Another Masterpiece – Chernobyl

“We are dealing with something that has never occurred on this planet”

My husband and son just returned from Chernobyl last week – very taken with the 2 day tour and all the haunting sights. We all watched this series together this week. If you have not seen it yet – please do.

Among my friends, I have one of the first men who detected and reported the heightened radiation level in Sweden. He still remembers the chills along his spine in that moment. And I remember well when we all got the information from media. (The reindeer up north were forbidden food for many years after…) In February the same year, Olof Palme was murdered…Was this the beginning of the end of the world?

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, Soviet Union suffered a massive explosion that released radioactive material across Belarus, Russia and Ukraine and as far as Scandinavia and western Europe. Chernobyl dramatizes the story of the 1986 accident, one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, and the sacrifices made to save Europe from the unimaginable disaster.

The number of lives lost are estimated to somewhere between 4000 and 93000. The official number from Russia is 31.

 

It recieved  a total of 10 Emmy Awards. Brilliant acting and as we all know – reality is more chilling than fiction. You cannot stop watching…despite the horrible scenes.

Craig Mazin and Johan Renck have created a masterpiece, in large part on the recollections of Pripyat locals, as told by Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in her book Voices from Chernobyl. Material also from the scientist Valery Legasov (superbly played by Jared Harris), the deputy director of the Kuchatov Institute brought in to aid cleanup efforts.

Watch it.

Contemplate the future, and the cost of lies.

 

 

A Masterpiece – Good Omens

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote Good Omens, released 1990, when my daughter was born. So I missed out on it then. This summer my daughter and son made me read it, and we have watched the 6 piece adventure streamed from Amazon.

I simply LOVE it! The way I loved Narnia and JRR Tolkiens masterpiece about the Ring. But this one is hilariously funny as well. My student’s were more or less forced to read Gaiman’s books, but I was less into Pratchett.  But now – I have to read him as well. This series is a tribute to Pratchett from Gaiman.

I totally fell in love with the series – with a master cast (Cumberbatch, Jacobi, Richardson, etc.) …and Queen’s music. Michael Sheen and David Tennant – they could not have chosen a more suitable pair for the leading parts of Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon.

For 6000 years they have known each other, and have come to love us humans…with all our faults and errors…so when Armageddon is nigh, they have an agreement to save the world together.  No matter what their ”bosses” say.  And important roles for the outcome are played by young children – at the age of 11. (When I grew up, they said 11 was a crucial age. You will see how…). A timely novel and movie indeed!

Now, just enjoy this, my favourite fan youtube clip – with Belinda Carlisle’s hit from my younger days: Heaven is A Place on Earth!

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Turning Point

Amanda (Something to Ponder About) asks us: ”Have you ever experienced a ‘Sliding Door’ moment? Those moments when you made a choice in life, that led to significant changes for you?”

I have always loved the movie, Sliding Doors, and seen it several times over the years. Gwyneth Paltrow is never wrong either.

But first – in the header – the biggest turning point in my life was the arrival of the children. Nothing in life makes a greater difference.  Then, over to more – and different – turning points.

Highgate Cemetery, and cemeteries in general, have always attracted me. This beauty was hidden for many years, found in 2013, sleeping below the ivy. Things hidden can be things of beauty – and a given turning point. I read about those who found her, and felt instant love. She was made out of one, single piece of marble.

I have always wanted to believe…I was a firm believer as a child, but in the 4th grade my new teacher told me Jesus must have been a healer using natural medicines – no wonders, nothing. Maybe he hadn’t ever existed?

My whole world crumbled, and I felt cheated by everyone – because school, science and the teachers had all the answers…And still today, I cannot believe in God. I am more of a Buddhist, a Pantheist, but that is my firm ground and belief.

Becoming a teacher has given me so much more of life than I had ever expected. And it was a decision I never thought I would make. Only a short week jumping in for another teacher, made me decide. I have never regretted it!

Finally – back to the movies…..as children we all have a craving for magic. The books about Harry Potter filled that gap for more than one generation. Not to speak of Tolkien and C.S.Lewis… I guess they meant a turning point for many children (and grown-ups…), and for literature in general.

So, Cheers to the Magic in our lives!

Film Review -”Looking For Infinity: El Camino”

Review of Looking For Infinity: El Camino (2014)                            Director: Aaron C. Leaman

This is a philosophical documentary, runtime 58 minutes. The text on the DVD says: ”Looking for Infinity: El Camino is an immersive voyage along the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino De Santiago.”

