Sportlov ar bast pa bio: Sports break is best spent at the theaters.
Sports break is the equivalent of spring break, although only for school children, and not the Universities!! During Sport Lov, parents are allowed time off, since children stay at home. February-March 2014.
The Book Thief: The movie is less about war or holocaust, and more about fear that lingers around us when mankind forgets its humanity. 2014
Anyone who knows me, knows I love movies. Watching them, making them, and writing about them.
However, at this point, I also keep away from mere 'feel good' movies. They serve their purpose sometimes. But I prefer the ones that make you think. Make you feel. Make you question.
There are some movies you wait for. For example, The Namesake (Mira Nair), The Life of Pi (Ang Lee), both of which were based on successful books. Both of which I had read. The Namesake, about an Indian family's journey --with regards to culture, values, and attitudes, from W. Bengal, India, Cambridge, MA, USA (In movie it was turned into New York). As you read the book, from a perspective of being an Indian, and a person of diaspora, you understand what losses the family was dealing with, how loneliness crept in their lives despite living in major cities. And yet, how they became a part of their adopted world within a generation. So much so that returning to what the first migrated generation called home, was not thinkable. You identity, cry with and care for the characters. There is an expansion of our being, but not without the pain that comes with being part of more than one world.
Life of Pi, a book by Yann Martel and brought to screen by Ang Lee deals with that eternal question…is there a higher power? The book is ambiguous as is the movie, about providing any answer. As its not an easy one. But it deals with not just disaster, loss of all that one loved, but also loneliness in the face of it. But more importantly, a commitment to life. Not necessarily from a moral stand point, but simply---simply because….. The entire book has one main character and several fleeting, but unforgettable ones. My favorite was Richard Parker, the beast who showed a soul.
As is the case with many movies that do not make it to smaller countries, The Namesake was never released on theaters in Fiji. I watched it on DVD. And have watched it several times. Still amazed at how the movie was completely by the academy. It was nominated and won some accolades at lesser known awards, but there was not even a mention of it at the Oscars.
Life of Pi, could not be ignored. It was the mighty Ang Lee, of Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger fame.
Then there is The Book Thief. Also, based on a book by Marcus Zusak. I have not read the book, and am afraid might not have the time to read. I am currently trying to re-read Harry Potter, simply because it is great for relaxation and wakes my inner child up. But even that, has been stuck for the last two months. I read about 80% of it over one 3 day break during Christmas, but have not been able to get back to finish the last two chapters.
But I had been waiting for The Book Thief, like I waited for the Namesake and the LIfe of Pi. So yesterday, after a whole week of application writing, teaching and meetings, I decided I must do something for myself. I hardly get the time. It had rained all day, I had worked on organizing my place, mainly papers and made some notes on things to do this week.
I took the bus, and arrived just about 5 minutes before the movie began. I know the premise of the movie. I had read enough, watched interviews, trailers, and extended clips. But I wanted to immerse myself in the film.
The film is set during the Holocaust, but it is not exactly about the Holocaust. Not like the Schindler's List, or many other movies. It is even less about war, as it is about fear. Fear that humans impose on each other. Because we all know that fear is a very good tactic to rule. Fear, so that we will forget we have hearts, fear so that we will not raise our voices when we see something wrong, fear that those we love would get hurt if we were honest and ethical. The fear that forms the foundations of all coups, authoritarian regimes and often times even in communist countries, no matter how poetic it sounds on paper.
The movie begins on a stunning over head shot of a train chugging through a snow covered terrain. So much so that the movie looks as if it is devoid of any color---merely black and white. The voice over is that of the Grim Reaper himself. And with that, with the voice of Death, the scene is set. Liesel, the main character, can feel, sense death as it comes to take her brother. I do not want to give away any more than that, but with that beginning you know that death and thoughts of death are going to be an important part of the movie.
The Heavens street where the the action takes place, despite snow, and war, and being nearly colorless, looks 'heavenly', almost like a postcard, but mainly because of the children there, who are always playing soccer! War is in the background, on everyone's mind, when they eat, sleep, help each other or celebrate Christmas.
