Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Twelfth Nights - Shakespeare at his Soppiest

Shakespeare in the park. This seems to be one of those traditional events that has been around for quite a while, though I have to admit that this is only the second that I have seen. Ironically, the previous one, which was in Adelaide years ago, also happened to be Twelfth Night (or so I believe, though it was so long ago I sort of can't actually remember which play it was that we saw, but I am sure it was Twelfth Night). Anyway, one of the reasons that I didn't go the last couple of years was because it was a performance of Romeo and Juliet and I have to admit that I am not a big fan of that particular play, though one of the reasons happened to be a Baz Luhrman production of which Leonardo Di Caprio was the star (though the other reason is that it is basically overrated).

However this year it happened to be Twelfth Night, and it is one of those plays that I don't really mind all that much, or not all that much until I realised how soppy the play happens to be (in my Goodreads review I gave the play a five star rating, which is the highest). A number of years ago a version was released in the cinemas starring Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia and Ben Kingsley as Fester, and that version was actually quite well done. I even stumbled across it on Youtube, though it has since been taken down, namely because it was no doubt a huge breach of copyright. However, it does appear that the BBC version is up, so I'll embed that one instead.


However, after seeing a really, really bad version of it where the director divided the show into a romantic comedy and a farcical comedy, and you could watch one or the other (but not both), I realised that this actually isn't one of my favourite plays. Okay, I will put it down to a pretty bad performance that was quite amateurish, however when I went and saw it again, this time in the park, it did strike me that the play actually isn't as good as some of Shakespeare's other plays. In fact, if there is a description that I could give this play, it is a 'soppy romance'.

In the Gardens

As I was sitting there among the crowds I sort of wandered what it was with the whole thing about Shakespeare being performed in the park. It isn't as if this was something that came about from his time since most performances were held during the day. Well, okay, if you happened to live in a small village then no doubt the performances would have been held in the town square, but back in those days you would have traveling players, like the ones we meet in Hamlet, who go from town to town and village to village performing for the locals. Mind you, unlike today, this wasn't a glamorous profession, but then again most actors crash and burn and it is only a handful that actually make it big - it is just that everybody wants to be a part of that handful.

The Cast
However there is a thing about some of Shakespeare's plays that make then quite suitable for an outdoor setting - they are what could be considered pastoral comedies, of which three stand out the most: The Tempest (set on an island), Midsummer Nights Dream and As You Like It (which are both set in forests). The thing with these plays is that a bulk of the action is set in the wilderness, or not so much the wilderness but rather an outdoor setting in what could be considered an idyllic world. In fact, in As You Like It, the Forest of Arden has such power over people that wander inside that they will actually be transformed from being a villain to being a pious monk.

However not all of his plays have such a setting, and the tragedies such as The Scottish Play, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet certainly aren't pastoral in their outlook. Sure, a bulk of King Lear is set on the moors, but the moors are a barren and horrifying place that drains the sanity from those who wander inside, and once again is not so much a garden, but a desert. However, Twelfth Night is a bit of an enigma. In a way it is a pastoral comedy, and in a way it is not. In my mind most of the action happens indoors, mostly in Oliva's manor, as opposed to in the outdoors. However, it is set in a mysterious land, a land that doesn't actually exist (Illyria), though I would put it somewhere on the Balkan coast of the Adriatic.

A Soppy Romance

It is probably time for me to actually give a rundown on the plot. As I have mentioned, the play is set in the fictional land of Illyria, and where the duke Orsino is smitten with the Lady Olivia, who doesn't return the love. This is causing problems for the land because the duke is too love sick to be able to actually do anything. As for Olivia, she is still mourning the death of her brother, and also has her uncle, Sir Toby Belch, living with her in her manorhouse. Into this world comes Viola, a young lady who managed to survive a shipwreck, but believes that her twin brother, Sebastian, didn't. Being on her own she decides to masquarade as a boy and seeks employment with the duke Orsino.

Orsino then decides to make Viola his messenger and to pass notes on to Olivia in an attempt to woo her. However Olivia falls in love with whom she believes is Cesario, while Viola falls in love with Orsino. This creates some very clever sexual tension since neither Olivia nor Orsino are aware of Viola's true gender, and Viola needs to refrain from doing anything that would cause Orsino problems, while fending off Olivia's moves.

Meanwhile, down in the kitchens of Oliva's house, we have Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek, and the maids, who are basically up to no good. They are loud, rauchous, and Belch is a raving alcoholic. In fact this particular play really played up Belches' alcoholism by having him drag a keg full of beer around and also carrying a whiskey flask that was huge. With them is also the jester Feste, who provides the musical score for the entire play.

So, after making huge amounts of noise they bring Malvolio, a puritanical servant of Olivia's (who happens to be in love with her, as is seen with his first encounter with Cesario/Viola), into the kitchen to chastise them for making so much noise. In response the rowdy occupants of Olivia's house forge a love letter and have Malvolio find it, who then goes and makes a fool out of himself in front of Olivia, and is dragged off into the cells to be 'cured'.