The film is said to be “an emotionally driven chronicle of a group of people all at turning points in their lives.” Some quotes from the walkers: “You walk and you become a humble being”; “I need to get away to recharge my batteries”; “Simplicity is the key”; “Religion and vanity takes your energy away[…] When I am in nature I recharge my energy”; ”El Camino is the best place to find people that really care about others”.

The message of this introspective movie is that we need to slow down and reflect upon our lives – and if you are at a crossroads or at a turning point, walking El Camino might give you some good answers to your questions. Those who have walked it and lived it often say it is a metaphor of Life itself. “I’m not here to get to the Goal but to do every single step”.

 

 

The film technique involves using the camera at walking pace to show the landscape passing by and the empty streets mixed with close-ups on people while someone is speaking – mostly not the person in focus. The sound is soft and natural for the most part: Walking on gravel, running water, birds singing, a piano and some slow drumming, a faint opera voice – or simply – silence.

The variety of people and reasons for walking are enough to show what this is all about. But, I believe the movie would have won some extra points by having a more equal combination of male and female thoughts and speakers. Both voices need to be heard.

 

The conclusion is simple – this is an important movie and a movie for everybody in our modern, stressed out society. Its slow pace might make it easier for you to get in contact with your inner self. In today’s society we need to question our living –  planet Earth is running out of her resources and our young (in the western society at least) are increasingly troubled by mental illnesses. There is a connection and we know it.

Looking For Infinity: El Camino, is a very philosophic piece of art, and beautifully directed. I think it appeals both to those who have walked the Camino and to those who are considering doing it – as well as to those who never have thought of it before.

The movie gives you many thoughtful comments and reasons for walking, and they  will stay in your mind for long. They might even inspire you to take a break from your busy life and enter on a great learning experience – El Camino.

 

Links to website for more about the movie, and for DVD: www.caminomovie.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lookingforinfinity

 

For my own articles on El Camino, at Leya, click here:

El Camino

Buen Camino

Santiago de Compostela

Thursday Thoughts: Vivian Maier – Street Photographer – at Dunkers, Helsingborg

”A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” (http://www.vivianmaier.com/)

 

Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American street photographer born in New York City. Maier spent most of her youth in France, but returned to the U.S. in 1951 where she took up work as a nanny. In her leisure however, Maier photographed ordinary street scenes over the course of five decades, and left over 100,000 negatives, most of them shot in Chicago and New York City. She must have had a passionate devotion to documenting the world around her, resulting in one of the most valuable windows into American life in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

In 2007, two years before she died, Vivian Maier failed to keep up payments on storage space she had rented on Chicago’s North Side. As a result, her negatives, prints, audio recordings, and 8 mm film were auctioned. Three photo collectors bought parts of her work: John Maloof, Ron Slattery and Randy Prow.

Maloof had bought the largest part of Maier’s work, about 30,000 negatives, because he was working on a book about the history of the Chicago neighborhood. Maloof later bought more of Maier’s photographic work, but was unable to discover anything about the person behind the photos – until he found Maier’s death notice in the Chicago Tribune in April 2009. In October 2009, Maloof linked his blog to a selection of Maier’s photographs on Flickr, and the results were thousands of interested people.

From there, her name and fame flew all over the world. And today – until May 22 there is an exhibition at Dunkers in Helsingborg.

Street photo Dunkers 034_copy

http://www.dunkerskulturhus.se/utstallning/platshallare-utstallning/vivian-maier/

She worked for 40 years as a nanny, mostly in Chicago, but traveled around the world, photographing the ordinary man in the street. Mostly black and white photos, but in the end also colour.

 

Occationally also uptown people…

A large part of her work consists of ”selfies” – maybe she was one of the first real selfie -obsessed photographers? There is even a book on her containing only self – portraits.

Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits. Brooklyn, NY: powerHouse, 2013. ISBN 978-1-57687-662-6. Edited by John Maloof.

Most of her photos were taken with a Rolleiflex camera of high quality, but she also (among others) used a Leica.

The Rolleiflex can bee seen in many of her selfies.

This particular selfie, is my favourite one of Vivian Maier. I think it shows her dark and light sides, literally, as well as her enigmatic approach.

To focus, she had to look down in the camera from above, and that is also the reason to why many photos show people slightly from below.

In many photos she let her shadow or the shadow of her hat be the ”selfie”.

