This blog isn’t supposed to be yet another movie review blog, we go to other blogs ourselves for that kind of thing, but sometimes we feel so stymied by the length restrictions imposed by some of the new social media websites, in this case Netfix and their 2000 character limit, that we feel compelled to publish here what we wish we were able to say over there in the first place. Two thousand characters isn’t much [if you are counting spaces as well], that’s less than about 400 words. It’s difficult to express one decent idea in that few words and two ideas starts to become a parody of editorial excess.
Today’s essay started as a reaction, maybe a negative one, to the Meme Merchants Cinema Society’s recent viewing of the otherwise critically acclaimed 2013 film All is Lost by American screenwriter and director J.C. Chandor [Jeffery McDonald] staring Robert Redford in a tour de force solo performance, which is usually described with some emphasis as being without any dialogue – as if that’s supposed to be an intrinsically good thing.
The elves at Netflix had this to say:
In this harrowing drama — which has no dialogue — a man stranded alone at sea courageously battles a ferocious storm as he struggles to survive.
Pardon me if I disagree with that assessment. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 93% Fresh, which is very good, so I’m wondering where the divergence lies.
What follows is what I wrote and wanted to publish, with some expansion; what I actually managed to publish at Netflix is right at the bottom.
The horror, the horror…
The vocabulary is literal. So, the problem becomes for the movie maker, how do I take this literal vocabulary and find a representative image for something that is so outside the realm of any human experience? ~Sidney L. Lumet, director of The Pawn Broker 
In this installment of my three part series we will continue the discussion of the evolution of the media depiction of the Holocaust via a comparison and contrast of two recent European films: Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 movie Sarah’s Key and Nicolas Klotz’s Heartbeat Detector by bringing to our attention the dramatic use of horror as a quality necessary for the effective portrayal of the Nazi [in particular] crimes against humanity of the Second World War.
[This is your fair warning, a certain amount of the two movies Sarah’s Key and Heartbeat Detector will be revealed, that you might not want to be revealed if you haven’t watched the movies]
There is a certain quality that any movie that attempts to take on the subject of the Holocaust seriously must poses if it is not to fall flat, to fail in its responsibility to its audience, that is horror. The horror the film maker is aiming for needs to be a type of psychological horror that the audience can perceive strongly enough to be able to distinguish what was truly unique and unprecedented about the holocaust, that it was something so vast and evil we could ordinarily never have conceived of it, from the more ordinary and human tragedy that we see in other subjects filmmakers turn their lenses to. The holocaust was something so horrific, only horror can shed light on it. At the same time we also need to be shown that there are patterns and traces of the holocaust permeating history right up to the present day, and back further through history.
Hard to do.
Movie reviews are the last refuge of those who cannot write, and at least in this case, those who cannot buckle down to finish writing something he would rather not, long after the original élan for the project has left. So, this is what you are going to get instead.
So to strike while the iron is still hot enough to strike without significant risk of it becoming overwrought [in the metallurgical sense of the word] here we go.
Actually, we do not do movie reviews as such here at MemeMerchants – we are not that sort of a blog – what we do on occasion is watch movies and then comment upon what ever we find interesting, noteworthy, or worthy of commentary or critique. Atani is usually the one who tackles commentary on cinema and ‘the arts’, but in this case since the subject at hand intrudes upon one of my own departments and a set of topics near and dear to my heart which is: Nazism, the holocaust [in its broadest sense], and the difficulties of post-war European society in dealing with their collective responsibility for it, I’ve decided to take this one on myself. I’m also looking for a good excuse for not dealing with finishing the piece I’m supposed to be writing – other than watching movies.
The question for today is: what do we do about what our parents or grandparents did, or did not do during the holocaust? What a question? How do you deal with something that really can’t be dealt with? How do you ‘deal with’ guilt or remorse? What is the appropriate verb here? The Germans have an especially great word for this process, vergangenheitsbewältigung, ‘processing of history’, or ‘the struggle to come to terms with the past’.
The German language, gotta love it, I cannot pronounce it properly, but they’ve got such great words.
For newcomers to this blog, this vergangenheitsbewältigung is a subject that I have written about on several occasions here at MemeMerchants, most recently: Poison in the Well of Culture-slightly off topic reflection on Collective Guilt, and also: The Rosenstrasse Protests, Victims of Their Own Oppression, and The White Rose of Munich.
The subject of today’s essay was stimulated by watching Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 movie Sarah’s Key, which is based upon the best selling novel of the same name [Elle s’Appelait Sarah in the original French] by Tatiana de Rosnay, which deals with the subject of the July 1942 Vel’ d’Hiver Roundup and the deportation of some 13,000 Jewish men, women, and children from Nazi occupied Paris – by the French police.
Well, that ought to be interesting.
In this installment of my three part series we will continue the discussion of the evolution of the media depiction of the Holocaust via a comparison and contrast of two recent European films: Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s 2010 movie Sarah’s Key, and Nicolas Klotz’s 2007 film Heartbeat Detector by bringing our attention to what I consider to be a number of ‘escape hatches’ and other errors that the plot of Sarah’s Key was written around that dramatically limit its usefulness as a means of bringing its audience to terms with the reality of its subject matter: the July 1942 Vel’ d’Hiver Roundup and the deportation of some 13,000 Jewish men, women, and children from Nazi occupied Paris – by the French police.
Welcome to part four of this series or articles, which is a deep, though hopefully not exhausting, exploration of Austrian director/writer Jessica Hausner’s excellent 2009 film Lourdes. Part One of the series: Prologue to a Posy, lays out in some detail the genesis of the project and outlines its basic method, which is an attempt at a one-man version of film critic Roger Ebert,’s Cinema Interruptus. Part Two of this series: Day One: The Wheelchair is No Barrier to Desire, takes us through approximately the first twenty five minutes of the film, to the end of the first full day in in-movie time. Part Three of this series: Day Two, The Nigredo – Eating an Elephant, or Too Big a Rat, takes us though to the end of the difficult second day or their pilgrimage for our characters, and several important developments in: plot, character, and theme.
If you haven’t done so I suggest that you back track and start this series from the beginning – or – just plunge ahead and pick up our story mid stream.
Welcome to Part Three of this series, which is a certain kind of critical analysis of Austrian director/writer Jessica Hausner’s 2009 film Lourdes. Part one of the series Prologue to a Posy, lays out in some detail the genesis of the project and outlines its basic method, which is a kind of one-man version of film critic Roger Ebert,’s Cinema Interruptus. Part Two of this series Day One: The Wheelchair is No Barrier to Desire, takes us through approximately the first twenty five minutes of the film, to the end of the first full day in in-movie time. If you haven’t done so I suggest that you back track and start this series from the beginning.
What you will be seeing, reading, will be something that looks a bit like the full screenplay of the movie, transcribed from the screen by me, with commentary, informal micro-essays, and observations interspersed between the dialogue and description. The biggest problem I foresee with this format is a breakdown in the narrative flow of the movie, or a basic incoherence, which seems hard to get around, especially when working within the constraints of this blogging platform. I’ll do my best to make improvements if readers are having difficulty in the comprehension department. For typos and other grammar specific errors we at the Meme Merchants Consortium prefer you to use the Comment Form on our Contact Page, this prevents the Comments section from getting cluttered up.
So far, I’ve logged one comment and it is worthy of repeating. From WondersInTheDark:
This is really audacious, wow! I will need to look at this and get back with a better response. But I certainly do like what you are doing here, ww. This as my favorite film of 2010:
I appreciate the compliment. Audacious is of course a word that can cut in two directions. This project, because of the unique and demanding nature of the process, has a high potential for failure, for many reasons, mental exhaustion being one of them.
Eating an Elephant
This project is becoming a sort of elephant. An old boss of mine once said of large projects, “There’s only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time.” True maybe, but at the same time, if you know snakes, or have ever kept one as a pet you will also know that for a snake the act of eating is a race between digestion and putrefaction. If you are a snake and eat too large of a rat you die from sepsis [coincidentally, or ironically, according to Chinese astrology I am a snake]. We’ll have to see how much of the pressure to complete the project in its entirety I can stand – or if anyone really cares enough to read it all.
In the prologue to this series: Lourdes – Prologue to a Posy, I laid out the premise that I was going to be conducting a detailed, though maybe not microscopic, analysis of Austrian director/writer Jessica Hausner’s 2009 film Lourdes as a kind of didactic exercise to see if what a relative nobody like me, if he applied himself to the subject, could come up with. The particular didactic method I have chosen to use is a kind of one-man version of the Cinema Interruptus format developed by film critic Roger Ebert, which I elaborated upon in the previous article.
So, what you are going to be seeing is something resembling a screenplay of the movie, which I am currently transcribing in stages from the screen word by word, scene by scene, with my comments and observations interlaced between. I really don’t know how well this is going to work, I’ve never tried anything like it. As I said in the Prologue, this may very well turn into a mad, mad quest. Nothing, hazarded nothing gained. At the very least its good practice for me. Let’s hope you are able to gain something from it as well.
The WordPress blogging platform and this particular theme, impose some very strict limits on what it is possible to do in terms of formatting a structure this complex, but I’ve devised something out that seems to work reasonably well. My aim is is first readability and comprehensibility, only then ‘correctness’ in terms of format. So, if neither aim is satisfied to your satisfaction, my apologies in advance.
Now we begin the task in earnest.
Every once in a while I come across a movie review where I wonder if the reviewer and I have actually watched the same movie. I know that there are often substantially different ‘cuts’ of a movie presented to different audiences floating around out there. One of the classic examples of this is the 142 minute nominally nihilistic Euro-centric theatrical cut of director Terry Gilliam’s classic 1985 film Brazil, and the ofttimes disparaged 95 minute American, ‘love conquerors all’,cut of the film. Even so, sometimes it seems there exists out there a tin-pot doppelganger to a movie I really enjoyed, which I find perplexing – or maybe it’s just that I’m odd in some way.
But, I digress.
I actually don’t actually watch a whole lot of movies; however, since the coming of Netflix to Middle Earth I have been watching many more than I used to, but I think I could hardly match the performance of most serious film buffs. In exception to the general trend, in the last week or two I have seen several very worth while ones that have been turning into fodder for the Meme Merchants Consortium think tank.
This week it has been Austrian director/writer Jessica Hausner’s 2009 film Lourdes that has got the groups attention at the Meme Merchant’s Film Society. On the whole we really liked the film, we each tend to find some fault with certain aspects, but the discussion has been whether we should give it four or five Netflix stars.
I almost let this important anniversary slip by last Wednesday the 22 February, which marked the sixty-ninth anniversary of the executions of three members of the Nazi era White Rose resistance organization: Hans Scholl, his younger sister Sophie, and Christoph Probst at Stadelheim Prison in Munich on that date in 1943.
I commemorate that event each year, usually by rewatching Marc Rothemund’s excellent 2005 film Sophie Scholl: the final days, as a way to refresh my memory and my sense of moral outrage at the sad and tragic termination of one more example of German resistance to the Nazi regime under the heavy blade of the fallbeil. As it turns out I spent that evening watching for the first time Margarethe von Trotta’s 2003 film Rosenstraße which depicts the events surrounding the 1943 Rosenstrasse Protests. I’ve spent the last few days doing some reading and trying to put those two event into some kind of a context.
I’m going to try to keep this from turning into a couple of movie reviews, though obviously the direction of my thinking has been significantly impacted by the two films.