Friday, April 05, 2013

2 Become 1

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness

                In the world Le Guin created everything is informed by a principle of duality. There are complementing nations of Karhide and Orgoreyn sharing a continent, both male and female are residing in each individual, there are even lines of a poem evidencing it: "Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way." This principle is disturbed by Genly Ai.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles

                Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is a tale of conquest drawing many parallels with the invasion of America. Just as Europeans came to America and imposed their rules and customs nearly exterminating the natives in the process, so the humans came to Mars and did the same. The parallel is most obvious in "—And the Moon Be Still as Bright" where Spender talks of Cortes' destruction of the Aztec Empire and Cheroke shows empathy for the Martians because of his Cherokee ancestry.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Convergence of the Sexes

Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Herland

                There's an obvious feminist aspect to Herland, but it's just a frame for more universal ideas. The depiction of perfect society consisting only of women clearly strives to show they are no less capable than men, but rather than emphasizing female characteristics, Gilman creates a society in which they are toned down and concentrates on common human qualities. Terry's rant makes it evident: "They've neither the vices of men, nor the virtues of women — they're neuters!"

Power of Quantity

H.G. Wells - The Invisible Man
H.G. Wells - The Country of the Blind

                There is a great struggle between the individual and the society presented in The Invisible Man and The Country of the Blind. Both feature a lone man with a remarkable distinction from the others which, at first seeming advantageous, soon turns out to be the source of his doom.

The Beauty of Creation

Nathaniel Hawthorne -  The Artist of the Beautiful

                All of Hawthorne's and Poe's short stories but one have death as one of the main motifs. The exception is Hawthorne's The Artist of the Beautiful. While the other stories talk about transience this one celebrates eternity.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The curse of ambition

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

                One of the most interesting things in Shelley's novel is a parallel she creates between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Both of them are highly intelligent beings with a great thirst for knowledge as well as an extraordinary eloquence, moved by the beauty of nature and human kindness and led, at first, only by good and noble thoughts. They also both end up in misery, wanting for themselves nothing but the death of one another. The parallels point to a special connection between the two, similar to that between God and man. However, while God created (man) in his own image, Frankenstein hasn't, as the "daemon" laments: "...but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid from its very resemblance."

Friday, February 22, 2013

The simplicity of greatness


                I don't know many details about Abraham Lincoln's presidency so I came into Lincoln unburdened by historical facts. There were some expectations though, considering the director is Steven Spielberg, and they ended up completely fulfilled. The film begins in the midst of the Civil War and follows Lincoln's attempt to bring an end to it, as well as to slavery, and the difficulties he faced doing it, ending with his death after the assassination at Ford's Theatre.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The blood is the life, but what good is a life without faith?

Bram Stoker - Dracula

"I want you to believe."
"To believe what?"
"To believe in things that you cannot."

                Stoker's novel surprised me at first for, being written at the end of 19th century when all of the industrial and technological advancements made the idea of everlasting more possible than ever and everyone strove for a kind of immortality for themselves, it's unusual that it seems to battle the very notion of immortality in this world, marking it as a curse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In the search for meaning

Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

                Carroll's Alice stories are considered to be full of different meanings, but what I've noticed just now is how Carroll toys with the notion of meaning itself, both literal and hidden. Using words with multiple meanings (dry, miss) or those equally pronounced (tale/tail, flour/flower) Carroll shows how easy it can be to misunderstand, but he doesn't stop there. At one point the Duchess says to Alice: "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.", indicating how the hidden meaning is ours to give regardless of that originally intended. Most works aim to deliver a message, but contrariwise, Alice stories only provide a reader with a framework in which to find one.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Who's the fairest of them all?

Brothers Grimm - Children's and Household Tales

                The visual appearance of women plays an important part in Grimms' tales filled with beautiful princesses and ugly witches . It's almost always connected with personality traits like in The Three Little Men in the Wood where one step-sister is "pleasant and pretty" and the other "ugly and hateful", or Mother Hulda where the women are "pretty and industrious" and "ugly and lazy". It seems that good traits are connected with having a good appearance and bad traits with having a bad one, but it's more complicated than that.

