster War Rooms and the secretarial recruitment of his dogs body secretary, Miss (Helen) Garret (Ella Purnell) who is hounded for mistakes and if not for the occasional interruption of Clemmie (Miranda Richardson) she would fold under the abuse directed at her. This itself is overly dramatic but Brian Cox still hold you gripped to the intentions and inner conflicts of compassion, a desperation for things not to fail despite under whose authorship they may proceed. There are good performances from Julian Wadham as Montgomery and also Richard Durden as the Boer War veteran aide to Churchill, Jan Smuts. Danny Webb convinces also as Brook.
Spoils of acting
There are several key scenes in which the staging is also placed under a rigid formula of order. Entrance, disembark, manouevre, engage. One is set in D-Day minus 3 where Churchill and later King Edward are summoned to the lawns of the American HQ to see the plans laid out on trestle tables. Montgomery, Brooke’s, Eisenhower, all standing behind their plans. The sunny day of June is kind and peaceful. When postulating is over Churchill rails against the plan as I’ll conceived as the landing areas are narrow and forces thin. The King George VI (James Purefoy) witnesses this and says little. Another scene which I found to be a fulcrum in the film was one between Churchill and the King. With recall inevitable of the Kings speech here is a piece of pure acting brilliance as Purefoy arrives unannounced to speak directly with Winston. What follows is a perfectly scripted speech which is paced and as nuanced as ever you can imagine it precisely to be. Within it little gold nuggets have you placing this in the historical record. He refers to his own security mindful of getting too involved as Winston has just earlier recruited him into a dangerous situation. The King speaks on leaving behind, ‘Lily-Beth who is only 18 years old‘ and we envision the same Lily-Beth all these years later for the umpteenth time – today May – putting another PM in charge. We envision the young Elizabeth in this grown up world of mutilation and ongoing hardship in the U.K.where sacrifices are incalculable. It is worth watching the film to see this alone. Winston with the character now inhabited by Brian Cox is an eloquent, dignified and considerate, conscious foil to this measured in every word, Kings speech.
The preparedness for war had been long and hard fought. As a lone voice with part recognition from Harold Macmillan Churchill saw Parliment deluded by Chamberlain into believing Germany to be, contrary to fact, in poor economic condition. In 1940 Churchill spoke ‘We “muddled through” the last war, and in doing so, we needlessly sacrificed hundreds of thousands of young lives …… . We cannot, we dare not, “muddle through” again’. Once Chamberlain had been ousted for the falsity of the mounting ‘Phoney War’ and Churchill appointed Prime Minister he summoned Macmillan to create the supply chain and amongst the wares exchanged unbeknown to either ‘heavy water’ arrived from France and the atomic bomb was to emerge. This is the preset war tableau which Dwight Eisenhower must have been totally aware of and along with that a companion at war was made of Churchill. No enemy, despite strategic differences in their ages an advances in armaments. So the film drops the ball conceitedly for cheap dialogue and stand-off. By the time the change at the head of Government had taken place Hitler had deployed ablitzkrieg on the Low Countries and conquering France. One month after France signed an armistice legions of British troops were to escape via. Dunkirk. Soon to be screened will be a depiction of this World War 2 miraculous escape. When it came round to Operation Overlord when Eisenhower had been summoned back to direct that campaign from America, Macmillan was ill and out of most War work having brought together a good relationship, in previous years, with Dwight and his right hand man, Bob Murphy who admired him so much he was to write he would ‘become a great representative of your country …. – would make this world a far more attractive habitation’. That indeed he would progress onto and attempt Post war – giving Churchill the job of building a million homes or more.
Thedeployment of troops is seen from the War room and Miss Garret is stoically still engaged in communications as is Winston. Overlord has happened and now the numbers of casualties and the extent of success of the invasion would be part of the record.
It’s a Smartphone – you can book your cinema tickets directly through to Queens Film Theatre and be assured of your seat. They have a good selection of Whiskeys. You like Black Bush with ice don’t you?
Films in my mind have to have or have the possisibilty of having 5 dimensions. Firstly the 3 dimensions we sit in, at home or in the cinema or drive-in, as witness to the 4th which is the screen. Within the vision we see our world or another placed before us and the 5th dimension is when that screen alights with a realm never encountered or one around us never put before us in this theatrical guise. We are transfixed and know when we have seen something of that far reaching view. This film has almost the wit and guile the wordsmith Winston Churchill gave us but it falls short hugely as it has a weakness at the third dimension when at times we cannot advance with it from the comfort of our seats and begin to contemplate alternative narratives. Unspoken truths and witnessing conflicts in the false notes we see and hear. It’s a bit like Gin, an acquired taste.
15 June 2017
On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 16 June through to and including Thursday 29 June 2017.
The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. … Planning for the operation began in 1943.
Patton in the Mournes.
The outspoken and larger than life General reached the high point of his career during World War Two, when he led the US 7th Army in its invasion of Sicily and swept across Northern France at the head of the 3rd Army in the summer of 1944. Late that same year, Patton’s forces played a key role in defeating the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge, later liberating the country from the Nazi regime. Patton died in Germany in December 1945 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Patton in the Mournes with the 10th Infantry
Patton visited troops to inspect their training in Armagh and Down in March 1944, flying into Greencastle. He was known for his ‘colourful’ speeches, many of which he gave when visiting the troops in Northern Ireland. Women were not allowed in the vicinity when he was giving these talks, as his language was deemed unsuitable!
