Ondine (2009): Valid Lit

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“Ondine” took me by surprise. I was at first skeptical because it is billed as an Irish Drama and they are often hard to stomach for someone with the Irish blood and blarney running through their own veins. So, I let it play on while only giving it half my attention.

The free running of alcohol and recovery from it, broken families and life-long feuds, poverty, fishing folk, the corrupt Catholic Church and the strangle hold it has on people that have a tendency to be wild…… and other hallmarks…… were expected.

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But then, I realized that the dour fisherman with the thick almost unintelligible Irish brogue was Collin Farrell of sleek Hollywood and the darker-than-black features. His hair was long trailing well-beneath his wooly cap and he was racing round the inlets in a dilapidated trawler instead of a limousine. This realization combined with the above shot really caught my interest so I quickly became transported by this Celtic fantasy.

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Of course, this is a love story as well – between Syracuse (an approximation of ‘circus’ because of his alcoholic antics) and Ondine (a borrowed name form the French). The connection between them apart from him fishing her out of the cold ocean and secreting her away in his abandoned family home, is Annie, his precocious, invalid daughter. She happens to be an expert on selkies, mythological creatures common in northern Europe who are a hybrid of seal crossed with human, and immediately recognizes Ondine as such a hybrid.

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Selkies (Maidens of the Sea) are indeed fascinating, standard fairy-tale creatures in Finland, Iceland and among Inuits: an institution also in northern Scotland, Ireland and the Faroe Islands. The selkie lives as a seal, among seals, but is known to shed its heavy pelt in order to become a land creature. When psychological conditions were not recognized then ‘the fairies’ were often held responsible for this kind of mischief.

In freezing climes peoples often wear seal skins from head to toe, and cover their kayaks with them. When they get heavy with water they have to be laid out in the sun to dry. It is thought that this ‘myth’ may have come from the sight of seal-skin wearers stripping off and lying beside their skins in the sunlight. It is also said that selkies are supernaturally formed from the souls of the drowned.

 

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Ondine’s arrival plays complete havoc with sober Syracuse’s faith and already damaged reputation. How can he confess that he’s falling for a mermaid and intending to consummate the relationship!

To be honest, I was completely taken in by Ondine’s aqueous origins especially when she accidentally discovers her pelt on the ocean bed and buries it in Syracuse’s garden to be dug up 7 years later. I found it completely acceptable that all the dresses Syracuse buys for her automatically become swimming suits.

 

 

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But reality slams into this sleepy fishing town of an interesting Romanian origin! The less said……….

Anyway, this tale is a delight. At once crude, basic, intoxicated and hard-faced, but magical and romantic as well. It has a happy, zany ending which the town will never recover from. Please watch it and see how far you can suspend disbelief.

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Images courtesy of ibdb.com and megapixyl.com

 

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Into the Forest (2015)

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This film is a precious find. I came upon it by accident and decided that the forest was a place I wanted to be at that moment. I craved a tapestry of growing green giants and laughing foliage in which to lose myself regardless of the human story that would weave into it. I lost myself completely in greenery but also in the stunning relationship between members of a suffering family sheltering deep in the Canadian forest.

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Plot:

In brief, a father and his two teenage daughters live in an ideal forest location in self-sufficiency. The daughters are discontented with this remote way of life craving the company of their peers and experience of the city. Nell is working to graduate from High School while Eva is practising modern dance in preparation for auditions to become a professional. Then, the closeness of this family of three is suddenly put to the acid test.

A massive power outage hits Canada which causes everything to breakdown. There is no synthetic energy to be had at any price and soon the last gasoline is finished so leaving is not an option. The majority of this intriguing human drama, which can serve as a preparation for all of us in the developed world for such a situation, is about the survival of the two sisters after their father bleeds out as result of a chain saw accident. They re-experience the tragic loss of their mother to disease when father dies and are thrown entirely on their own resources and their exclusive relationship. This situation could happen to any of us in today’s precarious and passive existence.