One book a week

                I've recently started with a course called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World on Coursera. It's a course based on reading and interpreting 10 fantasy and science fiction books. Every week we must read one book and write a short essay concentrating on some particular thing we found interesting in it. Even though they're not reviews of the whole books, those essays still reflect my impressions so I've decided to put them here for your consideration and I hope you'll find them interesting and revealing.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A little change is always welcome


                Often these days prominent filmmakers decide to tell a story already told. Sometimes even a story told multiple times. Whether it's for a lack of ideas or because of their love of the subject and confidence they can make something special out of it is debatable, but whatever the reason the expectations from such endeavour are always high. That was also the case with the latest of that kind, Tom Hooper's Oscar hopeful "Les Misérables".

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hey, let's be positive


                It's hard to make a good romantic comedy. There are dozens of them every year and they (almost) all recycle the same formula: guy meets girl, they fall in love but won't admit it, encounter some obstacles, and overcome them all to live happily ever after. There's often a little drama too, added to make for some serious moments, but rarely it bares any real weight. Seeing the trailer it was obvious to me that the same is the case with director David O. Russell's new film "Silver Linings Playbook" so I wondered how can it be that the film was nominated for an Oscar in all important categories, counting the nominations to eight. I've recently watched it and stopped wondering. Sure, it has the same formula, but Russell (who also wrote the screenplay) and his cast make all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The price of success


                On May 2nd 2011, SEAL Team Six of U.S. Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden. That messed up plans of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal who were working on a film about a years-long and unsuccessful hunt for the man. They of course changed the story and reportedly scrapped all of their previous work to start anew. The result is "Zero Dark Thirty" (a term marking time between midnight and dawn), one of the most lauded films of the year with five Oscar nominations but also one of the most controversial with its depiction of torture at CIA black sites.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fantasy will destroy power, and laughter will bury it


                I was born and still live in Rijeka, the biggest Croatian port but by global standards a really small city of less than 200 000 people. Although it's one of the biggest ports of the Adriatic sea it's a fairly unimportant city on a bigger scale, but just some hundred years ago that wasn't so. In 1918, after the end of WWI, the city of Rijeka (then called Fiume, the meaning of both names being "river") was one of the hottest points of dispute with both Italy and Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) claiming sovereignty over what was until then the main Austro-Hungarian port. It even provoked Allies to take control over the city until the negotiations were finished, with US president Woodrow Wilson being the main arbiter in the dispute. But that situation didn't last long as in September 1919 Italian poet and soldier Gabriele D'Annunzio gained control over the city with around 2 500 loyal troops. Thus was created Italian Regency of Carnaro, a self-proclaimed state with D'Annunzio at the helm which was opposed by nearly everybody, Italians included. It lasted for a little more than a year and seemingly left no marks on the future city of Rijeka but made a very peculiar and unusual historic oddity.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Confess and your sins will be forgiven


                Croatian cinema isn't well known in Europe, mainly because of the war that took place here in the nineties and practically put a stop to any serious film productions. But it isn't just Europe that ignored Croatian films. Home audiences also got used to skipping them. It took a lot of time to change that and in the new millennium things started to slowly get better. It still awaits wider recognition but the productions get more numerous every year and the films get more and more diverse. Positive reviews and awards won at international festivals also encouraged people to go to the cinema and see a domestic production. Riding on that wave a new film by well known Croatian director Vinko Brešan called "Svećenikova djeca" ("The Priest's Children") came to the Croatian film theatres and made the biggest opening ever for a domestic film.

Monday, January 14, 2013



                It is awards season now and like probably most of the film lovers I'm trying to watch all of the serious contenders. The latest I've watched is Amour" ("Love"), new work from acclaimed German director Michael Haneke. The film already won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, swept the European Film Awards, and won most of the year's Best Foreign Language Film awards including a Golden Globe, as well as got nominated for five Oscars and a lot more. All of that gave me more than enough reason to view it, and the film itself gave me more than enough reason to review it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Into the realm of technology


                I must admit I'm not a loyal fan of either J.R.R. Tolkien's or Peter Jackson's work. I've read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy long time ago, and haven't even finished watching Jackson's adaptations. I found both books and movies fun and good but nothing more. Therefore I wasn't very excited when news of "The Hobbit" adaptation finally came. Even less promising was an announcement that the book will be adapted as a trilogy of movies. Decision to go and see the first one (titled "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey") nevertheless was motivated almost entirely by the 48 fps in which Jackson decided to film it, and in the end I'm not that sorry for it.

Monday, January 07, 2013

To live is to think


                The latest Ang Lee movie, "Life of Pi", is an adaptation of a beautiful prize-winning novel of the same name written by Yann Martel. For a long time the novel was considered to be unfilmable so Lee's work was awaited with reserve, but only to thrill almost everyone upon its release.