Print Story 2007.06.16: In an English orchestra it's all ...
Diary
By BlueOregon (Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 05:29:02 PM EST) (all tags)

... Saxon violins.

Atum-hadu admires two sisters.
He takes them to his chambers.
Too late they realize the dangers
Of a king whose love produces blisters.
(Phillips 114)

Inside: GPotD and a day in review.



I

“Sonderbares Kind”

Das Mädchen mit Locken sagte
ihr Haar seien Schlangen
zwar unsichtbar für andere
aber sie könnten
sichtbares Feuer speien
das werde alles verbrennen

Man war nicht zu Stein erstarrt
sondern man gab ihr
eine W a h r h e i t s d r o g e
ein Präparat das fast immer
sicherstellt dass der Patient
die Wahrheit sagt
Es heisst sie nahm nichts zurück
Die Klinik verbrannte

—By Erich Fried

II

“Sonderbar” is “strange” and “curious,” “odd,” “queer,” “weird,” or even “special.” Or rather “peculiar.”

There is the wonderful German (separable prefix) verb “aussondern,” which means to cull or separate. To sort.

The poem itself is not very poetic in its language; the translation is unintentionally more so by rhyming “girl” and “curls,” but the language itself is not what is poetic; it's just a potential carrier of the poetic, and what Fried's language has is both a dreamlike quality to the imagery as well as a care to rhetoric. What does not come across in the English is Fried's use of the so-called “first subjunctive,” which shows up in English rarely and usually in the form of “be” and “may” forms; we're slightly more familiar with the second subjunctive or past subjunctive (which does not indicate the past, it's just based upon past tense forms—such as when one says “if I were ...”). In German the first subjunctive is encountered these days mostly in newspaper and television reporting and it adds a feeling of “it is claimed that ...” to a statement. It is also used within indirect quotation, and the two forms that show up in Fried's text are “seien” (from the verb “sein,” or “to be”) and “werde” (from the verb “werden,” or “to become,” also used as a modal auxiliary for the future tense). And while the imagery is a bit mythical (Medusa) and dreamlike, the form of the “poem” is that of a newspaper report/article; the format and lack of punctuation might not match, but there is an overlap in directness of style, the verb forms, the briefness.

lm mentioned 28 Weeks Later and then posted a review about it, and so I felt tempted to see it on the big screen. Or at least on a bigger screen than that of my rather small TV. Or my laptop. So off to The Orpheum I went this afternoon. The walk did me good, I like to think, and as I was rounding the Square, post-farmers'-market, I encountered one of my professors as he was hauling off a $14 shrub he'd purchased.

As for the movie itself I'll agree with lm regarding its technical brilliance, and indeed seeing it in the theater was a plus. I'm not sure I'd go along too strongly with the “violence porn” metaphor, though. A couple years ago the term “terrorism porn” got applied to 24, but one could have just as well called it “terrorploitation” or similar, for what it does is both play on and exploit our fears, but at the same time play the violence and torture and abuse for thrills. I didn't really find that as much in 28 Weeks Later, but where lm is right in the “violence porn” type image is that whereas one way to think of porn is as sex just for the sake of titillation (greatly simplified, I know), another is as sex without an emotional connection, and what goes on in 28 Weeks Later is violence without an emotional connection, without an ethical connection. There is, later in the movie, an imperative to kill, but it becomes too broad and impulsive, and “good” and “evil” lose all meaning (there is no torture or experimentation, mad scientist experiments gone wrong, no madness at all).

There is a hint of malice in one of the “zombies,” but that's about it.

The sequel does lack some of the mid-movie pastoral scenes of the first, though there is something to be said for the early-in-the-movie sneaking into dead London sequence. But there is an all-pervasive sense of menace here, and it's not so much embodied by any characters as by the environment. Something lurking around corners. As for caring about any of those fated to die, I'm trying to figure out where the fault lies (assuming it's a “fault”), for the acting was competent and the characters had the same potential to be sympathetic or interesting as in other such movies. I think back to the first and to some of the small family scenes involving those who get whacked later, and there we developed a bit of a connection to them, whereas here none, and perhaps it's because we also saw characters in that movie develop connections to each other, whereas here relationships never really develop, and thematically most just fall apart as things progress. And there are a few poorly executed shots of the boy about whom we're supposed to care; he's not believable enough at times.

But all in all I did like it and would recommend it—it's got zombies and blood and good use of a helicopter. And it's probably better than the upcoming 3rd Resident Evil movie. Not saying much, I know.

After the movie off to Fair Trade I went. One of the guys who works there will have an end-of-season (or shortly-after-the-season) Doctor Who party the first week in July, he thinks, and I'm invited. Something approaching a social event. Amazing. Two iced coffees and a nearly completed doodle later I headed off for a slice of pizza. Because I didn't want to cook tonight.