 

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Impressions/Reflections:

Without material or parental/adult support, we see the two women gradually reveal their True Nature. Eva, a dancer, is artistic and vulnerable to emotional, unrecovered from the death of her mother with whom she was close. Nell, scientist, logical to the core, essentially practical and quirky, is also newly mourning the terrible loss of her beloved father. This is an awakening for all viewers to two facts: first, most of us tend to take the loving protection and guidance of our parents for granted, and second, that we each have the resources to be independent and to make sense of life in our own way. Both young women quickly recover from their loss and step into the legacies of their parents in order to survive this extreme which they are in no way prepared for.

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One episode:

One day, Nell goes berry-picking – the fruits of the forest being their main source of food as they are both vegetarians. Eva is left behind to chop wood for the approaching winter. A stranger appears, a city refugee, whom she remembers as an acquaintance of her father’s. She lies and tells him that her father is in the forest, but the stranger has been watching them for sometime so sees through her lie.

Quite soon he smells her fear which arouses his male instinct to relieve his own fear by cruelly raping her. Nell hears her screams and races back, but he has left. Eva is physically and emotionally battered by this grotesque act, fast to relinquish all responsibility for human life to her younger sister who sets about boarding up the house and watching with a loaded rifle for the rapist’s return.

Eva recovers very slowly indeed, refusing to eat or get out of bed for an eternity, and when she does venture outside briefly into the forest air, she finds she is pregnant with the trespasser’s child. The sisters must decide what to do as food is in short supply and another mouth to feed could present problems. Nell is prepared to help Eva abort this baby which is the only option to her, but Eva decides she will bring it into the world, a new world with new ways of being. The story of how they deal with the pregnancy and the actual birth with no medical or adult help is moving, inspiring, empowering!

After the decay of their house, they deem it unhealthy to bring up a new being in and so burn it and walk “Into the Forest,” hence the film title.

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Deep reaction:

Although we all may think as moderns we could never survive back in nature, it is our origin! Our ancestors survived what we perceive as Nature’s cruelties and unfairnesses, living wrapped in complete trust and belief in the planet. We consider that we are no longer animals and most of us have missed our chance to be gods or fully enlightened beings, however, we cannot refute that we have indigenous wisdom running through our veins which will enable our survival.

In the forest, we can breathe so deeply in concert with the trees and plants, and if we put aside our psychological fears, our compulsive comparing and judging, and trust the universe, it will provide all we need. It may not be what we are used to, but it is certainly a great deal healthier and we have a superb chance of getting back in touch with our still core, our power as a species, in the process.

By entering into the essence of this story, I was able to survive in the beautiful and resourceful forest. It awakened me to my own unique beauty and resourcefulness as an Earth being, along with that of all beings of our human species.

 

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Images courtesy of imdb.com and megapixyl.com

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Mansfield Park (1999): English Innocence.

 

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What is it that gives me such hope about British films? After watching endless protracted dramas and crime films made in US, one becomes jaded, almost immune to blood and guts, torture and the deviousness of the worldly mind.

Why do we watch them you may ask? Waiting for another mutilated body or packaged body-part, a dank basement masquerading as a graveyard, a filthy bathroom, rampant sex acts or mental health problems, becomes a way of life on modern TV channels. But I believe that present American film directors are fixated on blood and filth because those aspects of human life which are normally hidden need to be fully illuminated. We are living in an age of what Buddhists would call ‘hungry ghosts’ and depravity after all, and we need to confront that full-on.

 

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So, after such inurement, ‘Mansfield Park’ set in early and relatively innocent 19th century England, will lift the spirit, will bring on a deep sigh of relief. Of course, in this story horrors and unfairnesses, poverty and life exigencies abound but the principal message is one of hope and light. Protagonist Fanny Price, sent away from her poor docks’ home at the age of 10 to serve the wealthy branch of her family, is heavily oppressed because of her class. In spite of this gross handicap, in the end she wins the true love and status she clearly deserves and we are gratified.

 

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This setting of one of my favourite Jane Austen novels, truly lifted my heart after a spate of subjecting myself to deep cinematic darkness. Being British by birth, I am not proud of the British class system or the societal havoc reeked by the Industrial Revolution in any way, but somehow the light always manages to get through in British culture. This story is a fairy story which the British are so in tune with.

The beautiful and talented Fanny is marooned in a poor home although her imagination is rich and she entertains her siblings by writing stories and histories prolifically. The family is overburdened financially and so it is agreed between her mother and her mother’s sister that Fanny will be sent to Mansfield Park to act as a servant and get an education in the meantime.

