Sunday 27 May 2018

Appreciating and enjoying Possession

I’m an Appreciationist. Or at least I try to be.
I respected and admired Possession; it took me nearly half the book to become engrossed in the plot and the story, and to really enjoy it. The key is not to think of 19th century novels and expect lifelike, multi-faceted characters, but to accept Possession as a mystery novel and as a novel about literature and academia, particularly the world of critics and biographers.
The central mystery of the story is about the affair between 2 acclaimed 19th century poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte that nobody realised knew each other. 2 modern scholars Roland Michell and Maud Bailey discover it and try to trace back their steps to find the full story. To be frank, I didn’t really care about any of the characters, until Sabine’s journal, but I’ve been intrigued, wanting to know what happens, what Randolph and Christabel do, what hidden truths Roland and Maud uncover, what Blanche Glover tells Randolph’s wife Ellen, what Ellen does, whether there is any greater secret, why Blanche drowns herself, and so on, the way you follow the plot of mystery novels and have a million of questions and want answers.
Roland and Maud are, in a sense, detectives. The plot is more exciting because of their obsession, the possession the biographers feel towards their subjects, and the competition between the biographers. Others chase Roland and Maud as they’re “chasing” Randolph and Christabel.
At the same time, Possession is about literature and literary critics/ biographers. The book is therefore built on a wide range of genres and styles of writing: poetry, letters, journals, biography, literary criticism, and so on—all of which, except the poems, are means of storytelling and drive the plot forward; but the poems are not digressions, in the sense that some stuff in Moby Dick are, but they are the original texts to which the characters refer, in 19th century as well as in modern day, and they also have hidden codes that allow the reader to partake in the detective work. It is impressive, the transition is rather smooth. The prose is still dry for my taste, lacking enthusiasm and rhythm, but A. S. Byatt’s knowledge and other things make up for it as the story goes on. Perhaps the personal factor is also important—I’ve been to Whitby and like jet; I studied literature before; and I write diaries and these days look a bit through them as I sort out stuff for moving (have I mentioned? I am in Oslo at the moment). It is perhaps these things that make me warm to the novel.
(My favourite part of Possession is probably Sabine’s journal, not only because she reveals a shocking secret, but also because of the writing. Sabine makes me care more about Christabel). 
I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing more about myself than about the novel.

Friday 25 May 2018

A. S. Byatt's Possession

I’m getting back to reading literature, with A. S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance
It has subjects that interest me—Victorian literature, mystery, love, loss, adultery (as a subject in literature only, I must note), a dig at academia and the various isms in literary criticism. The author’s knowledge of Victorian literature and society, and Western mythologies, is immense and impressive; her large vocabulary and intellectuality make me think of George Eliot; the passages in 19th century prose sound genuine; and the book as a whole is vast and covers different genres, different styles of writing. But it is dry, so dry. The prose lacks something, I know not what—humour? irony? poetry? music? rhythm? a sense of exhilaration and love of life? I don’t like her prose, her voice; the imagery doesn’t always work; some sentences now and then sound odd to my ears. Maybe it’s the feeling that I feel a love of literature, but not a love of life, or of people. A. S. Byatt makes me think of George Eliot because of the intellectuality and the dryness, but she doesn’t moralise, which is good; and doesn’t write much about the characters’ personality and inner thoughts, which may not be bad in itself, considering the subject matter, but which appears to me as a shortcoming and partly gives the impression that the author’s more interested in literature and ideas than in people. Or maybe it’s just me. 
May change my mind later. That happens. 
I’m on chapter 10, reading the correspondence between Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. The book is still intriguing. 

Wednesday 16 May 2018

News of my 2 short films: Bird Bitten and Footfalls

1/ On 27/4, Bird Bitten, together with other BA2 drama films, was screened at Hyde Park Picture House. It was a private screening for crew, cast, and staff. 
Overall I’m happy with the film. There are faults and imperfections, and there are tons of things I would have done differently, which is an inevitable feeling when I worked on it for so long and watched it so many times, working closely with the editor and then the colourist and then the sound designer. But overall I’m happy with the film, and I think people liked it.  
2/ On Monday and Tuesday, we just had feedback screening for experimental films. My film Footfalls was screened yesterday. I was director, writer, co-producer, and colourist. 
Footfalls, in a sense, feels more personal to me. Part of it is because it was loosely based on a true story, a tragic story, so added to the challenge of telling a story through feet and shoes only, without either faces or words, I also gave myself the hard task of treating it like a delicate thing and making it moving. I also lost my grandma the week before filming, and in a way, the film was keeping me going and giving me a sense of purpose. 
Then we had issues, many issues, as though the film was doomed. For quite some time, I hated it. I loved it, as it’s mine, but at the same time I hated it. Having problems is of course the nature of filmmaking, but we had way too many, the footage was awful and much of it was unusable, and the 1st rough cut just didn’t work—there was no flow, it was overlong and unclear and ineffective. We had to save the film on the editing table. 
That was when in a burst of inspiration, I rearranged all the scenes and cut lots of stuff out, and let’s say, gave the film a rebirth. And it worked. If on Bird Bitten, I learnt the importance of sound, on Footfalls I learnt the power of editing. I’m not completely happy, it dragged me down just as it earlier kept me occupied, but it’s much better than the earlier version, and people seem to like it more than expected. 
Just have to work more on it and try to create the best version possible. 
3/ A flatmate of mine asked if my short films had any themes in common. The 2 films are different—Bird Bitten is surrealist drama, Footfalls is experimental drama/ suspense; I wasn’t intentionally treating some common theme. 
Then I realised that they had 1 thing in common, in the ending—you are never safe.