Dir: François Ozon; Starring: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair. 12A cert, 114 mins.
Setting of Post World War 1
The opening passage of François Ozon’s elegant interwar romance invites us to second-guess the story that links Parisian musician Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) to Anna’s late love, Frantz. Frantz is Anton von Lucke.
A melancholic period drama, Frantz, is an elegant reimagining of the story behind Ernst Lubitsch’s undersung 1932 drama Broken Lullaby. It is Post World War One in a central German hillside town called Quedlinburg which is a UNESCO protected location. It is the backdrop to the family home of the Hoffmeisters whose son Frantz was killed in action on French soil. The elderly parents remain, Doctor Hans and Mrs Magda Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber) are in the middle of the town and still Hans practices as a Doctor. They have provided a roof over the head of Franzt’s intended bride whose daily visit to the grave erected in the hilltop cemetery is her place of comfort and the families only memorial.
Complex emotive story
This is a deeply sad and complex war story told exquisitely by the twin hands of the principles, Anna (Paula Beer) and Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) alongside a strong supporting cast. The town Quedlinburg is a lost empty place without the middle aged and young men it has given to the war. In one scene in the Hotel, Tavern, which is the centre of town life in some respects, it is notable when Doctor Hoffmeister goes along to a meeting of the menfolk, how with only one year having passed and pain, grief an anguish are all palpable and hurt is within the very bodies of the survivors. Those with whom some responsibility lies in sending their young offspring to war. This hurt regret, remorse, redress, reflection, is not a redemptive theme explored by the very masterful direction of François Ozon but one of conscious. Retaining your sense of self and direction is troubling for everyone. Ozon’s past films are absorbing emotional spirited in theme as were, the sensuous Swimming Pool and Jeune & Jolie, with soon to be unveiled, Double Lover marking a return to those emotive personal tales after this more constrained and brilliantly balanced story of the melt within Europe over borders you cannot see in the Isra she shoots across the view from Quedlinburg. At a height of thought also, he takes this story markedly into a melting pot of ideas and that it took place almost 100 years ago it’s a vision and offering for our own times.
Anna and Adrien.
Centrally Anna and Adrien are brought together in this aftermath. This is a summary position of dealing which their individual pasts. The footsteps are first taken as we see Anna, after an opening shot of a hot simmering country wide view in one frame in colour, then into black and white of Anna buying flowers at he market stalls of Quedlinburg. The streets rise to the cemetery through ancient narrow cobbles, up a steep set of steps to the open plain of the graveyard. It is drenched in bright sunshine and François Ozon begins painting frames as an artist does with the drooping darkness of heavy topped trees branches shading parts of the graveyard and it’s random pattern of stones laid in rough rows seem to lend a peace and sense of ease as the order is lost and not heightened as was the third Reich. This has a poignancy exacting of the sense of place, its genus loci being this infringement between the living and the dead in memories.
The compelling question from the outset is – Why is Adrien leaving flowers on the grave of a German soldier, Frantz? With a sweep of a leafbrush the graveyard attendant imparts his identity as that f aFrenchman who is staying in the aforesaid Hotel. The connections have to be pursued and it is the object of both to reach a point where they can talk.
Skip comparative reviews.
There is a school of thought which I deplore, in some reviewers making connections – as they have done with this in respect of Vertigo, – the displaced person in a love triangle, – of the other, a Hitchcock rumination akin to Rebecca – which in this film are totally useless. That viewpoint actually labours the point to actually attune it more to this misread being the theme of the film in scores. The film is enfused with hidden truths, conceits, contrivances made to ease the pain and harm of things past. It is even seen by one as being like the work of another director preposterously so. Being unlike Ozon is very Ozon. It is in fact gloriously rendered which makes any pathetic correlation a nonsense. The film stands alone as an art piece and while the artist, director have long connections through their own process of becoming directors themselves it is not a place to put those connections to the fore as ‘influences’, that is a tedious comparison. This artwork speaks for itself. …. One review has discovered it is nothing whatsoever led by the fore said but still posits … (although his influence on the final film is undeniable). As if this should or would have any relevance to a viewer allowing the piece to tell its own story. Superbly.
Anna’s horrible dilemma.