And why not? Because cooking would require the oven or range, which with my luck would raise the temperature in my kitchen if not the rest of the apartment. Still no fan, and I didn't want to sweat. And the pizza gave me a chance to look at the current Onion and see that there's a 2-for-1 coupon for 4-Star, which lead me to walk down the street and look for cheap entertainment. Or something like that.

An urge to watch, or rather re-watch, Real Genius, a sort of Pomona cult-classic, came over me. But it was checked out so I instead went for the two Underworld movies (I blame cam) and Night Watch (because I want to watch it again before watching Day Watch), as well as Natural City.

I could or should be watching one of those four now; it's after 9p.m. already. Yet I still have an urge to read or to doodle. I got into a rhythm. A zone if not Zen. While doodling, sketching, whatever, I can continue thinking but not at all about what I'm drawing, and the strokes, well, my hands and fingers, attached the pen or pencil (today a pen) just produce the right lines and shades. Each line is a right line, nothing out of place, and it's almost a calm ecstasy, a place that is both emotional and cool.

When the doodling became too much I returned to reading—more of The Egyptologist, which is a fun yarn—and upon the pages my eyes kept projecting lines and textures and surfaces I wanted to draw onto and around letters and words, encapsulating blocks of texts, shading them, foregrounding and highlighting them. And so I'd close my eyes or look away, people watch without actually seeing those on the other side of the window walking by, and instead see canvases onto which I could scribble and then paint structures evolved from my doodles. But I don't paint, have no canvases, no easel. And I can't justify the time, the waste. The distraction.

And so the creative urge, of course just a personal, unimportant, and unrefined one, dies on the vine.

III

“Strange Child”

The girl with curls said
her hair is snakes
in fact invisible to others
but they could
spit visible fire
that will incinerate everything

They weren't turned to stone
So instead they gave her
a  T r u t h  S e r u m
a compound that nearly always
assures that the patient
tells the truth
They say she retracted nothing
The clinic burned down
< The couch is empty, the emptiness fills the morning | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
2007.06.16: In an English orchestra it's all ... | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
day watch by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #1 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 12:07:21 AM EST
So is there finally going to be a DVD/theatre edition of Daywatch in english? They've been sitting on it for at least a year:(

Daywatch is playing... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 02:45:05 AM EST
in some independent theaters in the US. Sadly, I still haven't seen Nightwatch, though I do have the book, and it's next on my to-be-read list.
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If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
a warning by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #3 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 02:57:45 AM EST
The second part of Nightwatch, the book, is Daywatch, the film. Roughly.

[ Parent ]
um, no by theantix (2.00 / 0) #4 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 08:14:36 AM EST
"what goes on in 28 Weeks Later is violence without an emotional connection, without an ethical connection"

You must have gone to the wrong movie.  The violence in the opening scene is filled with emotional connection, and the ethical implications of that scene's outcome play as the central theme for the whole fucking movie.

Seriously.  What distinguishes this movie from most other zombie fiction is that it maintains a strong emotional and ethical connections throughout the film.  In a traditional zombie flick the zombies are neither hated nor dispised, they just are.  And the ethical implications of the actions of the characters rarely play a central role in the rest of the film -- they are brutal and not nostalgic.

Seriously.  You saw the wrong movie.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

I didn't want to give spoilers away ... by BlueOregon (2.00 / 0) #5 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 10:03:32 AM EST

... so mentioned little of Donald's story.

I'll give you his story. There is emotional connection in the 1st scene, and there are consequences. They're not really moral/ethical. It such a life or death situation one doesn't consider the ethical implications; one reacts. He reacted. He still feels guilt, though, which one could argue makes him a bit 'different'. But the point is that he's in the background after the first part. It becomes a movie about the kids. And the major, and the soldier protecting them. And the boy is a mediocre actor at best; the daughter was underused. The major not developed, and the soldier immaterial. Contrast that with the first scene -- if only that sort of emotional interest and intensity had carried through to more of the movie.

I know exactly which movie I saw.

[ Parent ]
c'mon by theantix (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 11:03:45 AM EST
ok.  specifics then.

The decision whether or not to risk your life to attempt to save a loved on in the face of extremely limited odds strikes me as an ethical/moral decision.  The emotional impact of that decision, his own guilt that he feels as well as lying to his kids (and their reaction later) is the central theme to the first act of the film.

The second act of the film is the kids emotional attachment to their mother which causes their suspiciously poor decision to go find her. Combined with the ill advised emotional decision of the father to visit his wife, it strikes me that emotional connections drive the rest of the plot to its conclusions.