Then enters Sebastian, Viola's twin brother, and suddenly the games of mistaken identity begin as Olivia believes Sebastian to be Viola (or rather Cesario), and Sebastian basically decides not to question the fact that a strange, yet beautiful and wealthy woman, decides to declare her undying love for him and drags him off to be married, and decides to simply go with the flow. In the end, as can be expected of such a play, everybody ends up getting married, with the exception of Malvolio, who slinks off in dejection.

Two Plays in One

The thing that does stand out here is that there does seem to be two plays running side by side. This isn't the typical Shakesperian side plots and complicated stories that all become interwoven at the end, this is actually two plays that could easily be separated and performed alone - in fact this was done quite recently, even though it was, in my opinion, done quite badly. This is probably not surprising since Shakespeare is well known for borrowing his stories and plots from elsewhere and then building upon the original concept to come to the plays that we know today. However, what we have here are two vastly different comedies - one slapstick, and in fact  pretty farcical, and the other a romantic comedy that has lots and lots of sexual tension.

However, the problem that I faced was that I never particularly liked either of them. Sure, the tension that comes out of the fact that nobody actually knows Viola's gender is very clever, but that is the nature of the romantic comedy. Well, okay, it isn't, especially when you compare a Shakesperian romance with a modern Hollywood Romance such as, say, Pretty Woman (to pick a random movie). In many cases the modern romance is all about the act of a couple courting, and the comedy (if there is any) generally comes out through the situations that they find themselves in. However, in Shakespeare, this isn't necessarily the case - Orsino is in love with Olivia but Orsino isn't going to finish the play being married to Oliva. Rather it seems to be more of a love triangle, or an even greater mismash with Malvolio is thrown into the mix.

Yet the other play is basically about a group of people acting like idiots. In most productions they will be really hamming this part of the play up, namely because it is slapstick. In the production I saw they were certainly doing that, particularly with regards to Sir Toby's alcoholism. However, the interesting thing in the play is that the main characters seem to get away with being jerks, and Sir Toby even ends up getting married despite some of the cruel jokes that he had played on other characters.

Poor Malvolio

Which leads me to the treatment of Malvolio, which I have to admit gets a really sharp stab in the play. Sure, nobody likes a party pooper, but we sort of wonder why it is that people label him as being 'self-righteous'. The reality is that he is only doing his job, and if his mistress awakes due to a disturbance in the kitchen then he is going to be the one who gets in trouble. However, more subtley, is that he does have affections for Olivia, but this isn't surprising - he is her servant, and being her servant he will do anything and everything for her. This is why, when the note is discovered, he immediately responds the way he does - he has been serving her for years, and as he does so his love for her builds to a point where when it appears that it is to be returned, he takes it without asking any questions. In fact he is so smittern with her that he interprets an obviously fake letter as being the real deal.

Yet  for a noble and loyal servant, he is certainly treated pretty badly, but I suspect that this has something to do with the nature of the play - it is slapstick and farcical, and Malvolio is the foil. The problem is that at the end, when he shows Olivia the latter and she laughs, pointing out that it is an obvious forgery, and dismissing it out of hand without any way of apology to Malvolio, it seems that he is being treated unfairly. In a way it is knocking him off his perch - how on earth could the lady have such affections for a servant - he is a servant and servants aren't worthy of such affections from their masters (or mistresses as the case may be).

It is still rather uncomfortable though because it seems that both Belch and Aguecheek get away with, well, basically being jerks, which is really disappointing. In fact Belch even ends up getting married with one of the conspirators. In one sense, maybe it is that Malvolio has that sense of self importance, and stepping out and declaring his love for Olivia is stepping over the boundaries that has been set by society. Maybe it is that he needs his bubble burst, and that he is too zealous in acting as Olivia's gatekeeper, which is why in the end he slinks off, a broken man. Honestly, he is a rather annoying character, yet a part of me felt that he was treated rather unfairly, and seeing him slink off at the end does leave the play somewhat lacking.

Anyway, time to finish off, and in doing so here is Ben Kingsley, as Feste, singing the closing song of the play:

Creative Commons License

Twelfth Nights - Shakespeare at his Soppiest by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Vs Rodin - The Sculptor and his Influences

There I was, standing at a bus stop with my friend waiting for his bus to arrive when a tram trundled past us advertising a Rodin exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Well, if it wasn't for the fact that I had been to Paris and visited the Rodin House I would have never heard of the sculptor, however, ever since that whirlwind cultural tour of Europe that I went on in 2016 Rodin seems to have been appearing everywhere, and this exhibition was no exception. Unfortunately my friend was occupied to was unable to come with me, but as for me I decided to change my plans for Saturday morning and pay a visit to the Art Gallery.

The thing with this particular exhibition was that it was celebrating the centenary of the death of Rodin, a sculptor whom they claimed changed the way we look at the human body. Honestly, I'm not really all that sure if I can agree with them because his works, and the many other sculptures that I have seen, don't seem to be all that different. In fact from what I have encountered, he didn't seem to make all that much of a change from the way sculptures were done up to his time. Mind you, art has changed substantially in the years into the 20th Century, though that seems to have more to do with the development of the camera than anything else.