The perils of Anna whose life is in limbo, a short time after the war, is polemic. Her past life and proposed future is totally conflicted by the grief she shares with Doctor and Mrs Hoffmeister. The performance of Paula Beer is a colossal depiction of grief internally residual. She holds her grief intact and in so doing is asking questions of herself, throughout the first, second and third acts as she deals with new developments and disclosures. She, in so doing, makes herself vulnerable and inconsolable at times, internally so. When she meets with Adrien after observing him from a distance at the cemetery, she is both shaken by his perceived closeness to her lost fiancé. In seeking answers she also is caught in a despairing, unrelenting story of loss with no parties able to reach out to the truth. Adrien is adroit at making things appear plausible and acceptable. He is handsome, has an angular tautness, is eloquent, thoughtful, possibly well educated man. Perhaps too thoughtful and naive in the possibilities that might arise from his actions. He is brought into the family home and with that deepens his lachrymose impediment, his imbedded grief, disabling him to points of disclosure, as the hurt would be unbearable. Seeing them is a barrier to telling what he knows in full, with their openness and hospitality having been satiated by Anna in advance making this dramatic encounter when it eventually is arranged profoundly heartfelt. What lies beneath this surface is not known nor will it be shared for sometime if at all. This is the magnificence of the story telling, unfolding in aching timbre emoted visually touching through the actors prearadness softly set out in slow framed consciousness. The cinematography has a slight taint to it in that it uses cascade at times out of synch with the unfolding piece. For instance the changes from black and white to colour, the cascade, are intended to visualise the positive and warmth in relations iincrementally developing. Yet it sometimes remains in black and white while that positivity is surging. There are flashbacks to scenes described between Anna and Adrien of Frantz in the prior period. That advances War scenes in colour and disharmony on the part of the rhetoric. It could have been the intention to depict falsehoods in colour but that is neither the case.
Station to station
The belle indifférence with the previous pre-war world is seen in the French sequences of Paris seen as a repairing regrenerating counterpoint to Germany with strolling through the Louvre. Looking at Manets The Bathers with beneath it, Le Suicide. The Parisienne fortunes appear secure until late we visit the city and see its invalided body shattered and barely functional. Losses are in the second half now relater back to the French mirror image with raw torn hearts spilling with their own grief. The lack of manpower to rebuild also is evident. The Cafe Belle Époque of the prewar years have vanished as if they never existed. These times in France are frequently visited as in Therese Discomany, the Francóis Maurice love story or romance and in England it spurred Hillaire Belloc to read into the French and German dilemma such things as were prescient as his boook simply called The Jews reflects. The era is a classic place of adjustment on the continent. The borders of the Versailles Treaty escaping the paper constructs of power brokerage and envisioning some relenting peace are to determine so many revisions and the place of starting over. Such memories of that war were psychologically damaged stubbing for the human beings that survived and were born into it. This is a point well travelled by François Ozon. The tributes to people lie everywhere you step. The consoling and consoled. The embittered and the vengeful. The hardened and positive, negative deniers. The words of the script are beautifully sharp and breathing every btreath allowing the characters to deeply affect you. There are no persons within it who are trivialised by being seen as perpetrators, or being the enemy. Far from it the sensitivities are enlarger by the resort to poetry as in the Verlaine poem recited at one point and the rendition in a public place of La Marseillaise. Discomforting in its – subtitled English excentuates the folly of some heroic words – presence there, right in the time. The immovable shape of the form of war.
The film of the year so far for me. Frantz is a lesson for modern living. The exploration of the psychological depths people go to to either convince themselves of a truth or naively embark on consuming someone else’s apparent truth are startlingly effective. It is a sad and remorselessly engaging heroic film. Anna is a flawed heroine as indeed despite his misreading of the reasoning he puts to things, is also an essentially flawed person with a ruined perspective of life brought on undoubtedly by war. The thought is inescapable as the war poetry of many follows in this malaise of mind tyranny in order to cope and construct something at terms with the present. Writers like Michel Houllebecq make the morose sexual eaae methods deployed in and out of war a frequent tap root of sorrow. The novel in its 20th century incarnations after Stoker, Shelley, Balzac, Dickens have given literature many versions of the nation and the use of borders as an identity rising as a continual denier of the universal truth of equality before God.
17 May 2017
On from this Friday 19 May until and including Thursday 25 May 2017
Director Jim Sheridan, Producer Noel Pearson, Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson. Cast, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James, Aidan Turner, Jack Reynor, Susan Lynch, Siobhan Redmond, Adrian Dunbar. Music by Brian Byrne, Cinematography Mikhail Krichman, Edited by Dermot Diskin, Production company, Ingenious Senior Film Fund, Voltage Pictures, Ferndale Films. Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 48mins.
Beyond Dublin in the Green
Some people have got this film horribly wrong and are unable to cross over into it’s tragedy in a trinity of hope. The Irish Times gives it this ‘tribute’ – What’s that? Who’s he? Where’d that come from? When Barry’s novel was published, several critics argued that the final unlikely twist felt at odds with a hitherto disciplined narrative. It says something about the film that the reversal feels perfectly at home among so many even greater lunacies. Iteven casts sectarianism into a new vein without making comment of how diffuse these things are to convey – it seems in a blind alley Ireland. The mastery of the Bible both potent and conclusive lends written comfort to Rose, a woman betrayed. It is within the unspoken reading between the lines we go with this film based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry which makes for more imagining than the act of storytelling in film this is. Nevertheless it is handled extremely carefully with a melding of eras and in themselves drawing comparisons. The landscape is more familiar to the Irish and the need to know (Philomenas Story is a close relative) diaspora from Canada, America or Britain whose children are the fathers and mothers of new generations of the ‘departed’. In complete association too are those left beneath fields, institutions buried so none would reflect on their memory except the mothers and those in the know. From Priests to Police to Orderlies. Into the equationn come knowing townsfolk contributing to the complicity and getting on with their lives by ignoring it in order to straighten their own existence in the changing world. For the story to begin we enter the present day at Rose’s Hospital and Residential Care home in the midst of it closing down. Some lessons are learnt and there is clearly an attempt by Director Jim Sheridan to acknowledge Times have changed and the bullying and treatment of people like animals has been removed. In this present environment there is real care and a making good with what is at hand. Even the prospect of Rose being able to go to somewhere other than a mental asylum has reared its head.
