One of the things that I found most striking about Buddha (Vol. 1) by Osamu Tezuka is the juxtaposition between the story itself and the frequent popular/modern culture references that are made throughout, including the way in which the art style is so heavily reminiscent of Disney’s. It is a testament to Tezuka’s influence that this sort of strategy has been repeated heavily and more frequently in the decades following this book’s release. For example, Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet employs similar strategies of intertextuality, drawing on people’s prior knowledge of genres such as the action film and infusing them with Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. This not only adds to the novel’s overall richness as a text, but also to its beauty in a visual sense. The contrast between the cartoonish stylization of the characters and the beautifully detailed rendering of the landscape creates a striking visual impression on the reader that will not be forgotten quickly.
Author Archives: Reem
Vertigo & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
An interesting element of Vertigo, for me, was the similarities between it and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Thematically, both films focused on our innate fears (castration in the case of the former and perception of reality in the latter, amongst other things) and used the landscape and architecture to display this. In Vertigo the Mission San Juan Bautista and its clock tower are used to devastating effect, the phallic nature of the structure and the heights of the tower serving to place the viewer – emotionally – on edge. In Dr. Caligari the landscape serves a similar role, its contorted angles and oppressive presence serving as a reminder of the sinister events that are taking place. They both go to show how important the surrounding world (natural or man-made) are when it comes to framing and interpreting events.
Apocalypse Now and Dostoyevsky
Apocalypse Now is a film that is steeped in references to other works of literary significance – it is directly inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, borrowing much of its subject matter and character names from it. However, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the work of Fyodor Dostoyevsky while watching, which is ironic because Conrad apparently quite disliked Dostoyevsky himself as well as his work (Wood, 2005). The Idiot’s exploration of what happens to a man who is good and moral to a literal fault contains a sense of forbearing and a dark atmosphere throughout, precipitated by Dostoyevsky’s style of writing that is eerily similar to the directorial direction of Apocalypse Now. At one point in The Idiot, Hippolyte states that “It is better to be unhappy and know the worst, than to be happy in a fool’s paradise!”. This almost perfectly describes that character of Walter Kurtz as, unhappy and knowing the worst, he has built himself his own fool’s paradise that ultimate comes crashing down around him. It is fascinating how works of such different time, character and platform can contain such similar sentiments. So much literature is interwoven, even tangentially, that meaningful comparisons can be found in the most unexpected of places.
Wood, James. “Warning Notes from Underground.” The Guardian. N.p., 26 Feb. 2005. Web. 16 Jan. 2016. .
Schnitzler & Kid Cudi
When reading Lieutenant Gustl by Arthur Schnitzler, modern rap music is probably not the first thing that’ll come to most people’s mind, but as I read the text I couldn’t help but be reminded of the song ‘GHOST!’ by Kid Cudi, released over a hundred years after Schnitzler’s classic. “Gotta get it through my thick head/I was so close to being dead, yeah” is how the song opens and Cudi continues by musing on the fact that he has continually failed to learn from his lessons in life. There is no sense of growth at the end as he seems convinced that people don’t understand him as well as being out of place in the world as a whole. Thinking about the two more thoroughly, I found myself pondering how many ideas that I share with artists that I personally admire and the connection that this creates with their work despite having never met or conversed with them in the flesh. There is something wonderful about the notion of Schnitlzer, a man of wealth and education, and Kid Cudi, a man who came from a working class family and had some run-ins with the law, sitting down to create two pieces of art that while on the surface are completely dissimilar, share many of the same tenets underneath.
“The Shining” in relation to “The Uncanny””
One of the most famous examples of the uncanny – as explained by Freud – can be found in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). It continually questions the viewer’s perception of reality and makes them unsure of what would otherwise be everyday occurrences and objects. An interesting example of this is when Jack Torrance’s son, Danny, takes a ride on his tricycle through the hotel. This is a relatively normal occurrence for a child of this time staying in a remote hotel. The shot is sinister from the off (shot from the child’s, and eventually the viewer’s, perspective) and displays a prime instance of Freud’s theory that the mundane can sometimes belie something much more ominous. Danny sees two young twins who, in a later flashing vision are seen to have been murdered – their white dresses covered in blood – and this is symbolized by the two red doors that he finds at the elevator. Later, Danny’s mother Wendy comes upon them spewing a thick, blood-like liquid. Red elevator doors would otherwise not be anything to take notice of, but in the context of the murdered sisters, they take on a much more disturbing presence. In many ways, this unremarkable feature of the hotel is used to foreshadow the horrific events to come at “The Overlook” hotel. In one short, well-shot sequence early on in The Shining Kubrick manages to forewarn the viewer of what is ahead. The sisters, the innocence of childhood and the horrors that can be found in the ordinary all reference Freud’s theory of the uncanny and sum it up vividly.