So, like many exhibitions that I have seen, this one takes us through a number of galleries, each looking at a different aspect of his art. However, what we are also seeing are contemporary artists who have produced similar works, though no doubt having been influenced by the works of Rodin. Yet it is not so much the artist that we are exploring here but how the artist changed our view on how we view the human body - a theme that seems to dominate. As with the other exhibitions that I have written about, I'll explore this exhibition through each of the galleries.

The Classical Body

There isn't all that much that we can't attribute to the artists and sculptures of the ancient world. Okay, while as painters they may have had nowhere near the skill or the complexities of the Great Masters, when it came to sculpture they excelled. In fact it was the sculptures that have been passed down to us that inspired the great sculptors of the Renaissance, and beyond, to learn and to then hone their skills in being able to replicate the complexities of the human body from stone. Rodin was no exception.

When Rodin was learning the art he would practice through using live models, but also create works out of clay. However Rodin went beyond simply mimicking the human body - he would to look and probe its depths. While many artists in the past sought to achieve the greatness of the classical sculptors, and the bring this lost art back from the dead, Rodin sought to transcend it not just to explore the human body as a physical form, or even as a work of art, but as something that went far deeper than that.

Of the other artists we have Anne Ferran, and her work entitled the Death of Nature. Ferran was inspired by the frieze that encircled the top of the acropolis in Athens, which depicted a religious procession that would make its way to the temple as a celebration of one of the Athenian's holiest days. These stones were stolen by the British and are now on display in the British museum. However, what Ferran is doing is that she is reinterpreting these images, and recreating them to bring them into the modern world. In a sense she is reimagining the classical imagery, and creating a much more feminist vision of these ancient Greek festivals.

The Fragmented Body

Rodin then did something that was truly outrageous - he produced a sculpture that was missing one major aspect - the head. The thing was that up until that time it was expected that all sculptures had a head, namely because it was the head that truly defined the subject of the sculpture. In a way without a head the sculpture could be of basically anybody - it was the head that told us who the subject of the sculpture was. In a way it seems as if the head was the most important aspect, to the point that while it was acceptable to only do a head, to simply do a torso was, well, unthinkable.

However, while exploring his workshop when he was producing his Gates of Hell, he discovered an unfinished sculpture of John the Baptist. In fact he discovered what could easily be considered little more than a torso. Thus he began thinking the unthinkable - how about we remove the head from the sculpture because then it forces us to focus not so much upon the person whom the sculpture is supposed to represent, but rather on the body itself. If the human body is supposed to be beautiful, let us remove all of that which distracts us so that we can truly see the body beautiful.

Paul Pfeiffer explores this in his work "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", which is a photograph taken from the olympics, but with all but one of the athletes removed. Even then any identifying marks of the athlete that remains being removed. This has the effect of taking our eyes away from individual athletes and allowing us to focus on athletes as a whole. In a sense it is only the winners that occupy our minds, and these winners have identies. However, instead of focusing on the winners, we focus on all, on those who strive to compete, whether successful or not.

Another exhibit was one by Oppenheimer (not the scientist) called 'Finger Churches', which parodies the concept of the church that children would make with their fingers. It reflects the rather fragmented nature of classical art, not so much that there is no reason behind it, but rather because so much of it is lost that at times we seem to only be able to grab bits and pieces of the work. It is similar to Felini's Satyricon, which reflects the fragmented nature of the work that it is supposed to follow - all we have for the Satyricon are fragments, so instead of guessing as to how to fill in the gaps, Fellini creates a movie that includes the gaps.


The Erotic Body

Well, it is probably quite difficult to separate art from eroticism, though the line between was is art and what is pornographic can be a very hard line to determine. However, I will explore that dichotomy in a later post, and instead will just look at Rodin. Rodin considered that working with clay to have some quite erotic elements about it, and he also explored eroticism in some of his works, including the sculpture of a woman clutching her leg. He also produced a lot of sketches, some of them even appearing in the work of Octave Mirbeau, called Le Jardin des Supplices (or The Torture Garden). Another aspect that he seemed to explore was that of Saphic love.

Another artist that we should take note of is Bourguoise, of whom a collection of her works was also on display in this gallery. One interesting depiction of erotic love comes from her work called 'The Cocoon', which is of a woman wrapped in what appears to be a hand. In a way love can be transformative, much like the cocoon transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly. However it can also be a prison, and also make one vulnerable - the butterfly is at its most vulnerable when it is in the cocoon, and while it is in the cocoon it is in many ways a prisoner. Bourgouise actually uses the spiral in a lot of her works, and it seems to be one of those things that she regularly returns to to explore.

The Body Across Space and Time

This room is actually supposed to reflect Rodin's studio, which is designed to turn creating art into a work of art itself. Also, in the centre of this particular gallery, is a statue known as 'The Three Shades' which was supposed to be the centre piece of his masterpiece - the Gates of Hell (which I understand was never finished). These three shades stand over the gates as a reminder of those who pass through of the torment and suffering that awaits them on the other side. In a way is cries out 'abandon all hope, ye who enter here'.