In the movie Finding Vivian Maier (2013), directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, we only get to know a tiny bit more about her – we never get to know the woman herself. Maloof has done some thorough research indeed, and I do believe that these few, very interesting, facts are all we will ever know about her. The film had its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2013, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.

 

Read more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivian_Maier

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finding_Vivian_Maier

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Wood or Season of Spring

I choose wood this time, for Cee. This very old cupboard of wooden lockers I found at the long bowling club in Galashiels, Scotland. I just adore it. Still very much in use!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist

A film tunnel that twists and turns..turning back time….A big surprise where we least expected it! Kristianstad was once a real film city and renowned as ”Little Paris” This tunnel contains old film memories of the great days back then in 1905 and the 20th C. This week Kristianstad celebrated its 400 years´ jubilée – and the King and Queen attended.

The Book Thief – to read, watch and love!

När jag hade läst Markus Zusaks Boktjuven var jag förtrollad av hans språk och att en så ung författare kunde skriva så fängslande och använda så spännande grepp. Förra veckan såg jag filmatiseringen av romanen, och jag blev inte besviken. Få filmer gjorda på goda böcker blir riktigt bra – den här blev det. Gå och se den!
The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak, narrated by Death and set in World War II Germany.
The Book Thief
2013 Film
  • Based on the beloved international bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, an extraordinary and courageous young girl sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany. She learns to read with encouragement from her new family and Max, a Jewish refugee who they are hiding under the stairs. For Liesel and Max, the power of words and imagination become the only escape from the tumultuous events happening around them. This film is a life-affirming story of survival and of the resilience of the human spirit.
The movie (131 minutes) was released in November 2013, directed by Brian Percival. Narrator Roger Allam.

This is a great film. The Book Thief has wonderful photography by Florian Ballhaus, an excellent musical score by Golden Globe and Oscar winning John Williams, and best of all, marvelous acting from Sophie Nelisse as the young girl, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as her adoptive parents, and Ben Schnetzer as the Jewish boy they hide.  ”Death” is the narrator, just like in the novel. The power of the story and the brilliant acting compensate for any short coming you might find.

I cannot imagine a more perfect cast for this film, and I loved every moment with Rush and Nelisse together. Their friendship and love for each other sparkles. I have always enjoyed Geoffrey Rush in his movies, but here – he made my heart melt. Just go and see it!

Dame Judi Dench in ”Philomena” – based on a true story

Efter storslagen fantasy kände jag att jag behövde en mer verklighetsförankrad film – det blev den verklighetsbaserade Philomena, med en av mina favoritskådespelare, Dame Judy Dench.

Filmen är baserad på Martin Sixsmiths The Lost Child of Philomena Lee från 2009. Philomena blir gravid som väldigt ung och därmed hårt straffad av det katolska Irland. Hon placeras i kloster tillsammans med andra ensamstående,  olyckliga unga mödrar och nunnorna säljer hennes son till ett amerikanskt par. Hon tvingas skriva på att aldrig göra efterforskningar för att finna sitt barn. Som pensionerad sjuksköterska börjar hon, efter 50 år, med hjälp av den sparkade BBC- reportern Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), att söka efter sonen.

Regissören Stephen Frears (”The Queen”) fokuserar mycket på Philomenas och Martins humoristiskt retsamma smågrälande under resan tillsammans och trots att de är så olika – de kommer från olika samhällsklasser och har helt olika intressen – så kommer de närmre varandra allteftersom vidden av Philomenas livsöde rullas upp.

Storyn väver skickligt samman allt från sexuella begär och religiös fanatik till dagens pressetik och ger oss en både spännande och informativ resa. Gammalreligiösa katoliker och vänner av äldre republikansk politik kan kanske stöta sig på hur historien utvecklas, men innehållet hålls historiskt och faktamässigt riktigt, samtidigt som det presenteras mycket väl balanserat. Martin reagerar starkt på nunnornas fruktansvärda synder i det förflutna medan Philomena trots allt som hänt henne är förlåtande ända till slutet.

Det här är en mycket berikande film. Judy Dench är som alltid fantastisk och tillsammans med Steve Coogan är de det perfekta smågrälande, humoristiska paret som trots grundberättelsens tragik gör att du lämnar biosalongen med både ett leende och en tår. Se den. Njut av skådespelarnas skicklighet, det lugna tempot och en fantastisk livshistoria. Du kommer inte att ångra dig.

Movies, movies, after the fantasy of Smaug, Hobbits and Dwarves I needed some reality – so I went to see Philomena with Dame Judi Dench, who is one of my favourite actresses.