With the dramatic stroke of a pen Sebastian Barry conjures up a back story to the aging and institutionalised grande dame Vanessa Redgrave playing Roseanne McNulty whose 50 years committal to this decaying and listed for demolition Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is transported on the journey of her earlier life and circumstances. Doctor Grene (Eric Bana) is sent to determine whether Roseanne is fit to be released. The younger Rose is played by the affluent and Irish connected, Rooney Mara whose arrival in a small village in 1940s Ireland causes two men, a fighter pilot and a priest, played by Jack Reynor and Theo James.
New horizons revisited
Jim Sheridan has Oscar-winning debut My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father as home based movies and into Irishmans habitual magnetic pull to tales of immigration he went and it did not fail him with the exile story In America, and was an acclaimed award winning film also. Some subsequent entries to the mainstream movie still didn’t seem to suit his work and this is a return of more recognisable formats and it is an attempt by Sebastian Barry to story tell the periods which define present day Ireland the diaspora and wars intervention. This of course brings in relationships as the bolstering narrative force. The auld triangle of a beautiful young woman and two bantam cocks clanging the auld triangle and creating conflicts?
Rose has kept a dairy all these years and we enter its tableau – shortly into the arrival of Rooney Mara from Belfast where it’s unsafe after bombing there. The arrival of a beautiful independent woman is on this West Ireland landscape in the shadow of Yeats Benbullben outside Sligo, is to an already developed hybrid of gentry, Anglo patrons and a subdued, suppressed by Religion ‘compliant’ malcontented population. They are not mercifully at war though many across Ireland went and fought alongside the British as it was 1. an option 2. There was little for them at home. The mainstay of any small community is its perverse sense of hierarchy and those who disobey and act up are likely cast out. Rose is recruited into her Aunts Hotel Temperance establishment and quickly the honeypot of the scented air takes her into the midst of village taboos. The first ‘normal’ encounter is with a young man called Conroy a labourer for a hard nosed local family. They have a built in hatred on the English and when there is another approach not altogether religious and skirting his own anxieties surrounding masculinity and his sacrifice comes Father .. Rose deflects such straight eyed advances and goes her own path while accepting invitations to the local dance. The presence of the Church is everywhere and in the dance hall they are required to keep apart while hoAldi get one another while the Priest including the presence of Father …. they leave enough space not to be sinful.
The film is drawn out using a great deal of passage from the present to the past. It in done with good untroublingbpassage and with the versatile Vanessa Redgrave playing the Lady Rose and the unnerving accurate Rooney Mara as the younger vunerable Rose.
Inconsistencies and alterations. Implausibilities?
Very strongly held views on this film have come from many who find the story confusing and too contrived in its far fetched coincidences and shaping of characters that feature less in the book than put to purposes dramatic here. Some even call it a travesty. Sebastian Barry having sold the rights keeps his counsel and his silence is taken as being far from endorsement. There certainly are large parts of the long history left in the book and a Rooney Mara’s Rose here has a prominent role in a central love story which contains its central themes. She is an incomer, she is a beautiful sophisticated woman, she is of independent mind, she is entering a part of ‘remnants of occupied’ Ireland beset with unfettered resentment, she enters a village which has ahigh morality driven by the Church, she is also in proximity to state institutions which remove children and separate single mothers from their babies and lock them up and give their babies away for money. She also is in proximity to a Medical system crudely operating the appliances of ECT and shock treatment as normal for mental illnesses or difference. She also notices the formidable rectitude of everyone to hierarchical status including her domineering Aunt (Siobhan Redmond) who’s name along with a few others are not easy to find on press credits oddly. So is it deplorable to drop large parts of a book and get Shakespearean in this gazette of Ireland observed by the Filmaker Jim Sheridan who wrote the script along with the late Johnny Ferguson.? There are central characters in this which do not sit comfortably with some people. The airman flying a Spitfire – they ignore the reconnaissance tasks in the West Coast Atlantic seaboard where U-boats were often found and Lough Foyle famously being the last outpost for plenty of U-boats and also forget the American airbases – the recent BBC My Mother and other Strangers gave you the opposite to this film, delivering a War soap opera – which were in Fermanagh and all across Northern Ireland full of troops and airmen training to be pilots in preparation for the Secret D-day landings. 8,000 in Kilkenny Co.Down alone. While the book may have consorted with the flying mission instead of being a land based soldier, it matters little. Bonzos are quite capable of shooting down ‘foreign’ planes and planes crash. Many flights no doubt took place over this very stretch of Ireland’s republic. Where do you take fault? Is it the neatness of parts of the linkages. Is the element of delving into people’s past too trite? Sheading interesting characters? Is the ludicrously large white collared Priest Father Gaunt too comical and pathetic a figure. His character is volumously turgid and corrupt of a conflicted man. Are the nurses of the old school too clean and Matronly while being intensely underlyingly cruel? All these questions to my mind are nonsense and in the core of the film Rose is telling you how unstable memory is. The record to has advanced writing out that history. Some of it is fantasy and in parts some of the grim reality turns out to have another side. I don’t care if half the time the story finds a simple way to the next part as we are closely kept to the woman at is heart trying to imagine what happened to her. Can you imagine how much she must have struggled to put that behind her. For her imaginings of what happened to ultimately coincide with a partial reality? The questions need not be effecting in terms of how they are coming to you as essentially they are in the realm of broken fractured memory. The script actually places false directions in Rose’s mind only. The other characters are real and no such bewilderment is visited through them. Their part is sometimes savage and brutal. Rose’s is in a state of protection in a fixed world she has inhabited for 50 years? Can you imagine the damage caused to her and many women like her?