Around the gallery are other works of art that are said to have been pulled into the the gallery from across space and time. Here we have another representation of Balzac by Rodin, this time he is robed and is not in such as compromising position (as was seen back in the other gallery exploring the erotic body). In a sense the art that we are exploring here comes from different times and different places, whether it be surrealistic, or realistic, from the east, the west, or even the south. However, I will end this section with two sculptures by British artist Anthony Gromley - Small Bind III and Clasp III.

The Emotive Body

It is one thing to capture the image of an individual in stone, but it is another to capture the heart felt emotions of this individual, and this is something that Rodin sought to do - transcend the physical to begin to explore the emotional, and it is something that artists have sought to emulate since. In one sense it is all well and good to capture an image on canvas, or in clay, but it is another to explore the emotions, and to also seek a way to capture these emotions on materials, whether it be an image of one of the statues showing emotion, or whether it is the emotion itself.

This is seen with his sculpture 'Inner Voice' where while we see a feminine figure, this figure is more emotive than it is real. It is also fragmented, which is taking from his previous explorations where we move our minds away from the head, and indeed the face, and move towards the body. However, with Inner Voice, we are now being asked to look into the body and to explore the emotions, something that can be difficult to capture as these are not objects that we can point at and determine that it is something that we can see, taste, or touch, but rather something that we can feel, yet doesn't seem to have any real substance.

However let us consider another sculpture, the Kneeling Man, which was also supposed to be a part of The Gates of Hell. This borrows from the classical past, and is said to be of a Pompeain moments before the city was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius. However the statue has a lot of ambiguity about it, being arched either in passionate pleasure, or in excruciating pain - something that the sculptor is being deliberate about. In a sense pain and pleasure are considered two sides of the same coin, and in some cases pain can lead to pleasure, and in other ways pleasure can lead to pain.

Which brings us to a work by Rosemary Liang, which is a self portrait entitled 'A Dozen Useful Emotions for a Grieving Blonde'. Here we have two photographs of the artist, both appearing to be in one of two poses - is she laughing, or is she crying. Is she in pain emotionally or physically. In a way it does seem to be clear, but in another way it isn't. However, what the artist is trying to do is to capture raw emotion on film - to create substance out of something that has no substance.

The Mind Body

So now we leave behind the emotions and look at getting into the mind, though whether the mind and emotions are two different things can be debatable. However, I would probably suggest that they are, with the mind being that which is ruled by reason and the emotion being that which is not ruled by anything but rather acts on instinct and does what one does based not upon reason, but upon instinct.

One of the things that we see in this room are busts, however while busts are something that have been around for centuries, Rodin once again seeks to move away from the traditional bust to explore something different - the mind. Yet while the emotion is insubstantial, the mind seems to be defined by the face, and in some ways by the person - and while one may be able to hide what one is thinking, in another way the face seems to be able expose that which we try to hide.

This is when Wearing comes in with her photos. Here she is putting on a mask, following what Claude Cahun did ninety years earlier. The mind is one of those things that seems to remain hidden, namely because we hide it behind a multitude of masks. In one sense we present ourselves to people as one thing, yet in reality we are something completely different. This is the nature of the mask, and it is something that we rarely, if ever, take off. This is probably one of the reasons why marriages are so unstable, because we spend our lives putting on masks, and when we remove the mask people suddenly discover that what they see they simply do not like.

I want to finish this section off with a painting by Urs Fischer called Lemming. This, like many works of modern art, really does take some interpretation from the viewer to understand, and in a sense is a little shocking. Yet what it seems to do is to peal off that layer that allows us to keep our inner self hidden, and reveals that horrific interior to the world. Here the face has been removed to show us what is behind it, and in one sense the face is the final mask that we hide behind, and when the face is pealed off then the true horror of our nature is exposed.

The Mortal Body

Thus we come to the end of the exhibition, and also of the one thing that many of us try to avoid: our mortality. In many ways we try to do so much to stave of the inevitable nature of death, or to make sure that our name and our legacy are not lost to the mists of history. Sure, there are many that are only focused on the now, but there are also many, if not all of us, seeking immortality, either physically or memorially. In a way it feels as if we are still remembered, and talked about, then a part of us is still alive, and it is only when people stop talking about us that we truly die.

This is exemplified by Rodin's Pierre de Wissant, a citizen of Calais who offered himself as a sacrifice to the invading Edward III in 1347. This sacrifice in one sense ends his life - it is a part of his immortal nature - but the statue is creating a memory of him thus either keeping him from trying dying, or bringing him back from the dead. This statue comes from a work known as the Burghers of Calais, which represented the six citizens to offered themselves up to Edward.