From Imdb: In short, based on the 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, Philomena focuses on the efforts of a retired Irish nurse, Philomena Lee (Dench), mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock – something her Irish-Catholic community punished her severly for – and given away for adoption in the United States. In following church doctrine, she was forced to sign a contract that wouldn’t allow for any sort of inquiry into the son’s whereabouts. After starting a family years later in England and, for the most part, moving on with her life, Lee meets Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a BBC reporter with whom she decides to discover her long-lost son.

This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Judi Dench, left, and Steve Coogan in a scene from ”Philomena.”

Director Stephen Frears (”The Queen”) keeps the focus on Philomena and Martin’s sweet-and-sour banter, making “Philomena” a marvelous movie, a heartwarming drama with plenty of comedic pathos that features Judi Dench playing a simple Irish woman who doesn’t get the jokes of her traveling companion.

This odd-couple road trip tale is based on an incredible true story. Philomena has kept a secret for 50 years — when she was a teen, nuns sold her baby and those of other “shamed” young women to wealthy American couples. Now Philomena Lee is ready to find her son, and her own peace of mind, but she’s going to need some help on this journey. That’s when her daughter finds Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) at a party.

Coogan is co-star, screenwriter and producer — plays just-sacked government press secretary Martin Sixsmith, who takes on Philomena’s human-interest story as a journalistic assignment, despite it being the kind of article that he says only “weak-minded, vulnerable” people appreciate. He’s crass, and the two of them are divided by class – but on their journey together, they bond.

The story neatly weaves in themes such as sexual desires, religious beliefs, regrets of a lifetime and journalistic ethics, making for an intriguing as well as informative experience. Those of the Catholic faith and old American Republican politics will find matters to dislike here. The story is tough on these points and historically accurate, but neatly balanced as well: Martin is furious with the long-ago sins of the nuns, yet Philomena is the one with forgiveness in her heart to the end.

The journey of “Philomena” is an enriching one. It’s pure joy seeing Judy Dench – as always – and Dench and Coogan provides just the right touch of friction as well as humor. “Weak-minded, vulnerable” people as well as those more sophisticated will not regret they took this trip. At least I don’t.

See the trailer here:


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

”Hobbit: Smaugs ödemark”

Richard Armitage som Thorin Ekensköld i ”Hobbit. Smaugs ödemark”.

Bild ur SvD

Del två av trilogin gör Tolkien rättvisa

Hobbit: Smaugs ödemark är fortsättningen på Bilbo Baggers äventyr då han färdas tillsammans med Gandalf och de tretton dvärgarna som leds av Thorin Ekensköld för att återkräva dvärgarnas förlorade rike Erebor.

Regi: Peter Jackson I rollerna: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom m fl 2 tim 41 min. Från 11 år

Precis som många andra unga blev jag på 70-talet helt förtrollad av Tolkiens värld. Mest trilogin om Ringen, men också Bilbo och de underbara kartor som fanns tryckta på böckernas innerpärmar. Kartor över det okända gjorde fantasin mer verklig, för genom dem föddes känslan av att det fanns mer att upptäcka och möjligheten att dessutom skapa något helt nytt och eget.

Som alla bra attraktioner i den rörliga bildens historia introducerar Jackson hela tiden nya filmiska uppfinningar, och det slutgiltiga slaget i Sagan om konungens återkomst var nog det häftigaste som gjorts för bio när den kom. Men effekter och filmteknik åldras snabbt och science fiction- och fantasyfilmer som rider på de senaste datoreffekterna drabbas hårt.

Jag tror att det var denna fixering vid ny filmteknik och nya effekter som gjorde att Hobbit: en oväntad resa blev så svårtillgänglig.  Den blev till ett enda sammelsurium av oborstade dvärgar som myllrade fram i gruvgångar över hela duken och stundtals skötte sina kroppsliga funktioner med all (o)önskvärd tydlighet.

Men i uppföljaren Smaugs ödemark (som börjar in medias res och slutar i en snygg cliffhanger) ser vi äntligen ett mål och en mening i storyn. Bilbo är inte lika framträdande utan vi får istället följa dvärgarnas ledare, Thorin (Armitage), på närmare håll. Och ju närmare Thorin kommer skatten under berget och sitt förlorade hemland, desto mer tycks vittringen av makt få ett obehagligt grepp om honom. Storyns nerv sätts i dallring av att både han och Bilbo – som ju bär på den upphittade härskarringen – blir märkbart och påtagligt påverkade. En påverkan som följer 3D-versionen som en rysning rakt ut i biosoffan. Filmen introducerar också den kvinnliga alven Tauriel (Evangeline Lily från bl.a Lost), ett nytillskott som uppfunnits av Jackson och manusförfattaren Fran Walsh för att inte Smaugs ödemark ska bli totalt mansdominerad. Vi får se hur detta utvecklar sig i den sista delen av trilogin.