And in the concluding act of the film, the ethical burden on the soldiers to massacre thousands of innocent people, and their emotion-driven failure to complete their task which caused the final concluding scenes.  As well, Donald's absurd drive to kill his loved ones after he was turned was a major plot point here, which for better or for worse still shows an emotional connection present.

What I will agree with you is that the acting in the film was terrible all around, and especially with the kids.  I'd even add that the writing was weak to the point of absurdity, important plot points were driven by character decisions which are borderline insane.  The doctor and the soldier's character are especially poorly developed and were heroic to the point of being unbelievable.

The funny part is that the film really could have used a lot less of what you said it was missing.  Have the mother be discovered by people on patrol, not the kids.  Have Donald be killed once he was turned instead of having him haunt the characters, and make the story of the 3rd act be fully about the escape.  Kill off one of the kids to provide room for the doctor/soldier characters to develop.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
good 'specifics' by BlueOregon (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 01:00:41 PM EST
I really liked the ride through London when the kids 'get away' ["Two strays." "Dogs?" "No, pups"]; it's the last really good part of the movie ... no, that's wrong. As you'll note above, I really rather liked 28 Weeks Later. But after that point it becomes really a military exercise and, as well, just a zombie-killing-exercise. I thought the daughter had potential; under-used. The son was not so much 'bad' as not-quite-right -- the pastoral scene at the old carnival with his sister being an example. Sort of Daniel Radcliff in the 1st HP movie sort of thing. The survivor-guilt of the father was a good touch; I liked it. It almost has a certain subtlety to it, but see, as a zombie the father becomes pretty much a non-character. He just kills. We *know* he is stalking them, but we really only see him attacking (and the son sees him once in the distance) ... it's almost a showing vs. telling thing. And we've seen good zombie performances, zombies as characters, in other recent zombie movies. Point being that the father's story is intellectually interesting, but while I *knew* it was there, it was not there as I *experienced* the movie. I'm interested in what comes through in performances and in the film-making.

As the early on, do-I-run-or-do-I-stay bit, it's a no-brainer. I don't really see it as a moral decision; not really even a decision. He has no choice if he wants to live. If he'd died ... no movie. Sure, she lives, but that's because she has a curious immunity thing going on. But yeah, he has the feeling of guilt. He can't look his kids in the eyes, he has to go see his wife. Stupid fuck.

The movie is telling two stories: the family, and the military. The don't interact well, or rather, they don't after zombiefication. And it's the military story, the story of killing-them-all, that dominates once we've got a zombie movie on our hands. As for the soldier's tale -- it was the one soldier, not the rest, and there was unexplored potential there. After all, he points out how the one guy just shoots anything that moves (the sniper on the roof), he's so traumatized. A nice zombiefication of those soldiers going on, metaphorically at least, but it's throw-away. We can talk about it, but it has little presence in the movie. Our guy has his moral dilemma once he can shoot the kid but doesn't, and sure, he sacrifices himself. But it was wooden enough that I found no emotional impact there when he did.

So, as to your last-paragraph recommendation on how to streamline the movie. That's one way. That prunes the family story. Then you have to wonder why we care about the kids at all or why they're main characters, but, especially in developing the major, it would work. Or prune the military story and make it more of a family tale. Just rambling at this point, of course.

[ Parent ]
Speaking of seeing the wrong film. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #7 Sun Jun 17, 2007 at 11:24:36 AM EST
28 Weeks Later is pretty much a high-gloss sampler platter of zombie flick cliches. The helicopter zombie-blender scene appear in Planet Terror, the zombie killing sweeps that catch up innocent living folks appear in Night of the Living Dead. Land of the Dead features military personnel deciding to shoot upon living folks in order to ensure that the zombies among them get wiped out.

The theme of "survivor guilt" - from not being able to save a loved one through fear or bad luck to not being able to effectively deal with a zombie because they are a loved one - it standard zombie fare.

The template modern zombie flick - Night of the Living Dead - deals with the moral responsibilities to family members on several levels, from Barbara's zombified brother to the father that is willing to sacrifice the remaining survivors to save his wife and daughter (who is herself becoming zombified, a fact he refuses to admit). Dawn of the Dead, both the original and the remake, put the question of individual survival versus group loyalty at the center of the film. Day of the Dead revolves around the moral question about the price of security (the loss of freedom angle that was worked over again in Land of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and 28 Weeks Later).

Certainly there are crappy zombie flicks out there which don't bother with ethical questions, but the  template of the modern zombie film is built on a central ethical question - will people sacrifice for the group or will they put individual survival first. Almost every major film in the genre is an exploration of that moral question.

Your characterization of zombie flicks reminds me of of those reviewers who announce that something isn't your typical sci-fi flick because it doesn't include ray guns and spaceships.