We also have piece by Chinese artist Xu Zhen, called Eternity. Here we have ancient Greek and Ancient Chinese sculptures and are said to reflect the changing nature of the world and of culture. In a sense these societies are long since dead, and the cultures, and in turn religions are only remember from the ruins, and the texts. Yet despite them being dead, there is something immortal about them in that they are being remembered, and thus are not forgotten.

Creative Commons License

Vs Rodin - The Sculptor and his Influences by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Monday, 10 April 2017

Trainspotting - The Musical

Years after it hit the screens I finally managed to get around to watching Trainspotting. I'm not really all that sure what it was that spurred me to actually do it, but for some reason it wasn't one of those films that really jumped out at me. Okay, it was a pretty popular film, an one that was widely watched and talked about, but for some reason a film about a bunch of junkies never seemed to grab me all that much, which is surprising since I have watched films and read books about people who over indulge in drugs, in particular Burrows' Junky. Mind you, I am also somewhat surprised that reading Junky didn't provide the impetus to watch this film either.

Anyway, one night, after a rather hectic day out, I sat down in my lounge and looked the film up on Youtube. In a way I am starting to appreciate this modern aspect of watching movies since now we don't have to worry about hiring a movie from the video store, go home and discover that it has been scratched to buggery and simply won't work, and then can't be bothered going and finding another copy namely because it is a weekly and the only copy available in the store. No wonder people have resorted to downloading films and TV series over the internet since some people simply can't justify purchasing the DVD, and the video store never offers any guarantee that the film will actually work. Sure, we can get out money back, but the thing is I don't actually want my money back, I just want to watch the film.

Well, once again I have gone completely off track, but then again I guess it happens to be my voice. So, here I am sitting down, watching Trainspotting, and suddenly discovering that it is in fact really, really good. In fact it was so good that it basically deserved a blog post all of its own, but I decided to hold off and wait until I watched the sequel which was about to hit the cinemas. However, after watching the sequel (which, while it was a good movie, and explained a number of things that were left hanging in the previous movie, such as why it was called Trainspotting when nobody was actually watching any trains, and there was only one shot of a train in it, I felt was a little unnecessary), I decided to let it slip for a while, at least until I watched it again.

Then I was in Adelaide for the Fringe, and as I was wandering past what used to be an underground food hall and out the front was an advertisement for Trainspotting, a play. Unfortunately the show that I wanted to see was sold out so I jumped onto the internet and sure enough is was appearing in Melbourne for the comedy festival, so all was not lost. So, I booked my tickets (well, I didn't actually, I just rocked up one night and fortunately it wasn't sold out) and then went to see how they were going to turn this film into what is effectively a stage play.

The Story

Actually, I probably can't say whether Trainspotting has a plot namely because it isn't one of those types of movies. Rather it is allowing us to have a look into the lives of five youths living in Edinburgh. The theme of the movie is basically the choices that we make, and the big choice is whether to chose life, as the advertising campaign of the time would have it, or chose a life of heroin addiction. The play is similar, in that like the film it opens with this discussion with regards to whether we chose life, or chose addiction. However the film and the play do end up diverging, which isn't surprising because I don't think they are trying to simply copy the film, but rather tell what is in effect the same story in a different way.

When you wander down into the basement (and it appears that they always chose a basement to stage the performance) you are confronted with a group of people dancing to some old school electronica. The original story was set in the early nineties, but it seems as if they are attempting to modernise it somewhat. Still, the story from the original film, and the story as we see it now is pretty much the same - in many cases we are still confronted with the problem of drugs, and while drugs may have changed, their effects are still very much the same.

However the focus of the drug in Trainspotting is heroin, and it is still a drug that is prevalent today. The thing is that it seems to have been superseded in some cases by crystal meth (or speed), at least here in Australia, but when I was in Antwerp I ended up having a discussion with somebody about drugs and he indicated that over in Europe heroin was still pretty much the drug of choice. The interesting thing is that while we may know about the effects of the drug, and its destructive nature, people still take it. Why? because it is really, really nice.

Peer Pressure

One of the stories in the film, and the play, is the story of Tommy. One of the problems with the play is that it seemed to suggest that you have already seen the film, namely because there are a lot of references to the film that aren't entirely explained in the play. Mind you, the same was the case with the film because Trainspotting is actually based on a book, and there are events in the film that are explained in the book, but not really clarified until the sequel (which appeared twenty years later).

In the film Tommy was one of the five, the others being Spud, Sickboy, Renny, and Begbie. In one sense the film follows Tommy's descent, though it seems that there are aspects of it that are out of his control. For instance he has a number of sex tapes of him and his girlfriend, and one of them is 'borrowed' by a friend. When his girlfriend discovers that the tape is missing, an argument ensures and she walks out. Up until this point Tommy is actually a very healthy person, but eventually convinces his friends to give him some heroin, and pretty much everything goes down hill from there.

You see Tommy contracts aids, which is actually a huge shock because he is the one that hasn't been using herion for as long as others have, and the others have been sharing needles as if they were in an incredibly short supply (which as a matter of fact are, namely because you simply can't walk down to the chemist and buy a ten pack). The thing with aids though is that if you land up with it (at least back in those days) it basically says one of two things about you - you are a homosexual, or you are a junky. In a sense it is a disease that if you land up with it pretty much outs you as somebody, who at the time, wasn't a respectable person - the film Philadelphia also confronted this issue.