Having arrived there, Fanny is devastated at being treated as an outcast and being given a neglected attic as her bedroom. She sorely misses her family’s genuine love but she almost immediately meets Edmund, her cousin, who tries to comfort her with jokes. It is then that their love is kindled and becomes a bond made for life.

 

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But there are many shadows cast amidst the sunshine and brilliance of the central figure and her deeply pious Edmund. For instance, Sir Thomas Bertram, Baronet, the owner of Mansfield Park, runs a plantation in Antigua and with it a great number of black slaves at a time when slavery is starting to be abolished. Tom Bertram is a drunk, a gambler, and eventually becomes gravely ill due to his reckless lifestyle. Lady Bertram is vague and distracted, addicted to laudanum and lap dogs, and her sister Mrs Norris who is a skinflint and total snob persists in keeping Fanny in her place. Henry Crawford is a lusty bachelor who falls in love with Fanny but she refuses to accept his dubious morality.

 

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At one point, grown tired of her social oppression and the demands being made of her by Sir Thomas to marry a wealthy man she does not love, Fanny decides to return home. Then the class contrast becomes patently obvious. She is once more marooned in a dirty environment, presided over by a drunken father whose dark family secrets are palpable in the eyes of the girl-children. And now, she deeply misses Edmund who is betrothed to be married to someone of his own class.
The gay balls and elegant dancing suit Fanny so well once she returns to Mansfield Park to care for son Thomas who is declining rapidly, and as luck would have it, she confronts Sir Thomas with his exploitation of slaves while Edmund steadily realizes his mismatch. Eventually, his betrothed, Miss Mary Crawford, Henry’s sister, reveals her true meddlesome and insincere nature to the whole family, and Edmund breaks off their engagement and listens to his heart. He immediately proposes to Fanny and plans to publish all her literary works.

 

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This is truly a rags-to-riches story and Fanny is perhaps the most compelling of all Austen’s heroines. The light created by this wonderful story comes flooding through and reminds us that we too have a True Nature and should never lose track of our dreams and native knowing.

Watch this film soon. It is oozing with period accuracy and attentiveness to the original text to lift you easily into the saddle of your heart. Fanny is a weaver of tales so reminiscent of Jane Austen’s herself.

 

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Images courtesy of imdb.com (Internet Movie Data Base) and megapixyl.com

 

 

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Gattaca 1997: rejecting a gift from existence

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This film makes many important points about a future of human beings dominated by the intellect and the ascendancy of technology and science. The hero – Vincent’s – genetic composition is flawed because his heart is weak, in fact, 10,000 beats overdue in his thirties, so he is determined to realize his dream of going up into space before he dies. Due to genoism – cell discrimination – he is forced to work as a cleaner but all the while he studies and memorizes astronautical manuals. His search for a new identity to enable this is the main focus of the film, and in this lie the gems of insight.

 

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He, along with his new identity Jerome Morrow, spend all their time transforming Vincent. To enable this he must carry samples of Jerome’s blood at all times, he must wear lenses the colour of Jerome’s, he must even undergo surgery to increase his height by 2 centimetres, wear false fingerprints, etc. Their shared apartment is a laboratory and they are both experts at various eugenic techniques.  At every opportunity, Vincent-Jerome must scrub away his dead skin cells in case he sheds any while at work.  He also has to negotiate the world without his glasses as myopathy is only associated with the genetic underclass.

 

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In short, Vincent must discard his natural inheritance if he wants to realize what he believes is his absolute mission in human life. At one point, he sheds an eyelash in the workplace, the genetic police find it and start a hunt for the ‘invalid’ who has been so careless. Everywhere he goes he must check that he is not leaving skin fragments or hairs behind. His whole resume lies in his DNA; an interview consists only of a blood test. He even offers a hair from his head as a love token to the beautiful Irene during their brief skirmish. But she lets it drop on the breeze perhaps because she too is an imposter with a weak heart!

 

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Science will go mad in the future as this rare film eloquently suggests! Personality, ancestral lineage and merit will all be abandoned but we will live in sanitized societies the leaders of which will be free of defects. But what about our True Nature, our original divine origin, and our unique spirit.  What about the unknown which is our natural environment: science is one dimensional in comparison because it exclusively concerns the known, and what is known is dead, destined to be archived and regurgitated mechanically.

