Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Motorcycle Diaries

Watching the movie adaptation of famous literary works have always disappointed me. Barring a few, I always found the experience of reading the book , is far superior and fulfilling to watching the film.

I wonder why. There could be multiple reasons. It could be my limitations...

When I read a book, I give the characters shape according to my understanding and likeliness. The places , people , the atmosphere, time are filled in automatically as per my requirement to give me a sense of being part of the plot. I dictate the tone, the voices to the wording given by the author, I dress them up. I have already visualized the physical , mental , emotional part of the character. I give them the shades of goodness and badness.

If the films does justice to this, that is , to my way of visualizing the novel, I come out satisfied. More often than not, it happens on the contrary.

What we see in the cinematic version of the book is the directors version of the understanding. It is his visualization of the book we get to see. It is his experience, and interpretation. They seldom match at the first time. I'm not suggesting that it is in correct. If you haven't read the book, you might still like it.

Reading a book, thus, become a personal experience. This is guided by multiple factors. It is your experience, your gender, your place of birth and being, your age, your knowledge and education , your growth as a reader ( yes, reading the same book at different ages of your life gives you very different perspective). While cinematic version of popular fiction could be less complicated ( and we are not discussing them), the literary genre fiction for adaptation will be challenging.

Watching "The motorcycle Diaries" made me think in these lines. This movie for one, gave me a very different view. I did not like the book form of "The motorcycle diaries". Yes I understand that it was written when 'Che' was 20 yrs old and was a medical student. Yes , he was in his early ages of his short life, and this journey has helped him in his progression as a revolutionary as they say ; but it failed as a literary work for me. May be, I had high expectations from a 20yr old writer. May be it was Che Guevara's book to me than a medical students diary and letters. But the film was a different story altogether. It impressed me , for its stunning visuals, for its beautifully crafted screen play and dialogues. for its characterization. There aren't many instances where I have liked the adaptation of fiction into movies. The last I remember (as I liked )was "Il Postino" , adaptation of the book written by Antonio Skarmeta.

There are cases where I was impressed with a movie and bought the original fiction. One of the recent such case was "Red Shorgum" by Mo Yan.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Carlos Fuentez on Globalisation

I'm reading the book by the renowned Mexican Novelist Carlos Fuentez titles "This I believe - an A to Z of a Life". While the normal review will be done after I finish reading, I found this chapter on Globalisation very interesting and thought provoking. My thoughts on some of these were in line with the author, even before I read his ideas and opinion on some of these. Here are some points.. written in italics are from the book.

Having lived through the four eras ( note : he talks of the 4 major turning points in 20th century - revolution and fascism, World war, guerrilla movements and unrest in Latin America and globalisation) , I can now state that globalisation is the name of a power system. Just like the holy spirit, it has no boundaries, just like Mount Everest, it is there. But like Latin God Janus, it has 2 faces. The good face is that of technical and scientific progress, the accessibility to and dissemination of information, the universalisation of the concept of human rights etc.. But it has another, less attractive side. The sheer speed of technological progress leaves behind - perhaps forever - those countries , that aer unable to keep up with the pace.

I would like to add here; it leaves behind large number of people across world ,also within the same country, if the development and progress there off are not distributed appropriately. Which is why the 'state' has a very definite role to play.

Free trade increases the advantages to be gained by massive, competitive corporations ( which are very few) and crushes small and medium industries. As a result of this, globalisation widens the gap between rich and poor, both internationally and within the nation.

I tend to agree with the initial part, however the story of widening the gap between rich and poor are the arguments of the "Anti-globalisation" team. From what I have seen, it had brought in better living standards to a large section of people and the absolute number of people living below poverty line has decreased ( in India) if we go by the statistics. May be the rich have become richer, many poor has become better off. While, it has to be seen how it turns out to be on a longer run. India is relatively new entrant into this race and have reaped more benefit as of today.

Can the political world resume control over the anarchy of the markets ? Does the state have a role in the globalised world ? There are. It can. It does. ....what is most necessary is a state that can regulate and set standards.

I'm not sure if this is entirely true. While I agree with the role of the state, it is often seen ( at least in the developed world) that the state consists of people who serve the interest of the industry houses ( either directly , or by proxy). In such cases, the regulation will have no meaning.

Effective participation in the global arena can only begin with sound governing n the local arena.