Yet one of the hardest things that our young people face is peer pressure and the approval of our friends. Half of the reason that young people end up getting caught up with drugs, or even begin smoking, is because their friends do it. The thing is that even though our televisions may constantly be blaring out how dangerous drugs are, and how smoking is really, really bad, people still start smoking, and people still start taking drugs. The thing is that a user isn't generally going to see the drug as bad as people claim they are, and when you try to point out the dangers to them, their mind is so addled that all they can see is the joy and the comfort that the drugs bring them. In the end, in their mind, you are just peddling government propoganda

Escaping Reality

I have heard alcohol referred to as a social lubricant in that it loosens you up so that you are able to be more sociable around people. Okay, I'm not having a go at alcohol, but we need to be realistic about it in that like many of the other drugs out there, alcohol is one and it is a pretty devastating one at that. The interesting thing is that while the media and the government seem to go out of their way to decry the evils of illegal drugs, there is one that is just as dangerous that is pretty much freely available. However there is a problem - prohibition doesn't work. In fact it just changes the method of distribution and pushes the price up. Over taxing doesn't work either, as is the case with cigarettes. There are so many people out there that say that once a packet of cigarettes hits a certain price then they will quit  - well, that is the problem, if they will only quit were a certain event occurs, then they really don't want to quit in the first place.

However, the question still comes about as to why people take drugs. Well, there is the case of peer pressure, but the thing behind peer pressure is that those pressuring are doing it because they really enjoy something and they want other to experience the joy as well. The problem is that as with everything, the joy is always fleeting, which means that once it is gone, it is gone for good, and is never coming back. Well, apparently it does, but the thing is that it is never, ever, as good as that first time. This is why so call friends always want your first time to be the best, because if you hate it, well, you're not going to want to do it again.

This is the catch though - you want to go back, you always want to go back, so your waking hours are always looking at finding ways to get back to that joy, that reality, that you have been rudely awakened from. However, this is what is termed as psychological addiction - it is even worse when the addiction is physical. Yet sometimes I wonder whether a physical addiction is harder to break than a psychological addiction, because a physical addiction may induce pain and such, but a psychological addiction convinces you that you need it and that you cannot function without it, and that you will go to incredible lengths to get it.

What About Weed

I'm sure that we are well aware of the legalisation movement for marijuana that is sweeping the western world, but the question comes down as to whether it should be legalised. Well, as with all drugs, as far as I'm concerned locking users up and treating them like criminals doesn't solve the problem - if it did the gaols wouldn't be bursting at the seams and people wouldn't be smoking the stuff. The thing is that most people don't actually expect to get caught until, well, they get caught. Personally, the same should go with the small time dealers, because most small time dealers are only dealing as a way of supporting their habit, and the reality is that you don't actually make all that much money as a small time dealer.

Yet weed is a drug, and it isn't a drug like alcohol where you have have a wine with your meal and that is it, weed is a drug that when you take it it hits you. Well, if you have been taking it for a while it isn't that strong, but as a lot of marijuana users say, there is nothing better than that first smoke of the day. You see that is the thing with marijuana - you spend all day wanting to have that first smoke, and then you spend the rest of the day trying to get back there and failing. In a sense it basically makes you completely unproductive - well not quite, namely because I have known plenty of people who are regular users of marijuana that are able to hold down full time jobs.

Personally, I think drug addiction shouldn't be treated as if it were a crime, but rather as a sickness. However, one of hardest things with drug addiction is that when you are among a group of people who use drugs, then you are going to be regularly tempted to also use the drugs. However, you can't necessarily leave that group of people namely because to do so would mean that you no longer have any friends, and making friends is actually a really, really hard thing to do. The reality is that there are actually a lot of people who want to escape, but can't because of their friends.

A Final Word

Which brings me back to the film because it actually deals with these aspects of drug addiction, namely the inability to escape from your friends, and the difficulty in actually coming clean. The thing is that it is not just the story, but the way the story was constructed, namely because there has yet to be a film by Danny Boyle that I have not been impressed with. The cinematography and imagery of the film impacted me in a way that it sat with me for quite a while afterwards, and is one of the reasons that I descended those stairs to watch the play.

As for the play, it was funny, really really funny, however the film was supposed to be funny as well. The problem was that I didn't approach it as a comedy, which is why I didn't laugh. In fact I didn't think that I was supposed to laugh, but when I look back on it I can actually see how it is quite amusing. However the play is much more so, and it is also very interactive, with the actors drawing the audience into the play to the point that you are sitting there praying that they don't pick on you next. However, the structure of both the film, and the play, is that it begins with the jokes to loosen you up to prepare you for what is in effect a very confronting view of a world that many of us want to avoid. The thing is that drug addicts aren't monsters, they are just human beings, like us, who have made the wrong choices.