I opened the play The Steward of Christendom at random and came across the same times as here. There are common investigations and trials of the past – society in Ireland – undergone by Sebastian Barry of which I rate the play as masterly, profound, haunting, sad forgotten history, much as this film indeed takes us intoand itis quite political but Donal McCann made it definitely ‘other’ about the human improsoned in Ireland. Inside the Institution and outside on the Island fighting seeming wrongs. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in its horrific prescience. Even now it inhabits the same place – even more so given the recent barbaric dreadful disclosures of previous generations guilt and the pain inflicted in those institutions. Here’s the line I found straight on opening its pages of the powerful orderly Smith – Even in the ward of old dames with their dead brains, have some of them opened their eyes and are weeping to be woken, with your bloody shouting. Do you want to go in with them, old man? After I beat you! Sebastian Barry on the case even then.
Eric Bana takes a high dose of listening to his requirement for enquiry about Rose.
The rich dramatic material at play and the fascinating historical backdrop means there’s plenty here that proves initially appealing. The young Rose is trapped by her sexuality, arousing interest in men without the slightest provocation on her part yet facing the full force of blame from those around her. The film briefly explores the complicated rituals of dating at the time and the dangers of a bruised male ego when a woman dares to turn a man down.
Initially there was a backlash in contemporary Ireland to the book with its closeness to history and claims of abuse ever in the headlines playing out. It was seen in reviewers eyes as being far fetched and characterisations of romance purile and simplistic. For the film it’s seen likewise by many. The closing of the film is too contrived and unexpected as Vanessa Redgrave holds centre stage with her marbles intact. The Secret Scripture use devices of story telling which only flow smoothly in books but it is admittedly hard to convey in the time period of a movie. Demands of twists and turns though have been dealt with very satisfactorily by Jim Sheridan and there is no overplay of the gestures and realisations as they unfold. With Vanessa Redgrave playing Beethoven’a Moonlight Sonata, (an accusatory critic paled at its repetitiveness) in solitary moments in a room, we see the breathing diaphragm of a living person recollecting her past. It is not only sweet and convincing it is powerful and moving.
For the time periods tointermingle we have to have contrastand Susan Lynch playing the part of a present day nurse becomes a key vehicle for the sensitivity of history learnt. Her knowing, caring, is in seeing the woman in Lady Rose and reflecting on what she has gone through over forty years. With the instruction having been given to assess her being taken up by a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the fortitude and forceful will of Lady Rose, is Eric Bana who plays admirable the ‘outside’ caring professional, quick to note discrepancies in the work of his peer, the notable Dr Jello of Adrian Dunbar who is in charge with emptying the establishment and sees it as in ‘the line of duty’ as a role he plays with predictable solidity. Dr Grene on the other hand is given slack and time by Sebastian Barry to develop a quick relationship of patient and Doctor which in present times of austerity are unimaginable. Nevertheless an authors due – the slack given on occasion to movies due to time scale particularly in adapting books – is to make plausible a story’s reach. Eric Bana and Susan Lynch form a convincing team and share the sandwiches, lunchbox treats and soups etc. or whatever sustenance is at hand in between Rose’s rest and elderly ramblings. They too remain in the ghost like building emptying around them. That is when switches occur back to Rooney Maras action packed life take us into a believable village – preposterous to critics of the book – with fabrications of conflicts infighting and japes and foolery unbetoken of Ireland of the time.
Irony lost on viewers
Sebastian Barry has of course given some ribald irony and an edit of preposterous heft to the story as if to say – Ireland, you were present when this was happening around your ears yet all you could do was turn a blind eye and more than that get caught up in rebellion against a country at war and a religiosity which tore the faith in God out of you and created a purgatory here on earth. It is tangible to see this cussedness in Irish people of that time but it causes more pain it would seem. The truth always too has its victims. That is the line, the horrific line this film wishes to take us over and into a powerful emotionally troubling period for the characters who represent in fiction real people’s lives unimaginable at this distance horribly corrupted and ruined. So there is a backlash of morality fighting for concealment as due reflection turns over too many stones close to the perpetrators unable to come to terms with their own families part in these vexing times. Why drag up the past? The reason is it uncoils itself in many ways not least in being held in so, it becomes repeated as a manifestation of ancient held in guilt in the sub-cncious passed on. The doplar effect of the mind. Séan Hillen in his Irelantis fictional world creates a counter narrative in art with the juxtaposed John Hinde visions of Ireland and as richly as film and novel forms. More is essential for understanding ourselves the better.