Words, kind--thoughtful, --words, and deep-love, is what saves the day!!
Well, I will tell you what happened at the theatre, so you know not to listen to those reviews that call this movie a 'Kitsch Holocaust' film.
First of all, in today's age of internet downloading, borrowing, pay for demand and now NetFlix, the theatre was jam packed. The lady at the counter did not ask me where I would like to sit because I bought the last ticket.
There was an absolute silence from the moment the movie began. There were some light moments in the movie, which brought some light sounding chuckles. I was sitting in the middle of two young, blonde girls in their late teens or early twenties. From both sides, there were sighs and whimpers. But at some point, we heard a grown man cry. The girl on my left gasped and pointed towards downwards to our left, where the sound seems to be coming from. My attention moved from the screen to the same direction. And some time later I knew that girls on both my sides were crying. I could not hold my tears either, but I was silent. The girl on the left was trying hard to not make a sound as she sobbed, but every few minutes she had to breathe deeply to normalize her breathing.
If anyone wants to fault the movie, then there is a definite lack of plot. It does feel like a few random events put together. Not having read the book, I cannot compare it to the print version. But knowing movies, I know that 'plot' is not always a significant factor in telling stories. Sometimes, and especially in audio-visual media, it is the feeling that is created that lasts with you. Which in this case was done from the very moment the movie began till the end. True there is no grand finale, there is no tying of the knots, but that is the case in times of war. Holocaust stories for me are the same as Pakistan-India partition stories. Where people lived in fear and did not know who they could trust. I did not grow up with 'World-War II' stories, or 'Holocaust' stories. For that I must credit Hollywood, and specially Spielberg. In 1945, Indian soldiers were fighting for the British, in the WW II, but never acknowledged. We, the north Indian Punjabis, on the other hand, grew up listening to the horror stories of how our grandparents escaped partition of Punjab -- half of which remained in India and the other half was given away to Pakistan. We heard about how much wealth was left behind, and how many more people never made it 'home' on both sides.
In the Book Thief, although there is some harshness, and feeling of rising death toll, a lingering of fear of loosing loved ones, the story does not focus on the gore, or lip-smacking violence. In the middle of movie, is a beautiful story about 'words' about the world of imagination, about the 'savior' aspect of stories, and about people who believe in goodness.
Percival's direction and John Williams's music (Star Wars, Harry Potter, E.T., the list is endless) weave a magic that stays with you long after the movie is over.
After the last scene, when the credits started to roll, I stood up and leaned against the wall to just listen to the music. I simply cannot walk out on most of the movies, until the last credit has rolled, but especially not for movies like this where just listening to the score lengthens the feeling of the movie in your heart.
An older gentleman leaned and said a few things in Swedish. I understood about one third of it, and responded in english. He quickly switched to english and said, 'I read the book, 600 pages, and I read every word of it. I was wondering how they were going to render this book into a movie. And ..' He nodded, 'they did, just a splendid job'
My eyes were still teary, I was glad he could not see me.
'The young actors, the children were such great actors.'
'The fear is what they lived with, how hard to loose it all and know death at such a young age.' I said.
'Yeah, and then to show it so beautifully, with such sensitivity on screen.'
Even though people had started walking about about five minutes before, there was no sound but that of sniffles in the theatre.
I bought my groceries on the way back home, all the time wondering how people in war can even afford a decent meal? Do they feel like eating? or Fear and panic fills them up? What is the point of war? Who does it serve? But more importantly what does it do to the young? Can they ever come out unscarred? What do the children who survive war inherit?
If that was the purpose of the movie, to bring out an understanding of how war affects even those who are not directly involved in it, if the movie was aiming at something as subtle as silence heavy with soul searching, that is imposed on all those who live in such times, and how we must betray our own ethical notions to protect those we love, and how hard it is to be human in the times of 'war mentality', then ---well, mission accomplished!!