 Oh, and why is it called Trainspotting? Well, in the suburb of Leith in Edinburgh there was an abandoned train station and junkies would go into the station to 'shoot up'. When asked what they were doing they would reply 'we are doing a bit of trainspotting'. The term then became connected with shooting up. In fact drug users the world over use special code words to tell others what they are actually going to do. Anyway, like the film, I'll finish off with a shot of a train from overhead.

Creative Commons License

This work by Trainspotting - The Musical is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at http://www.sarkology.net/. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Monday, 3 April 2017

Deutches Filmmuseum - The Illusion of Movement

Sometimes I need to be careful when it comes to asking my brother which museum that I would like to visit because he ended up picking the World Cultures museum and I suddenly realised that I wasn't particularly interested in going to a museum on World Cultures. Fortunately it turned that it was closed, so we then went to the next museum on our list - the Film Museum. Well, as it turns out the Film museum was much more interesting. However, at first a part of me was a little hesitant on going in, though I eventually gave in to my curiosity.

I have already written a review on the film museum on various websites - okay, Yelp and Google Maps namely because I really don't like Trip Advisor though I am sort of wondering why I keep on writing reviews on it. The main reason is because the interface, well, sucks, and it still uses pop-ups which are hugely annoying. Also, unlike Yelp, it doesn't have a community. Okay, unless you live in America you generally don't have a huge amount of interaction on Yelp, but the fact that the community comes to the fore front, and that it is much easier to read other people's opinion on things, makes it my preferred site. Okay, there is one good thing about Trip Advisor, and that is that it is good about finding attractions and sights to visit, but for restaurants, pubs, or even bookstores, I'd probably go through Yelp.

Anyway, here is a map of where you can find the museum:

Being a film museum you can probably expect that they have some cinemas, which is actually the case. Mind you, I doubt you would go here to watch the latest Avengers or Star Trek movie, but rather art house and avant garde, as well as historical, films. Remember, this is Germany, the country that produced two of the greatest films in the silent era - Nosferatu and Metropolis (the other being Battleship Potemkin, a Soviet film). Sure, you might argue that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keating should rank up there as well, but while they have made some pretty spectacular films, they just don't seem be on the same level as Metropolis (though Chaplin certainly can be confronting at times).

Anyway, before I continue, since this is a post about the history of film I'll include an embed of Metropolis, with English subtitles of course.

I won't say anybody about this classic film as I will leave it for another post somethime in the future (when I get around to watching it again that is, though I should also throw Charlie Chaplin and Nosferatu into the mix as well), and will continue on with the post on the history of film. Well, actually the museum has two sections, one on the history of film, and the other on the creation of film, however I'll also leave that for a follow up post.

Before the Camera

Well, people have always had a desire to see things that are beyond the scope of their world or their imagination, which is why we have artists. It is not just being able to see places that are on the other side of the world, but also being able to look into the worlds of myth and imagination - in a way to give forms to these vague ideas that drift through our mind, and to give a real substance to the stories that were told throughout the ages. I guess this is why religious art was so popular, despite the fact that Christians weren't actually supposed to make a graven image of God. However, in a way it probably has something to do with the new covenant, which suggest why the Christians threw away the long held tradition of never creating an image of God, to creating images with reckless abandon.

I would join the trend

However, this is a post about film, and not religious art, so we will move on to the viewing scopes. The thing is that there have been paintings, sculptures, and drawings for centuries, it is just that we were looking for other ways to indulge our pleasures. The thing with paintings is that they are static - sure, one can create illusions with paintings, but some of these illusions were not to come around until much later. Instead entertainers looked for other ways, through the use of mirrors and lights, such as with the kaleidescope, to create this illusion, particularly an illusion of movement.

These viewing scopes would not have a single static image either, but rather images that would change, and in a way tell as story. There was also the Anamorphosis, which would also create the illusion of movement. If you look at the image without the device it would look, well, rather strange. However insert it into the device, and spin it, and suddenly you begin to see movement. It was all about tricking the eye, and deceiving the perception, so that what is static would appear to move - this is the trick of film.

Trust me, it isn't modern art.
There was also the panorama, and while not something that actually movies, it creates the impression of immersion. A great example is actually located at Waterloo, just outside of Brussels, where Napoleon fought, and lost, his final battle. The panorama is a huge building and the painting surrounds you on all side. You enter from below and suddenly feel that you have been transported to another time and place - as with the one at Waterloo, you are taken back to the Napoleon's final battle.

The Deception of Movement

The illusion is created through an effect known as the 'stroboscopic effect'. This is a series of flashes which tricks the brain into see a static object move. With a film camera, these are a series of static images that are fed in front of a light and a rate of 16 to 32 frames a second, and are projected onto a well. When you look at the film it just looks like a series of photographs, however on the screen it looks like it is moving. A similar example is seen where you draw a series of pictures on pieces of paper, and then flick the paper, as shown below. This is referred to as 'flip book animation'.

