Friday, 30 March 2012

2 films and 2 books

2 films
- "We Need to Talk About Kevin": the film focuses on the feelings of the mother of Kevin, an adolescent who stays in prison after committing a massacre at his high school. It basically tells the story in flashbacks, from when she's pregnant and gives birth to Kevin, and then shows how she brings him up, deals with his personality and temperament, and how she copes with the anger and hostility of other people after the massacre. Pretty good. Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller are both talented and convincing in their roles as the mother and Kevin. It's quite a painful and thought-provoking film, with some haunting scenes, and after watching it last Friday I still think a little about it, but my feeling now, after about 1 week, is different from how I felt that day. As you've probably known, I'm fed up with films and books about serial killers whose brutal and inhumane acts are simply explained, or decoded, by traumatic events in their childhood: a, serial killing isn't common in Vietnam, but there are many almost equally inhumane crimes carried out by people who are perfectly normal, have no history of mental disorder or disease and have totally ordinary, unremarkable or even joyous childhood, but they commit indescribably horrible crimes anyway, and the rate of terrible crimes rises and rises even more, which is shown very clearly in newspapers. b, I'm under the impression that, somehow trying to point at something in the past is, in certain cases, like a way of shifting the blame to someone else, and sympathising with the murderers. Of course I know certain things are tough, and it's hard to say when I haven't really experienced rape or molestation or neglect or whatever, but to put it straight, I don't believe in victimisation and I think that people are always able to make choices, to some extent. It might be hard, there are lots of things going on around you, affecting you, but to some extent you still have some freedom to make choices.
Anyway, come back to the film, I don't really like the creation of the character Kevin. It sounds simple. Why does he become a murderer? Because he has always been like that, evil, since birth? Isn't that boring? He has always had an instinctual aversion to his mother, which has no apparent reason, but is a reason for his acts. It develops over time. I of course like the message of the film that the parents should have talked about it and come to a solution before it's too late, because his inhumanity develops over time, because it's so often in real life that people just postpone important things and directly or indirectly cause something that should have been stopped, or changed, for a long time. But it's predictable. And after the massacre, my mom doesn't know how the mother can stay alive after losing the whole family, but I think it's not that hard to comprehend, since, though we can see Tilda Swinton deep in pain, we can also feel her pain, she has always been unhappy for a very long time, that she doesn't really undergo a shock, and as I've written, it's sort of predictable, so she continues to stay alive, and her facial expression stays the same most of the time. Concerning the reaction only, I would recommend a film that is better at tackling this, depicting this: "Beautiful Boy". No one ever understands why it happens, and the parents just blame themselves and blame each other.

- "The Hunger Games": I understand that the majority of young people are crazy about the 3 books and thus, the film. I think it's so-so. Nothing really special. What I remember: Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson's smile, Amandla Stenberg's cute face and Jennifer Lawrence's 2 dresses. Some scenes are pretty funny. And the film isn't good enough to make me interested in reading the books or watching the sequels in the future. Not my type, but it's sure better than "Twilight".

2 books
- "The Great Gatsby" (F. Scott Fitzgerald): The writing was quite dry and thus boring at the beginning, but once I adjusted to Fitzgerald's writing style, it got better. And it's a good book. Good at the themes. Good at the creation of characters and the depiction and portrayal of them, the characterisation. Good at intriguing and engrossing readers, me at least. Good at building up tension. And most of all, good at showing the American society in "the roaring 1920s", with money, with materialism, and a bunch of hypocrites. Both the East Eggers and West Eggers, both the aristocrats and the nouveau riche, live pointless, phoney lives, do insignificant, shallow and meaningless things, exist without a meaning, without a purpose, without an aim, get obsessed with and pursue superficial values... Fitzgerald might be very pessimistic, or maybe just realistic, thoughtful and sensitive, since I can't like any of the characters here. I simply can't. Myrtle is greedy and pathetic. Jordan is cynical and dishonest, and something gives me the impression that she doesn't have much to do and just passes through life without living. Tom is shallow, proud, arrogant, self-centred, close-minded, selfish, crooked, pompous, abusive... Daisy is foolish, annoyingly superficial, shallow, hypocritical, boring, selfish, irresponsible, unstable... and most importantly, mean, without awareness of it. And that's why Daisy and Tom are a perfect match. They match, because they both are despicable, and they perfectly understand each other. And even though together they don't feel happy, they never part. Even Gatsby, I don't like. He might be considered great in the sense that he's determined, and wise at earning money, and he achieves his dreams, becomes who he wanted to be. He might be considered great for his love for Daisy. He can also be called great since he's the only person in this book who lives with a purpose, who knows what he wants and what to do to achieve it, to make it come true, instead of existing and doing trivial things. But I don't like him. On 1 hand, in order to gain success, he must be ruthless and do bad things. On the other hand, he's childishly pompous and boastful, like the typical nouveau riche, and I feel immensely disgusted when he shows Daisy around in his house and shows her his wealth, all the expensive things he owns, and feels happy seeing admiration in her eyes. And to me, he's just plain stupid, to be honest. He worships Daisy and thinks she's an innocent angel, but she isn't. That leads to his downfall. He deserves it. And, I don't really like Nick either, though, compared to the others, he's the least despicable. I don't know. He just doesn't stand up for anything. Never.

- "Sula" (Toni Morrison): Everything written by Toni Morrison is beautiful and interesting. This is 1 of my favourite quotes: "When I was a little girl the heads of my paper dolls came off, and it was a long time before I discovered that my own head would not fall off if I bent my neck. I used to walk around holding it very stiff because I thought a strong wind or a heavy push would snap my neck. Nel was the one who told me the truth. But she was wrong. I did not hold my head stiff enough when I met him and so I lost it just like the dolls."
It isn't easy to write about "Sula". Well, the quote above might give you the wrong impression that this is a love story, but that's not the case. There can be lots of themes here: good vs bad, right vs wrong, friendship, women, conformity vs nonconformity, the self, morality, relationships, love, sex, life, death, choices, social norms, betrayal, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, pride, suffering, impermanence, hypocrisy, loneliness, madness, suicide, self-destruction, etc. I, if possible, might write a complete blog post about it, but what I'm thinking now is that, after all, in spite of superficial differences, Sula and Nel are, in a way, just the same. They both can be selfish. They both can be mean and sometimes, evil. They both can treat others harshly. They both can be thrilled watching something terrible happen, without intervening, and the feeling is almost like schadenfreude. The difference is, Nel never knows it till the last minute and believes herself to be morally better by simply following social norms and doing what everyone else does, whereas Sula has the sensitivity and wisdom to see the dark side of herself, she's independent, courageous and responsible enough to acknowledge the evil within herself, stay true to herself, choose her own path, follow the direction of her own and live as who she is, without regret. "Sula" and "The Great Gatsby" are completely different, yet they have 1 thing in common: a bunch of hypocrites. Hypocritical in different ways, but hypocritical both nevertheless. 
A thought-provoking and mesmerising, absorbing book. I recommend it. 

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