 

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We, humans, are potentially the next stage of evolution from animals because we have been endowed with the special gifts of language and communication. But despite advanced technology and the so-called excellence of education and progress, most of us still only realize 10% of our potential because we fritter away our human moments in a dream. It is said that we have reached our peak in physical terms, our bodies are miracles of genetic engineering, but we lag very far behind spiritually as is obvious from the trail of damage we leave behind us everywhere.  The planet has been ruined because developed nations are so primitive.

 

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Our natural existence, exactly as it is, is our divine inheritance.  Embodying our True Nature, some would call it Christ-Consciousness or Buddha-Nature, is our only chance to find our Truth, to use our Mind mechanism to properly realize out potential in order to step across the bridge of our native energy into full awareness.  If we allow dead scientific knowledge to dominate, then we will rapidly deteriorate and annihilate the planet and therefore the human race. Human beings are the way if we can only allow ourselves to just be.

At the close of Gattaca, as Vincent-Jerome jubilantly prepares to take his first space flight and Jerome-Eugene prepares to take his own life, Vincent tries to express his indebtedness for his new identity to Jerome. But Jerome says that no thanks are needed for the gift of his body because it is nothing compared to the gift of the dream that Vincent has given him in exchange. 

 

 

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The facts of the film

In brief, the title Gattaca is formed from the first 4 components of DNA – guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine, but it was original called ‘The Eighth Day.’ Its genre is biopunk, it is a visually stunning filmand it concerns Eugenics, the study of improving a population by controlling breeding to produce desirable characteristics, and a view of destiny through the battle of genetic inheritance. It is directed and written by Andrew Niccol {b.1964 New Zealand screenwriter, producer and director, famous for Lord of War (2005), In Time (2011), The Host (2013) and Good Kill (2014)}   The protagonists are Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law) and Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman).  The fitting and evocative score is composed by Michael Nyman.

The Plot: Vincent Thurman is born with a defective heart and so because of genoism (discrimination according to cells) is forced to join an underclass and has no future, but his passion is going into space.  His blind ambition drives him to acquire another identity, that of Jerome Eugene Morrow, a genetic aristocrat and outstanding space navigator who, due to an accident, is paralyzed and unable to function in his capacity.   A gene broker sets about creating Vincent’s new identity so that he can take Jerome’s place in Gattaca, the space exploration centre.  We follow the nerve-racking scrutiny Vincent-Jerome must undergo to enable him to take his first rocket flight. 

Here is the official trailer for Gattaca so you can take a look.

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images courtesy of megapixyl.com and Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com)

 

 

The Fall: the criminal mind is fascinating!

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The Fall: the criminal mind is fascinating

Do you long to become utterly absorbed in a story, film or piece of art? Do you long to be totally beguiled and to experience another reality in the full which will lead you to know our human existence in more detail?

In our modern lives of super-convenience, I often stop my mindless response and acceptance to become mindful. I take myself to a time and place when and where we lived in close partnership or conflict with nature and its cruelty or benevolence. To a time or place when radio waves had not been harnessed for our entertainment and edification, to inform us of the contents of other minds at the press of a button. In those situations, story and the human imagination were arguably at their peak.

We cannot go back to that state now, but when we find ourselves riveted as I have during this year to the Netflix Drama, The Fall, I strongly recognize my roots in story-telling and my absorption in the human condition. There is nothing quite as fascinating or compelling as the desire to kill another creature or human, nothing quite so magnetic as the power of the occult or devil.

The first two episodes of The Fall defy summary so here I skim the surface for impressions while strongly recommending that you fall into The Fall as soon as possible because you will also certainly be riveted, and you will yet again marvel at the intricacies of the human mind.

The story begins when Stella Gibson of Scotland Yard is called to Belfast Police Headquarters to head a team focused on hunting down a serial killer known as the Belfast Strangler. She has quite a reputation and it is easy to see she is unconventional and intriguing as a senior police officer. She starts to investigate the murders with her mostly female team which follow a pattern because the targets are single nubile female professionals whom he (presumably) stalks and then strangles, bathes, dresses and poses ready for the police to find.