This effect, also known as 'persistence of vision', was also used with an object known as a Thaumatrop. This is a circular object with pictures both sides, and a string along the diameter. The disc would then be spun, and the two pictures would merge into one. Sure enough, there are plenty of them on the internet for me to show you how it works.

The next item is the Faraday wheel, a wheel that when spun at a certain speed appears to either be stationary, or even to be spinning in the opposite direction. The wheel is known as a Faraday wheel because British Chemist Michael Faraday was the one who was experimenting with the idea, and also exploring these illusions on the brain. However, while Faraday was looking at this in the name of science, entertainers saw another way of being able to entertain people through the illusion of motion.

Further development turned this into a drum, where mirrors would be used to create these illusions, but the illusion was actually a lot more crisp, and cleaner, than the ones that were used on Faraday's device. However, there were other developments in the works, developments that would take the illusion of movement, and take the ability to create visual stories, one step further.

Age of the Camera

Well, the camera changed everything. Up until then images and people could only be recorded through painstakingly slow and precise artistic measures such as sculpture, painting, and sketching. However, through advances in the art of chemistry we were now able to take instantaneous pictures (which is why the nature of art began to change). However, this change didn't come about instantaneously as early cameras were pretty bulky and the exposure time painstakingly slow. In fact you needed a degree in Chemistry be to able to use one. As such taking photos of people, or even experimenting with film, was pretty much impossible. As for me, I remember doing an experiment with photography when I was back in high school and all I can say is that I failed abysmally.

However come 1850 and suddenly the camera is able to enter mainstream use, which is why we are able to see images of the American Civil War, probably one of the first wars in which the camera was utilised. However, there were other aspects to the camera, such as the fact that we see the world through stereo-vision - we have two eyes - and as such cameras were created to reflect the stereo-nature of our perception, and also to create depth (usually through the use of mirrors). This was for objects where the user would look into a scope to see the illusion of a moving image behind it. Colour was also achieved through the use of primary colours, and also projecting through through the image through the use of mirrors.

Projecting the Image

Much of what we see these days we simply take foregranted the complexity that goes into creating them. For instance the concept of projection, which is the use of light to make a small image much, much greater. I still remember when I was younger that the projection of static images was achieved through the use of overhead projectors, and that the projection of a moving image still required a film projector - film, and the projector itself, was never cheap. These days we take that foregranted, particularly since the price of video projectors has dropped remarkably - when I was in university one would set you back something like $8000.00. However you can buy them quite cheaply from your local electronics retailer.

Mind you, the concept of projection has been around since we realised that if we stood in front of the sun our shadow would be cast upon the walls. However in the mid 1600s a monk, Athanasius Kircher, worked out that through the use of mirrors, and positioning the light, you could then project an image, which is much larger than the original image, on the wall. Seems simple enough, but the thing with the shadow is that the light has to hit us in a specific way for a proper image to appear on the wall, otherwise it appears all skewed (and you will also note that multiple shadows also appear to either side).

This discovery led to the creation of the 'magic lantern', a device that used Kircher's ideas, to project a transparent image onto the wall. Mind you, nobody actually knows who invented the lantern, however the device became popular with both entertainers and charlatans. The projection of an image on the wall was both used to entertain people, and to also instill the fear of god into an ignorant audience. Further, the illusion of movement could also be created by moving two images against each other, thus making it appear that waves would move, or fire would burn. Quite quickly did this device become the staple of the traveling showman and story teller.

Birth of the Cinema

Come the end of the 19th century and we had the electric light and the railway, and modern society was beginning to emerge. It was around this time that people were now looking to see how they could record moving images. They had the camera, and they had ways of projecting images onto a well, but it was now time to combine these inventions, and this was eventually done not by an American, but by Emile Raynard, a Frenchman. However, it was the inventor of inventors, Thomas Edison, that put the idea into a box known as the Kinetiscope, though the problem with this was only one person could view the show at the time. However, once again, back in France, we have the brothers August and Louis Lumiere who were the inventors of the modern film projector (though I should make a comment on how ironic it is for somebody with the last Lumiere to invent the film projector - for those who don't know, Lumiere is French for light).

I should also mention Ottomar Anschutz, a German, who through the study of movement, in particular storks in flight, worked out that by cycling through a series of images, each of them slightly different, you could create the illusion of movement. Mind you, it wasn't as if this was actually a new idea, namely because flip books had been around for quite a while before that. However, the idea is that if a certain number of frames are projected through the projector over a period of time, then the illusion of movement is created, and this rate I believe (at least from my video production course I did once) was 32 frames a second.

And thanks of all the hard work of these pioneers we now have an establishment known as Hollywood, and the actor has risen from being a poor traveler who was a member of a theatre troop (though if you happened to be the member of a troop that was sponsored by the king then you were living a reasonably comfortable life) to the celebrity icons that we have today. Mind you, the reason for this is because cinema, and on top of that television, has created a much greater exposure for the actor than they ever would have had if they were just performing for the king - in essence the actor has gone from being the entertainers to the nobility to nobility in and of themselves.
Creative Commons License

Deutches Filmmuseum - The Illusion of Movement by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me