There are scenes in the film which many will find arguable and condonable however I see those particularly disturbing pieces of work as entirely plausible credible entries to the hidden stories Ireland has masked for decades. It may not be the truth but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the unfurling detail. It is why it must be examined for what it contains, not for what you would like it to appear.
No chemistry? It’s not totally about their relationship but what hovers around it.
On parallel works
Hence the auld triangle goes jingle jangle. From Galway to Dingle, from Derry to West Cork it’s been happening for decades. Both the internment of the young and vunerable and the institutional abuses therein. The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry was an intensely brilliant play I’ve seen several times and had on it acting – the unforgettable The Dead film character of Gabriel Conroy played by Donal McCann whose performance in John Huston’s 1987 film of the Joyce short is itself a piece of Irish history and also a masterful core part of Irish Cultural excellence in all its various themes.
The themes of the play are not equivalent in this film but provide another shape to the times within this film. For a synopsis of The Steward of Christendom – I’ve extracted the following from a ubiquitous source. The play opens in a county home (an inpatient psychiatric facility) in Baltinglass, Ireland in 1932, some years after Irish independence. In the opening scene, Dunne (Donal McCann) appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), especially the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins in 1922 after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He also relives memories of his family, particularly his daughters, Annie, Maud, and Dolly. Dunne is also visited by the ghost of his son Willie, killed in WWI; Willie’s ghost appears to him in the form a 13-year-old child but dressed in the soldier’s uniform of his 18-year-old self.
Here the date focussed on by Barry is the early 1940’s. The institutions had been around and become part of the identity of Ireland. In Belfast the 1932 move to Stormont from what was and had been the Northern Ireland Parliament one hundred yards from QFT in the now Theological College since partition in 1925. Sebastian Barry covers this ground in much of his work, of institutional Ireland of State and Health the life on the streets and rural world grippingly as he loosely affirms family connections with the Thomas Dunne the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commander in the play. So too this film for its depiction of a former period of important movement in Ireland. These histories are intertwined and Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera both had ‘seats’ at the Belfast Union College but never once collected from the fifty boxes of the MPs the Order papers of the day for that emerging Parliament. One could play the card Eamon de Valera was a double agent to the British hegemony as future republicans were to similarly trade their countries status. Not in a film though as truth is mainly stranger than fiction.
I began with a mindset carrying ideas of the lukewarm critical reception of the book and film, both inhabiting that doubt common to adaption of part historical narratives. I need not have concerned myself too much because this film opens up a layer of life which is seldom considered in its continued influence and in the magnitude of its shaping usand the identity formed as a Nation on its multiple layers of relationships across continents, across short sea journeys and across hedges and parishes. It harbours a fiction I see to contain many probable realities. I never read the book. In the depiction of Lady Rose played brilliantly on both parts. Rooney Mara as the young independent free spirited, intelligent incomer beauty full of warmth and expectation and the kaleidoscopic thespian skills not wasted or lost of Vanessa Redgrave, herself no stranger to loss or to Ireland’s perplexing past, is not only endearingly charming but purposely disjointedly harmonious and comforting in its plainness. There is nothing plain under the surface no matter what the Irish take or spin on it happens to be or where the deniers – and they are the ‘plain’ folk of Ireland themselves, mostly due to present many frstations of suffering across the world would prefer to banish and put away in a state of complacent bewilderment. If only that were our only path. The Secret Scripture is written – a form of blasphemy- in black on the Bible – as in the Temperance Hotel (you could say it was a depiction of Ulster which has many many connections with Sligo) – here is a Lilliputian Jonathan Swift world of male believe. Now and then. The Bible being the only book – in this puritan hotel – is the only marginila Rose has to take into her incarceration as a hidden diary. For its uncovering, not matter it’s Preposterous retrieval there are unsettling truths like the words of the Bible itself. As it is not a Book which is safe in the Clergies hands nor taken with pillars of salt in communion amongst the suppressed and mal treated citizens, already infiltrated by a siege power of a monarchist force. Since the 1166 occupation the persistent and systematic entrapment is in plain sight from the pulpit and before the pulpit. Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland contrite and corrupt in unity of suppression against Gods will. This film will be seen initially as a passing anecdotal fable worthy of a watch but light on appeal. It will upset and conflict with perceptions narrow and broad but I would say it will after several viewings reveal itself in time to be full of its own contested narrative slowly bringing a reckoning to bear as its bold and more extreme view is received as history continues to recite its clarion vision. It is there for us to see in a wider sense and while novels, films can only open some fictional presentation of a past long gone it is always a sudden shock to see its proximity to truth and realisation is slow but within reach. On a question alone of the mix up of plot and some too fanciful occurrences I knock it back from being a 5 as it is to my mind of a very determined voice setting out to familiarise the world and those closer with the inexcusable period in the past in this country – worse if most probably being effected unknown to us in other parts of the world – and it is a piece of the pyramid of truth being built in memory of those children and women.
