Month: January 2015

Leviafan (Leviathan)

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviafan (Leviathan) turned out to be quite a depressing film – but there again, how often do we go and see a cheerful one?! This film has been described as a modern re-telling of the Book of Job, and Kolya, the main character, does indeed suffer a similar fate to the Old Testament prophet. He loses his home, his livelihood, his wife, his friends and eventually his freedom, but that’s where the similarity ends. Job’s sufferings are sent to him by God – and a less God-like figure than the corrupt mayor who is responsible for Kolya’s problems can hardly be imagined. Job also regains his health, wealth and family at the end of the story and lives happily ever after, but there are no signs of that happening to Kolya; his ending is anything but a happy one. (more…)

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Mr. Turner

This film got unanimously good reviews from the critics, and the comments on IMDb were nearly always either very positive or very negative. In other words people either loved or hated it, and that’s the sort of film I usually like the most. I was therefore very curious to see it, but wondered afterwards what all the fuss had been about. (more…)

300,000th birthday

This morning the mileage indicator of our van went over the 300k mark, meaning we’d done nearly 45k kilometres in it. If I were to say that he’d just celebrated his 300,000th kilometre it would sound strange or funny, depending on your sense of humour. Which is interesting, as someone ‘celebrating’ their so-many-th birthday sounds quite normal. And yet the two events are quite similar: the passing of an arbitrary point, which only sounds significant due to the particular systems of counting and time measurement we happen to use, on the (hopefully long) road to the scrap yard or cemetery as the case may be. But I never could understand why anyone would want to celebrate the fact that they’re a year older…

The punching pope

Last Sunday I spent ages unsuccessfully searching Google for that incident involving Bill Clinton, but today a very similar incident occurred involving Pope Francis. While talking to journalists about the recent Charlie Hebdo killings he said freedom of speech was a fundamental human right and strongly condemned what had happened in Paris, but added that there are limits to freedom of expression and that ‘one cannot make fun of faith’. Having said that ‘such horrific violence in God’s name could not be justified’, he basically went on to contradict himself by adding ‘One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits. If my good friend Dr Gasparri [the guy who organises papal trips and was standing by his side] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.’ What he was actually saying was that a perceived insult can be sufficient justification for physical violence, and that such violence was ‘normal’. His only problem with the Charlie Hebdo killers, then, was that they’d gone too far: punching someone is allowed, but shooting them isn’t. (more…)

Ridiculous political correctness and other human stupidity

Today I just seemed to keep running into examples of human stupidity. This morning P. showed me an article on the site of De Morgen about the current climate of ridiculous political correctness in the UK. Wide-ranging laws against anything that anyone might find ‘offensive’ mean that (according to Terry Jones of Monty Python fame) the film Life of Brian could never have been made nowadays. (more…)

Timbuktu

This evening we saw Abderrahmane Sissako’s ‘Timbuktu’, and a truly miserable film it was too – but quite a good one. It was well made, and often well acted, but it had been a long time since a film had made me so angry. I left the cinema hating the human race, and as we walked back to the car I said to P. that the best thing that could happen would be for the entire human race – this cancer growing on the earth – to be completely wiped out. (more…)

Being Charlie – some thoughts on symbols, insults and emotions

Thursday 8 January 2015

As I passed the pharmacy on the way into the shopping centre this morning I saw a girl who had just come out and was sticking up a photocopied “Je suis Charlie” sign on the wall; every website and newspaper has been carrying that message since yesterday and it’s been tweeted millions of times all over the world. I very much suspect that most of the people saying that ‘they are Charlie’ have never even read Charlie Hebdo (just as I haven’t). I found myself getting annoyed today, mainly because of what had actually happened in Paris yesterday – that anyone could be so crazy as to actually kill someone because he felt ‘insulted’, either personally or on behalf of ‘the prophet’ – but also because of all this “Je suis Charlie” stuff. Those murders had been committed by people suffering from the illusion that symbols are important, and the reaction was yet more symbols. If people didn’t take symbols so seriously then they wouldn’t be so easily insulted, people wouldn’t get murdered and other people wouldn’t have to waste their time and energy making yet more symbolic gestures. These are not the sort of thoughts I feel I could really share with the people in my local shopping centre – I doubt if many would understand. (more…)