Smaugs ödemark bjuder alltså på en mer tydlig, genomarbetad och rak story med bättre stridsscener än The Hobbit. En central sådan är forsränningen i tunnor (se bilden ovan) och den bjuder på både häftig akrobatik och action som gör 3D-djupet befogat. Här gör alverna Legolas och Tauriel oförglömliga tricks som inget annat folkslag skulle kunna utföra. I en helt annan miljö går hjältarna vilse i en mardrömslik skog fylld av jättespindlar – en sekvens som riskerar konvertera spindelvänner  till spindelfobiker med eviga mardrömmar…Själv hukade jag i soffan och kunde inte titta när det var som värst. En helt ny miljö är den dimhöljda staden på vattnet, vilken byggdes i verkligheten med stor detaljrikedom.

Mikael Persbrandt gör en övertygande – om än kort – version av björnmannen Beorn. En karaktär som säkerligen återkommer i den sista delen av trilogin. Och alla vi som älskar Sherlock Holmes älskar också att den slipade Smaug lånat röst av Benedict Cumberbatch  – eller tvärtom…mycket passande!





”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

From Imdb:

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.

Watch Trailer

In The Desolation of Smaug, the dwarves march to take back their homeland, Erebor, and to accomplish this Bilbo (Freeman) and the dwarves must pick their way through a phantasmal forest, navigate raging rapids and escape Lake-town’s corrupt Master (Fry). After that, they must face the dragon…

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
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The dwarves and Bilbo get tangled with hissing spiders, a giant bear-man (Swedish Michael Persbrandt)and other perils. The heroes hide in wooden casks and are lobbed into what’s not so much an action sequence as an ”unrelenting pile-up of lunatic, barrel-based gags.” On their bumpy way down-river, they are pursued by elves and orcs (who are simultaneously at war in the branches above), and this is where the 3D-version works at its best: when oak cylinders fly at the camera, the barrels bounce off rocks and the agile Legolas and Tauriel perform stunts no other nation of people could even think of.

While An Unexpected Journey felt oddly inconsequential,  The Desolation Of Smaug is a much more satisfying film. The effects are not that central, and some events are even left somewhat ”unfinished”. For example Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), the aforementioned bear-man, is left behind before we’ve really had a chance to get to know him (though no doubt he’ll be back in the last part of the trilogy).

One problem with the former film was that it moved too much in the same area as the Fellowship of The Ring: we had already been there, so it was, for example, difficult to identify with Bilbo’s awe at entering the beauty of Rivendell. Here, Jackson has entirely new worlds to work with. The forest domain of the Silvan Elves has beauty edged with menace, and Lake-town and Erebor, contrasting but equally stunning showcases of production design. The former, ”a fog-shrouded, Dickensian burg” that we’re informed “stinks of fish oil and tar”, represents a new, earthy flavour for Middle-earth. Like Edoras in The Two Towers, it was largely built for real, which is visible in every detail. Kingdom-under-the-mountain Erebor, on the other hand, is a location weird enough to exist only on a Weta mega-computer.

The group splits in two and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), is off trying to fight the evil resident of Dol Guldur. Of the dwarves, besides Thorin (Richard Armitage), whose facade of nobility is beginning to crumble – the only one who gets much attention is Kili (Aidan Turner), an elf-like dwarf who (together with Legolas) fights for the attention of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Tauriel, an elf ninja character created for the film solely to bring something female into it…, fights bravely by Legolas’ side and gets to do magical stunts only 3D elfs could manage.

The standout new character is, of course, Smaug himself. Benedict Cumberbatch (much loved here in Sweden as ”Sherlock”) has lent his voice successfully to the ” blazing-eyed, honey-voiced, spike-helmed ‘serpent of the north’”. Never have we seen a dragon with this much personality: Smaug is such a well-executed creation, ”toggling between arrogance, indolence and rage”. After the last rough half-hour finale we cannot imagine what Jackson has in store for the last part of the Hobbit trilogy…