It is like a whisky chaser hitting your throats but this is why the fondness for diversion is like dashing your head on the rocks. So much is ventured there is no small comfort to be had except through thinking along the lines I think Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry and the fine strong cast found themselves nurturing. While it is discomforting it is due plenty of deliberation.
22 March 2017
On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 24 March through to and including 30th March and on General release.
Post Behan Brectian Proustian stories
In Ireland the confinement of Women and Men distinguished little in Mental Institutions from the Prisons like the Mountjoy that inspired the Dominic Behan The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. The lyrics still are chilling and how the Bi-sexual Brendan Behan came to them is anyone’s guess but the waking traingle of the Prison warder still makes people sit up and listen to these lyrics – the last verse.
In the female prison there are seventy women
And I wish it was with them that I did dwell
And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal
Was the mind of Ireland imprisoned during these times?
From The Quare Fellow of1956
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing
And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,
And that old triangle
Went jingle jangle,
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
To begin the morning
The warder bawling
Get out of bed and clean up your cell,
And that old triangle
Went jingle jangle,
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping
And the lag was weeping…
(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing
And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,
And the old triangle
Went jingle jangle,
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
On a fine spring evening,
The lag lay dreaming
The seagulls wheeling high above the wall,
And the old triangle
Went jingle jangle,
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping
The lag was sleeping
While he lay weeping for the girl Sal…
(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The wind was rising
And the day declining
As I lay pining in my prison cell
And that old triangle
Went jingle jangle,
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
In the female prison
There are seventy women…
(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The day was dying and the wind was sighing,
As I lay crying in my prison cell,
And the old triangle
Went jingle jangle,
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
ACT III, Scene II (end of play):
In the female prison
There are seventy women
I wish it was with them that I did dwell,
Then that old triangle
Could jingle jangle
Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
To this song provided for The Quare Fellow by brother Dominic we can add along the themes of imprisonment is this universal song.
Director. Spike Lee. Written by Spike Lee and Kevin Willmot. Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Teyonah Parris, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson. Music by Terence Blanchard. Cinematography Matthew Libatique. Edited by Ryan Denmark.
Prevent war remove sex. How does that work when women enjoy it much the same as men do and can be just as distraught if it’s not on the horizon? Based on the 411bc play by Aristophanes it tells the tale of one woman’s mission to end the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata played by Teyonah Parris who projects a sexualised image, convinces the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands as a means of forcing the men to negotiate a peace. In the blink of an eye this scenario presents in Chicago as a modern day philosophy on manhood in the hood with the female carrying the fall out of violence as most of them choose not to carry a gun being polar opposites. Renaming it as Chi-Raq which is one of the leading gangsters name, that part played by Nick Cannon, is explained in the opening frames which are launched as a set of rap lyrics with smooth multi-faceted lessons on the reality in slanguage spoken by rappers. The old Dr Johnson meaning – to rap – speak violently augmented in a slick roll of red print on black introducng then the figures of deaths in Afganistan, Iraq then America which are in ascending order and deaths by gun crime amount to more than the other two combined over the period up to the present. Chi-Raq is in a feud with Cyclops played by Wesley Snipes. The killings go on through their turf wars.
Spike Lee is on the case of Gun crime being a act of community self annihilation by recreating a closely fixed tragic-comic opera to the cinema screen for consumption by all those wise enough to see the message as relevant to the times and a picture of disconnections between white and black/brown Americans in inner city environments. Taking a play from 411bc is a act of performance totally formulated on a stage with us as the audience and we have a MC – one Samuel L. Jackson as a compete who is an invigilator expressing to the wide audience range anticipated the shape of the drama as it unfolds. He is snappily dressed with a cane who comes on between acts. The fourth wall is like a pro-cesium arch with real backdrops. Spike Lee filters into the set progression reality. The actors themselves are frequently those who suffered and their injuries are explained whereas the dead don’t speak. They are forgotten. Yet into this is reality in the form of memorial with portraits of real live lost shown as a memorial tapestry, a mural of the lost victims. Like any memorial March, say the Bloody Sunday victims these images are not for suppressing but remembering. This is our Selma a roster shows.
Profanity, sexual patois is dispensed like everyday language, it is layered and layered in effective meter as in Classical drama. This is Titus Andronicuos with violence a daily experience. Here it is confined to neighbourhood slaughter off screen with innocent victims – central to the story is the death by a ricochet of Paula a ten year old child. Her loss is a figurehead cause bringing in a local Ministers involvement, Father Mick played by John Cusack as a man on a mission, who instead of explaining the Christian view of suffering having no reason or purpose other than to examine our own life gift. He uses the criminality as a signal to mpower the people and entreat their brotherly/sisterly love. In this there is no cliche. No make love not war, no woman on cry, no peace no love, but the stirring of the women leader Lysistrata who in meetings and rallies has persuaded many to withhold sexual privileges or options in their relationships, whether lovers, husbands or casual acquaintances. It is immediately about the sexual politics prevalent in the age then and now.