[ Parent ]
whatchu talking about? by theantix (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue Jun 19, 2007 at 07:51:18 PM EST
"28 Weeks Later is pretty much a high-gloss sampler platter of zombie flick cliches. The helicopter zombie-blender scene appear in Planet Terror, the zombie killing sweeps that catch up innocent living folks appear in Night of the Living Dead. Land of the Dead features military personnel deciding to shoot upon living folks in order to ensure that the zombies among them get wiped out."

Um, ok?  I don't disagree in the slightest.  I wasn't implying that 28 weeks later was some groundbreaking film, I didn't even really like it all that much.

"The theme of "survivor guilt" - from not being able to save a loved one through fear or bad luck to not being able to effectively deal with a zombie because they are a loved one - it standard zombie fare."

On the second part, sure.  On the first part -- not being able to save a loved one haunting you through the rest of the film -- doesn't bring to mind a single example.  Then again, I have a shitty memory.  But my point was that 28 weeks later DID have some pretty strong plot points which dealt with ethical/moral issues, for better or for worse.

"Your characterization of zombie flicks reminds me of of those reviewers who announce that something isn't your typical sci-fi flick because it doesn't include ray guns and spaceships"

Your characterization of my comments reminds me of someone who has a rant in their head and desperately wants to apply it to something on the internet.  And this was apparently close enough.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
Your senior moment. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 08:37:38 AM EST
Your memory must suck because you've forgotten what you've written.

"What distinguishes this movie from most other zombie fiction is that it maintains a strong emotional and ethical connections throughout the film."

My claim is that simply ain't so. The emotional and ethical content doesn't distinguish it from anything but the worst flicks. Most zombie fiction, to include things other than film, focuses on the emotions and ethics of the survivors as they struggle to deal with implications of the new, post-zombie situation. In this, they're basically disaster-film plots (a small group of random individuals must pull together or die) with the disaster being a zombie outbreak instead of an overturned cruise ship or high-rise fire or abnormally sped up global climate change.

As for the "haunted by the loved one you couldn't save" meme, it first appears, as far as I can tell, in the 1943 flick I Walked with a Zombie (husband haunted by wife he failed to save). It appears in the Dawn of the Dead remake (father haunted by children he failed to save), and the Walking Dead comics (father haunted by son he failed to save). I should point out that one of the characters that first saves our protagonists in 28 Days Later has a backstory about them being unable to forget their helplessness when the rage virus spread through a crowd and he lost his relatives (the scene described in Days is reworked slightly, shot, and included as the "trapped in the parking garage" slaughter in Weeks). The novel World War Z includes several characters haunted by the loved ones they couldn't save. In fact, one of them is a father who barricades his family home only to have zombies bust in and eat his wife and kid.

Variations of the theme can be found in White Zombie (man obsessed with woman he can't have zombifies her, then regrets it), The Child (zombies used as revenge for killing that couldn't be stopped), the horrible Return of the Living Dead 3 (which involves the popular "zombified the love one to preserve the loved one I couldn't save" meme), and Kiss Daddy Goodbye (see The Child Above).

I'm pretty sure there are more that I'm forgetting.

I think you're right that 28 Weeks did try to milk the ethical/emotional angle, but this does not really distinguish it from your average zombie flick.

[ Parent ]
One senior moment amongst many by theantix (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 02:09:13 PM EST
"What distinguishes this movie from most other zombie fiction is that it maintains a strong emotional and ethical connections throughout the film."

My claim is that simply ain't so. The emotional and ethical content doesn't distinguish it from anything but the worst flicks. Most zombie fiction, to include things other than film, focuses on the emotions and ethics of the survivors as they struggle to deal with implications of the new, post-zombie situation. (emphasis mine)

I completely agree with your assessment of zombie fiction.  The distinction I make with 28wks is not the existence of ethical/moral questions, but instead that they maintained a strong connection throughout the film, rather than mostly disconnected moments of difficult survival decisions.  It's the dwelling on that single topic which makes it distinguished -- I think for the negative -- because it distracts from the (post-)apocalyptic survival stories which are at the core of zombie fiction.

Of the items you mention, in the ones I'm familiar with: WWZ had no connection through the book, for the most part the characters in the stories didn't even connect.  I don't recall that scene in the Dawn remake which suggests that it wasn't a major plotpoint like in 28wks -- but my memory could be failing me there.  And in the Walking Dead, that is present but involves a peripheral character, and again in my opinion is not a major plot point.

So yeah, the meme existed before 28wks.  It may have been central to some of the works of fiction I'm not intimately familiar with, I'll take your word on that.  But making that guilt be a primary driver for the film makes it distinctive, at least to me.
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I'm sorry, but your facts disagree with my opinion.

[ Parent ]
2007.06.16: In an English orchestra it's all ... | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback