Thursday, March 24, 2011

Crazy love

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog - by Caspar David Friedrich

"Was it by reason that I attained to the knowledge that I must love my neighbour and not throttle him? They told me so when I was a child, and I gladly believed it, because they told me what was already in my soul. But who discovered it? Not reason! Reason has discovered the struggle for existence and the law that I must throttle all those who hinder the satisfaction of my desires. That is the deduction reason makes. But the law of loving could not be discovered by reason, because it is unreasonable."

The climax of Levin's search for meaning and purpose. Anna Karenina - Book 8, Chapter 12.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In defence of fiction

A Good Book by Wybrand Hendriks

"It is untrue that fiction is nonutilitarian. The uses of fiction are synonymous with the uses of literature. They include refreshment, clarification of life, self-awareness, expansion of our range of experiences, and enlargement of our sense of understanding and discovery, perception, intensification, expression, beauty , and understanding. Like literature generally, fiction is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, beauty, and understanding. If it is all these things, the question of whether it is a legitimate use of time should not even arise."

-Leland Ryken (Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective)


What more is there to say, except "Amen to that!"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Top 10 Period Drama Villains: #3

3. Henry Crawford (Alessandro Nivola) - Mansfield Park

Just to warn you in case you haven't read or watched Mansfield Park - there will probably be some spoilers in this post.

Jane Austen created some of the most truly good, honourable, gentlemanly heroes in literature, but she generally didn't write too many charming, conflicted villains - she was too sensible and too realistic for that. Her scoundrels are almost always - well, just plain scoundrels! No romantic illusions here! Mr. Elliot, Mr. Wickham, Frank Churchill, John Thorpe. . . There are two great exceptions, however - John Willoughby and Henry Crawford. Henry Crawford has always been my favourite Jane Austen villain/anti-hero.

But why? Probably because he seemed so close to truly reforming/repenting. Or maybe that was just my romantic fancy, as a 14-year-old girl reading the book for the first time. I loved Henry and Fanny as a couple. They make a much more intriguing combination than Edmund and Fanny, who are arguably the most boring couple in the Austen canon. I desperately wanted Henry to get his act together and mend his ways, so that he could be truly worthy of Fanny. Of course, in the end, he stumbles and throws away every chance of future happiness with Fanny. Stupid, stupid Henry.

Could he have been satisfied with the conquest of one amiable woman’s affections, could he have found sufficient exultation in overcoming the reluctance, in working himself into the esteem and tenderness of Fanny Price, there would have been every probability of success and felicity for him. His affection had already done something. Her influence over him had already given him some influence over her. Would he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtained. . . Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward, and a reward very voluntarily bestowed. . .

-Mansfield Park, Chap. XXXXVIII

Joseph Beattie as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park 2007

In terms of on-screen Henrys - I thought Alessandro Nivola's performance (MP 1999) was the most memorable. Joseph Beattie in the 2007 adaptation was also okay. The Henry in the 1983 adaptation, however, came across as a snivelling, rodent-like idiot, with the none of the necessary charm or charisma.


Your thoughts on Henry Crawford, and Mansfield Park? Did you want Henry and Fanny to end up together, or were you on "Team Edmund"?

Which is your favourite screen adaptation of Mansfield Park? Your favourite Henry Crawford?

Do you have a favourite Austen villain?

Also, whilst preparing this post, I came across this comparison of Henry Crawford's and Fizwilliam Darcy's characters at Interesting. Darcy isn't perfect, either, but his strength of character shows up all the better when compared against Crawford's lack of resolve and self-control. Also, come to think of it, Mansfield Park could almost be seen as a subverted form of P&P. . . but that's a whole other post altogether.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top 10 Period Drama Villains: #2

2. Sir Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) - Robin Hood

I'll be honest, Sir Guy/Richard Armitage was the only reason why I ever watched the BBC's Robin Hood. The show itself was quite silly, and I found emo-kid Robin a bit irritating. What made it worthwhile for me, however, was the Robin/Marian/Guy love triangle. Especially Guy. (Then the show's writers killed off you-know-who, and all of the romantic suspense was lost - plus they gave Richard that awful hair. I didn't even bother to watch the third series.) But the first two series were alright. Sir Guy was alright. :-)

Sir Guy of Gisborne (as portrayed in this series) is more or less the archetypal romantic/sympathetic baddie: lots of inner conflict, torn between good and evil, in love with the saintly heroine, hoping that she can somehow "redeem" him, etc. etc.