The most striking thing about William Blake’s ‘The Shepherd’ from Songs of Innocence and Experience is how strong the religious undertones are upon reflection. At first, the poem appears to simply be about the joys that a shepherd takes in his daily duties but there is a lot more going on here than just that. The capitalization of the “S” in “Shepherd” suggests that the shepherd himself is quite important, as Jesus Christ and God are frequently referred to as playing this role – except they shepherd mankind as opposed to sheep. The sheep are happy and content under their watchful gaze, feeling the sort of security that people should feel knowing that God is watching over and protecting them. It is strange that the poem seems imply that the Shepherd is following the flock as opposed to leading them (“He shall follow his sheep all the day”) as this is not traditionally the way shepherds operate, but this is another example of how the relationship here is an allegory for the one between humans and God. It is a very simple poem, both in terms of language and its overall message. Humans are presented as innocent and peaceful, but only when they know the protection of a higher power is nearby. God is seen as a paternal figure who takes great joy in his daily work. It is a symbiotic connection that benefits both parties.
Hobbes’ musings on the mind
Despite being over 350 years old, many of Hobbes’ theories still ring true. While his ideas are arguably no more progressive than those expressed in Plato’s Republic, they are more grounded in reality and reflective of how politics and society actually work. His argument that all men are essentially the same with slight variations in terms of physical and mental capacity (with nobody being “untouchable”) is one that I found particularly interesting. It is something that we can often lose sight of even today and something about the way Hobbes communicated this idea resonated strongly with me.
Hobbes says that our ability at things such as art and science (mental abilities) and strength and size (physical ones) can vary from person to person but almost every other facet of the human experience is the same for us all. We grow and get older at the same rate and we are all vulnerable and have to ability to deal out harm. Similarly, we all gain experience as we age – along the lines of what the Ancient Greeks called “prudence”. Common sense, wisdom etc. are things that we are all “getting better at”.
Some might say that people have differing levels of capacity to be good at things such as this, to which Hobbes eloquently responds: “For such is the nature of man, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; Yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves: For they see their own wit at hand, and other men’s at a distance.” In other words, nobody thinks that their mind is simply inferior to others.
Musings on The Tempest
For my blogpost today I was musing through thoughts on portrayals of The Tempest and Shakespeare’ possible last work. In some interpretations towards the end of the play Prospero’s riddance of magic – some say relates to Shakespeare’ retiring and the possibility that he could of written in his goodbye to writing future plays through Prospero’s riddance. In the Tempest a neutral air spirit Ariel gives Prospero additional power by carrying out his orders. When relating to Shakespeare – if Prospero’s loss of magic represents his retiring, could then the power that Ariel gives him represent William’ relationship with the public that also empower him? So in that case Prospero releasing Ariel could represent Shakespeare’ need to draw back into the familiarity of his hometown Stratford-upon-Avon. And when Prospero first frees Ariel from the tree that could portray him first finding his fame. It’s fun to see all the different takes on The Tempest especially in film. I’ve been looking through others that are out there and it’s interesting how vastly different they from each other, If this was in fact Shakespeare’ goodbye then what a great way his last was one that has engaged audiences and readers to this day.
Plato the Feminist?
Plato is referred to frequently as the father of western philosophy, while he has angered and provoked many with his views. One view in particular has stood out to me in terms of feminism – do modern day feminists have Plato to thank for the basis of the pillars in the judicial system that ensure feminism today? Many women have fought to instil feminism in society some falling on deaf ears others making radical differences, each and every one contributing to our cause. But is Plato via Socrates the one that’s made the idea of feminism palpable in the minds of the thinkers and politicians since then? Starting in (pg 144, 455, e4) Socrates raises a question, of judging women by their faculties rather than their gender – the same as you would a man.
Did he think up equal education and jobs for women as way to give them an equal shot to ruling or was his intention to abolish family and women as family caregivers – hence presenting women with other options? Whatever his intention Plato is one of the first men to put this thought of equality among the sexes in writing. And seeing as he is one of the most influential philosophers around – we could argue that he implanted the first feminist thought in western society. He could be the first supporter that’s helped us change the minds of the misogynistic men in authority that opposed the idea of women as anything else but caregivers. It’s funny to me that Plato being avidly against democracy has presented an idea of equality. That is nothing but a democratic notion.