16 January, 2008

Multimedia Milieu

These days, most of my time not spent wandering through the labyrinths of the internet is spent watching movies and reading books - mostly stuff I got for Christmas and am only now getting around to.


I watched The Shawshank Redemption a few days ago. I had seen bits of it on TV before, so I thought I knew what it was all about, but it turns out I had a slightly different interpretation of it than what it turned out to be. I remembered the scene where the old guy got out of prison only to hang himself. Now, what I thought the whole 'Redemption' was about, was that the main character dedicated his whole life in prison to studying law, until finally overturning his sentence on some kind of technicality. Then, having redeemed himself, with his life having been wasted in prison, and with nothing left to prove, he killed himself. Could I be thinking about a different movie?

Anyhow, this one ends on a much brighter note. I like the whole issue of prisoners being "institutionalized" to the point that they can't really function in society - how they grow to become dependant on those walls and bars - and they end up preferring the jailed life to one of freedom, just because they're so used to it. One of the most interesting points, to me, is the point about fear. A man who's spent decades in jail gets used to it - he's no longer afraid of it. To a person such as that, being placed out in the real world, with newfound freedom, is much scarier than being in prison. And I can relate to that fear of the world. I know what it means to live in fear. I've practically jailed myself in this house, and I'm afraid to come out because, though I desire freedom, I'm also terrified of it.

I also like the scenes where Morgan Freeman's character tries to make his case to the parole board about whether he's been "rehabilitated". The first time, you feel bad that the board outright rejects him ("I'm up for rejection in a few weeks"). The next time, you realize that what he said the first time wasn't particularly sincere, since he says just about the same thing every single time - and then you realize why he was so easily rejected. Eventually you begin to realize that he's only saying what he thinks the board wants to hear, which obviously isn't going to convince them. Then, finally, the time he gets parole, he goes through a truly heartwarming speech about the lie of "rehabilitation", and he basically tells the board off, since he no longer really cares, but he does it in a way that genuinely demonstrates the nobility of his character and his regret over his crime - and this time, he's accepted. A little bit of irony, and a very beautiful demonstration of changing attitudes over the passage of time.


Berserk is an amazing manga (Japanese comic) series about a man's fight against destiny in a world filled with demons - the true Dark Ages - and his quest for vengeance against a friend who betrayed him in the worst way. I really can't describe how good this series is - I get teary just thinking about it. I was introduced to it through the anime series, which is equally amazing, but only covers the very beginning of the story. Since then, I've been following the English translations of the manga, keeping up with the story.

I'm up to volume 19 now. After leaving Casca for the second time, Guts finally gets to see her again, but only briefly. The pagan ceremony was awesome. Something huge is about to happen, I can tell. They're at this huge religious tower surrounded by practically an army of refugees. And something has been hiding in the shadows, watching all that's been going on. And I think it's finally about to strike. This is a conjecture, but I'll bet the hidden thing is gonna inhabit that freak priest with the flat face (who practices 'prostration'), and we're gonna have a full-blown apostle on our hands. Those scenes in the torture dungeon were pretty hideous. One of the great things about this series is that it is successfully able to shamelessly marry intelligent plot and sympathetic characters with explicit sex and violence. I couldn't possibly ask for more! Except more volumes, that is.


The Fountain was among the DVD's I got for Christmas. I remember noticing it when it originally came out. It looked interesting, but I didn't get around to seeing it. Well, now I have. I have to admit, it was a fascinating movie, although it went in a bit of a different direction than I was hoping. I guess you could say I was expecting more fantasy and less drama. But it was still a great tale. With lots to interpret.

I guess the core of the story is what takes place in present time. A doctor on the verge of discovering a medicinal elixir of life, extracted from a tree in Central America, is racing against time while the love of his life is dying of cancer. She in turn is writing a story about the Tree of Life, related to Spanish/Mayan history. Part of that mythology involves the Mayan underworld, named after a dying star observed in the heavens. A star that the main character is traveling toward, in a bubble-like spaceship with a dying tree, presumably far into the future. These three timelines tradeoff as the story unfolds, leaving you to guess just exactly how they fit together.

I guess one interpretation would be that the past scenes are merely an embodiment of the story, and the future scenes part of the doctor's madness - leaving us with just the present. But, if we want to be a little more adventurous, we could conjecture that the doctor does in reality discover the secret to immortality and that the future scenes actually happen as is. But is there an interpretation where the past scenes could be real as well? Because that's what I was hoping for - a tale about two lovers who exist through many ages, from the past through the present and on to the future. But considering what happens when the conquistador in the past finds the Tree of Life, it doesn't seem too reasonable.

Still, the beauty of the story is the sheer imagination of it and the way it was filmed, and how the different timelines interact with one another to create a rich tapestry of storytelling. That, and the question of immortality that is inevitably brought up. Is death just a disease, that needs to be cured? Or is death the road to awe? It's a tough question that's been asked as long as man has been around, I imagine. And I don't think the answer is as easy as some people pretend. Life and death both serve a purpose, and neither one is purely good, or bad. I don't think there is an ultimate answer as to whether or not death *should* have a place in life. But it does have that place, and there is very little we can do about it - and this fact, I believe, will continue to inspire people to fight against it. You have to be careful, though - there is a balance to be found between vying for eternal life and accepting the simple fact of death. If we get too caught up on living forever, we make death all the harder to bear. And I think that's one of the messages that The Fountain carries - the need to accept death.


It's a little past its time, I guess, but having gotten the series for Christmas, I just started watching it. From the creator of The X-Files, it's been described as a darker version of that more popular series. I was aware of it when it was on for just a few short years before the turn of the millenium, but I never really watched it. I was totally absorbed in The X-Files around that time, and I don't think I would quite have been ready for it back then. But now, with my newfound interest in the horror genre, and the dark side of human nature, I think it's right up my alley.

I can't say much yet, as I've only seen the first two episodes. The story is about an ex-FBI agent (played by Lance Henriksen, who I've always known as the android Bishop from Aliens) who has a talent for seeing into the minds of killers. He balances his service as a member of a "consultant group" - the Millenium Group, whose aims are catching violent predators (and I suspect there's something deeper that hasn't been divulged yet) - with protecting his wife and young daughter (in general, and particularly from a potentially dangerous but as-yet-unidentified stalker). From the first episode, I get the impression the series will be dealing with catching a lot of truly disturbed murderers and rapists, but the second episode gives me hope that there is something deeper going on - that maybe there's an evil presence pulling the strings, that goes beyond the "cold heart and weak mind" of these killers. I'm anxious to see more.

No comments:

Post a Comment