All the developed states embarking Globalisation are already at an advanced stage of this. It is the developing countries like India , who need to work at this.

The first era of globalisation took place, during the age of discovery, the days of circumnavigation of the globe... global process of conquest, colonisation and mercantile rivalry.

Hmm..interesting point. But the trade was always there. We had Arabs and Mongols were doing business with India, even before the Portuguese and the Spanish team.

We can not fall into the trap of attributing terrorism to a historical hatred of the US, to the corruption and inefficiency of Islamic States, and much less to the clash of cultures. No: we should agree that the deepest of conflict in our world aer instability, illegality, poverty , exclusion and in general terms, the absence of a new legality for a new reality.

Very well said. If you look at any of the conflict across world, it is always between the haves and have not. Ethnicity , religion , culture, language etc are only the external face of the issue.
Exclusion , very powerful word. And this will determine the future of globalisation.

A new legality for a new reality !! I would be interested in discussing and listening to this further...

There are many more interesting points discussed and I picked up some of them which I found interesting... More on this later..

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'Don't Tell' - Directed by Cristina Comencini ( Italian)

Nominated for best foreign language movie at Oscars and winner of some festival awards.

Surfacing of hidden unpleasent memories form the childhood comes back as nightmares for young Sabina. These nightmares torments her regularly on her sleep. Unable to discuss this with her boyfriend who is living with her and her close friend Maria, she decides to speak to her brother who is a professor in the University of Virginia living with his wife and two kids. She travels to the US to meet her brother and the real story of childhood abuse by their father on the young kids comes out of the troubled brother.

This movie is about a brother and sister coming to terms with their painful childhood. Her brother narrates the incidents of his torture(!) and explains the reasons of her nightmares as she too was a victim of the so called abuse. He admits, that he is having trouble hugging his own children because of the events in the past.

Otherwise a regular movie and there is nothing extra ordinary to mention. All the actors have put in very good performance.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann

"You always understood more than what you know" says the prince of mathematics to the king of the seas, two very different scientists are about to meet at a conference in Berlin in 1828. Arguably a literary sensation of 2007, this book was recommended to me by Srihari and it indeed was a good recommendation.

Based on the lives of 19th-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt and a contemporary, mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, Kehlmann's novel, takes us through the lifes of these extra ordinary induviduals through their journey ; one around the world, and the other to his inner world of mathematics.

Humboldt, a mine-inspectors travels across the South American continent "measuring every river, mountain , and lake". While Gauss, a mathematician , never stepped out of his small town of Göttingen , measure and mark the little county as land surveyer for a living. While Humboldt corrects the wrongs done by his predecessors on the the hieghts , distance and the maps and climbs the popularity chart as a legend in this field , the other gets through the complications of mathematical formula ( he even leaping out of bed on his wedding night to write down a formula) and other scientific discoveries in his home country , gets to a cult figure with his odd mannerisms and remarks.

Two very different scientists are about to meet at a conference in Berlin in 1828. The prince of mathematics and the emperor of the voyage. As Humboldt doubts, one could no longer have said which of them had travelled afarand who stayed at home ( the one staring throught the telescope at heavenly bodies from his small room or the one who travelled across continent making it his home wherever he had been) ?

A very well writtten book and with crisp pace, this book will attract any serious reader with its underlying humour and charecterisation.

Measuring the World
Daniel Kehlmann translated by Carol Brown Janeway
Published by Quercus, London
Rs 395 Hardcover

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

2046 - Wong Kar Wai

"All memories are traces of tears," the most recognised line from the film is the underlying message of the Wong Kar Wai film "2046".

2046 considered as a sequel to the more recognised "In the Mood for Love". Moving between fantacy ( moving in a train to year 2046 and meeting with androids) and the real life story surrounding a mysterious room 2046 in a hongkong hotel , this movie is around a writer, during the late 60s.

The movie as narrated by the lead charecter, moves around multiple women in his life during his stay at Hongkong and Singapore as a writer. The settings, generally indoors and dim lighted with some soul stirring slow music with subtle style of acting by all charecters was able to get the sense of loss and sadness to me.

Though this movie was in contention for GOLDEN PALM at Cannes, it had not won any notable awards and is generally week and confusing in plot.

There is a detailed review with the storyline is available here from wiki and , critic review from bright lights film journal is here.