The speech and address to the Congregation gathered at the funeral of a child victim, is neither a sermon nor an admonishment. It is a monologue on the ills of society in his outreach and is a plea muted, support of Lysistrata as the focus is on the child and its loss through gun crime. It is a brilliantly delivered tirade and is about the only thing I found merited credit in the film.
Single issue combat
It is not about domestic violence, feminine rights, child sexual abuse, procreation rights which the original play also excludes. The simplicity of the scenario therefore limits the narrative by making it almost comedic and farcical. Never are the roles assessed or the possibility of programmed lives as culture dictates. The sexual behaviors outside this community is not challenged. When child abuse was prevalent in the upper classes and boys, girls were regularly ‘bed warmers’ the destible practices pervaded all strands of society. Herecthe play is focusing on the powerless. Restoring unity among warring factions of society is the aim of Lysistrata.
It is at once a problematic issue in reconfiguring the premise of the ancient story to a vast group of people in present day Chicago. Firstly the role of females is crudely stereotyped into different characterisations with the leader
Many parallel plays come to mind in respect of war and methods of creating peace. The recent film Napoleon while being a War film illustrated a lesser accepted fact that religion has less to do with wars (Ricky Gervais please note) than constantly trailed out as fact. The Academic record states otherwise. Napoleon the film might even gesture towards being anti-war. The Silver Tassie by Sean O’Casey, (banned by W.B.Yeats as being too anti war and anti-British also) is another. So much for the sentimental poems as sophisms of sense of place. More than any I’ve seen I constantly return to the Ballet/Play I first seen performed by the Batheseba Ballet Company of Israel perform. It first was performed in 1934 and is a solemn link to the past and presses the vision of peacemaking without arms. Powerful as this is similarly powerful.
The use of sexualised imagery is both like a bad rap video exentuating all the hot spots including a rating of women afraid to loose their lovers if they do not fill the stereotypes they occupy. Relationships are not a battleground but a mutual place for love to flourish in a home and rewarding in all parts.
The Spike Lee choice to hype up the sexual ramparts of bling culture, rap culture and neighbour hoods presence and effect is definitely overplayed and it saturates the film with profanity a needless representations of misogyny. Lysistrata is plastered in bling and their are repeated visits where she is visiting every corner of the neighborhood drumming up support. There are stand off replicating city gun stake outside and delivered operatically. These are juvenile in concept and over simplification at which point I began to realise – the people who this film is supposed to be about, and the roll call of ‘one eyed monsters’ – Cyclops is indeed sightless in a jeweled one eyed eye patch and carries it to oversimplified responses when confronted with the dynamic.
The rest of the country is as recent elections have show are a mirror of racial tensions born out of discrimination, oppresiveclaws and poverty which has a large majority livecin below the poverty line in the disenfranchised communities of non-white background with about $12,000 an annual income to live on for most non-white Americans which includes non state health care provision. The point quickly made that the poor are a business generating incomes across the board from, welfare workers, lawyers, schools and healthcare which compare unfavourably with the high tech prisons and state bureaucracies leveraged by the poor.
3 themes present in all seriousness. It’s a serious matter from 411 bc.
The three themes are: peace and unity, power and gender, and politics. Peace and Unity The main theme of Lysistrata is peace and unity. This is the main theme because the goal of the women is to create peace and to restore unity in Greece.
Instead of a group of Old men and Old women choruses we have a nifty police force and military. They are the power base. There is then the Trojans and Spartans with religious oversight stuck in the middle as moralists. The wooden fires of the separate factions is replaced by ear defenders and loud music of indifferent and stereotypical soundings. The Mayor role covers the Commisioners role who is played as an overaxous to please congressman type who is both a fascist and realist.
The opera is rather long and drawn out and strange choices are made by Spike Lee to put up the resolution and gravitas in a conclusion. The absence of a workable conclusion makes it presumably be termed a Comedy and one of 11 surviving plays of Aristophanes.
Giving this time to develop and for it to piece together without demeaning Chi-Raq citizens is a tall order not achieved by Spile Lee. He patronises his possible audiences and maybe communities with the stereotypes of people who actually experience the deaths visited in the city of Chicago. The jigsaw pieces are large and fitted together but it’s all bling and gung-ho and does not do justice to the people who actually are in the community. It uses their experiences and mirrors them back in a disfigured, profane and facile way. Sure it hits hot spots and reconfigures, contextualoses the notion of life there but it is a lost opportunity given the – and the choice of play is merely ironic – might of film and the reach to audiences. It will offend plenty and it will get lots of plaudits but it fits into a category of being too sensationalist and crude representation of very proud people who have come through a lot. Greek wisdom is partial as a projection of a problem not a summation and fresh viewpoint. The overall display pace and look of the film despite some repatativeness os a work finely crafted. It is such a shame the contents are supplanted by mockery and lack of soul, Minister Mick excepted.
There are lots of good performances and one of the standouts is Angela Bassett in the role of Miss Helen who is one of the more articulate joiners and has less ‘rhyming s language to slaughter the ordinal pay with and its audience. There are plenty of interesting provocative one-liners but they are scattered in the middle of a ‘slanguage’ contest for who can be the profanist unfortunately.
1 December 2016
On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 2 December through to 8 December 2016.