Through 2 gripping seasons, Stella manages to catch the murderer who is shot at his capture, the final episode closing with her holding his head as he bleeds heavily waiting for the emergency services to arrive. Returning to new episodes in season 3 after a break and such an intriguing and pregnant ending, I realize how skillfully the characters in this British drama have been developed.

Paul Spector (not Spectre), the serial killer – sexual deviant, bereavement counselor, adoring father and husband, talented artist and poet – is, after drastic surgery to save him, found to be suffering from amnesia so that he cannot recall the 6 years of his life when he allegedly killed numerous women by strangulation. He also has apparently missed the growing up of his baby daughter and even the birth of his son in his time warp.

The approach to this killer’s hospital treatment is worthy of comment because we have already taken a peep at his ritualistic killing of several of his mannequin victims, but now we are treated to a close look at his insides during a major surgical procedure, coma, massive blood loss and rehabilitation. During this time, the calculating murderer is alone with a dedicated and beautiful ICU nurse and we know that he could kill her despite his incapacity by summoning up his demonic energy. We even get to look at his near-death experience through her caring questions giving us a unique opportunity to look inside even further, behind the presenting horrors, sickening premeditation and manipulation.

Stella Gibson reveals herself and her psychic closeness to Spector still further. She may even be his accomplice for that matter. We feel her humanity, her sadness about her own life, her sex drive, her frustration as a matriarch in a patriarchy, the police force. Her insights and focus on him are consistently impressive and her natural beauty and elegance shine through in each shot. This cannot possibly be a scripted performance for her.

The darkness inside Spector’s life is moving. He can see only pain and loss in loving, nothing bright or hopeful! He was an abused child and so he feels it his right to abuse in return and has nothing to lose as it has already been lost to the suicide of his mother when he was 8.

In his amnesia after shooting and surgery, it is quite difficult to believe his honesty because he has lied consistently even to his closest loved ones. We expect him to turn any moment, to put on his disguise and destroy and pose yet one more victim. He is described as a predator, and yet the predator in all of us feels his suffering. Somehow we know that if not stopped he will get to Stella and strangle her, recreating her infamous beauty in a death pose.

Sally-Anne, Spector’s wife, is in a tragic condition after his capture. She is so shaken by the charges against him that she decides to drug her young children’s bedtime milk, put them in the car, and drive into the incoming tide. She will soon be tried and convicted of obstructing justice as she has unwittingly aided and abetted her husband in her disbelief.

Things eventually are coming to an end! Spector is in a secure asylum facility, but we know that he will make his attack on Stella. We know that she is vulnerable to him, that she is not afraid of him and maybe even willing to die in this big game hunt. We go back to the image of her holding his head in the forest when he was shot. She says she didn’t want him to die because he must be tried and punished for what he has done to other innocents. In some way, he has got into her head as he does with everyone. He certainly got into mine.

all images courtesy of imdb.com

BaBA (2010)

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BaBa (2010)

The chanting to a desert god, unidentified but certainly made of sound and sand.

The tenderness of absent fingers playing with both grains and vocal vibrations.

The desert is the constantly metamorphosing place of awe and the work place of the visible and the invisible as one, and the man and the woman and what they can create whether bodies turn away or face, are the faint scribbles on its back.

There is the pain of digging ruts into the eternal change to grow sustenance to feed deceitful flesh in each legato phrase, wobbling in the overtones, as the unknown god asserts its sacredness. And the vessel to hold the spirit in gelatin failing to trust that food can be manifested in sound, squeezes away the life she has pushed out of her.

Then the dark clouds ruffle the volatile fabric, and the chanting and the murdering pause long enough for a blink of the human eye and the need to sit the silent twin in a vertical grave to let the spirit back out from where it jumped in.

The reed has its own percussion like the human voice. But can its brittleness convince blown hot air spiked with poisonous gases better than flesh can?

The silence of urges to make more, to bring more vessels to fill, to drop them into the planet trust without warning.

The labour is short, the diagnosis of birth imprecise, and the produce slips out smoothly. There is no water to waste in cleaning away blood and the puss life needs.

No water, but there is sand to brush and grind it away.

Directors: George Inci et al

Writer: George Inci

Cast: Aisha Bhiet, Beatrice von Moreau, George Inci

German/Morrocan