Which brings us to something interesting: girls apparently long to "save" the baddie and "transform" him. (Just look at Twilight. Just look at Erik, or almost any of the other villains who will eventually feature in this series.) In the real world, however, to attempt such a course of action would almost certainly be a recipe for disaster. As a Christian, I believe that only God can truly redeem us and transform us! And in the end, I think most of my favourite love stories are those in which the hero and heroine, both flawed and imperfect, do their best to help each other, and bring out the best in each other - Jane Austen's books are some of the best examples of this.

LOL! Love this picture. These two played off against each other so well. Keith Allen was hilarious as The Sherriff ("La-di-da-di-da!").

However, having said all of that. . . I think there is a reason why stories in which the heroine helps "rescue" the hero (or vice versa) resonate so deeply with us - they remind us of Christ's redemptive love for us.

I'm probably sounding a bit contradictory here. All I'm trying to say is that. . . I love a good story in which the hero saves the damsel in distress, or the heroine helps bring the hero to his redemption - I think most people do. However, girls, just bear in mind that it is almost always always a bad idea to marry or get involved with a murderer/vampire/tyrant/jerk; and try to keep a balanced perspective. ;-)

(Notice that I've packed as many pictures of Richard as possible into this post? :P)

So - have you seen the Robin Hood TV series? Did you enjoy it? Any thoughts on Sir Guy's character?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Top 10 Period Drama Villains: #1

~A series of posts in celebration of those tortured anti-heroes and villainous. . . err, villains, whom we love in spite of ourselves!~


I had originally thought to publish this list as one big post, but then I realised that it would be far too long, and would take me days to complete, so I'm writing it as a series of shorter posts instead. I know I have a bad habit of starting series and not finishing them - I promise I'll finish this one! Also, I'm starting at the wrong end of the series - counting down, instead of up. Oh well - I hope you enjoy it anyway!

1. The Phantom/Erik (Gerard Butler) - The Phantom of the Opera. 

Yes, I am going through a second wave of Phantom-obsession. Why do I like this story (and this movie) so much? It's completely overblown and over-the-top. . . and I love every glorious, melodramatic minute of it. It's pretty much the only tragic love story that I actually like.

But about Erik. What is it that makes him such a tragic, sympathetic figure?

*POTO is a "Beauty and the Beast" tale, but The Phantom's and The Beast's stories differ in some significant ways. For instance, the Beast took on his beastly form as a punishment for his selfishness and incapability to see inner beauty in others; whereas the Phantom is punished for the deformity that he was born with ("Why, you ask, was I bound and chained in this cold and dismal place? Not for any mortal sin but the wickedness of my abhorrent face!").

*His hopeless love for Christine.

*Erik's musical genius also makes him a more compelling character, adding a certain "tortured artist" appeal, I suppose.

A word about Gerard Butler as the Phantom - yes, I know he was too young and too good-looking to play Erik (Gerry, a "repulsive carcass"?!). The Phantom is supposed to be physically repulsive - that's kind of the whole point, after all. But other than that, I think Gerard was really very good as Erik, especially considering he only had a half a face to act with, and an awful lot of lip-syncing to do. He conveyed Erik's character in all of its complexities - his simple, almost child-like nature in some scenes, as well as his more violent side. (Lets be honest, who wouldn't totally marry the Phantom if it wasn't for his unfortunate homicidal tendencies! :P).

And this is a little off-topic, but I think I may have found the perfect Phantom - vocally, at least. I like Gerard Butler's voice, but he did struggle at times. As for Michael Crawford. . . I know some people *cough*Alexandra*cough* will kill me (or at least, un-follow me) for saying this, but I don't like his voice that much! Not as the Phantom, anyway! His tenor is too high and whiny - not dark or mysterious enough. Anyway, the perfect Phantom is, in my opinion, Mikael Samuelsson from the Swedish production of POTO. He's got the rough, masculine edge of Gerard's voice, but his voice is MUCH more. . . well, more! Have a listen below (you might want to pause my blog music), or just search for "Phantom of the Opera Swedish cast" on Youtube. I know he's singing in Swedish, but I'm sure all you Phans know the libretto so well that it won't bother you in the least.

Meanwhile, I want to know:

-Who is your favourite Phantom? (In any movie or musical adaptation)?

-Do you feel that Christine made the right choice in the end?

-Who are some of your favourite costume drama villains?