Tuesday, January 29, 2013


2012, Michael Haneke

A delicately etched portrayal of senility. Anne, 85, a former music teacher does not want to be sent to the hospital again at any cost. But as someone said, old age is not for sissies  There are many ways of expressing love. The film is hypnotic enough in it's description of a terminal condition, illuminated by mild strokes of lightening. At one point, he slaps her as she spits out the water he is force feeding her. But nothing has prepared you for the climax which combines the macabre, heroic and sublime, which no one but Haneke could have executed.. A grand drama soaring from mundane to epic .

Sunday, January 13, 2013


RSC 2009

For older versions, click here and here.

For excellence of acting and adherence to the spirit and intent of the play, this scores very high. Unfazed by issues of period and costume, it is rich in delightful anachronisms (like TV surveillance in the court) , thereby managing to focus on  the psychological and spiritual issues which are the core of the great drama. In the fluidity of acting, whether it is in the leading roles of Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude or Ophelia; the delightful Polonius or the comically modern gravediggers, it would be hard to match this TV film. Its hard to beat Brits when it comes to the Bard.

Hamlet as the play opens is reeling under the double blow of his father's demise and his mother's remarriage. The idyllic life of the gifted and intellectual Prince (easy to identify with his creator),  dallying in the garden of a youthful romance, awaking to the wonder of life, is blown to smithereens . He sinks into melancholia, life having lost all fragrance and meaning.

But this is only the backdrop. The oracular appearance of the ghost, revealing the true nature of events, places on his inexperienced shoulders a sacred responsibility of revenge. No longer can he afford wallow in passive dejection. The task is far more than he is cut out to perform, and he embarks on the journey of his spiritual evolution. He toys with the idea of suicide, the famous soliloquy being perhaps the greatest meditation on death from a strictly rational viewpoint. He seeks an escape by questioning the veracity of the supernatural revelation. The intellectual escape route can be considered sealed by Claudius' reaction to the play within the play. This can be regarded as a scientific experiment or a piece of detective work. Now in question is only his own capability to rise to his responsibility, and the process of his inner congealing begins. In the inadvertent slaying of  Polonius, he reaches a bridge of no return, since he has already carried out his duty in intent. But he is pursuing justice, not revenge, as his reservations in executing Claudius in the act of prayer import. From here onward is his evolution to the point where he grows to be equal to his task. The encounter with Fortinbras is a symbolic milestone. The parallel drama of Laertes' spurs him on.

The point of consummation of his resolve is the graveyard scene: his encounter with the death oif "beautious Ophelia" and Yorick's skull. He awakens to the nature of death and life: an "enlightened" man. This is the psychological climax of the play. He is "ready". The powers that be now take over, and events swiftly roll forward to the perfect symmetry of the denouement.

If one is to draw a meaning from the play, it would perhaps be that human beings are capable of change, all the more in the face of  monumental challenges.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Steven Spielberg, 2012

From the misty heights of legend, Lincoln is brought to earth through this minutely etched portrait of a practical politician, no less great for his wiliness. The temptation is natural to draw a parallel with the final years of Gandhi's life. Spielberg has created a timeless and authentic sculpture, comparable to what Attenborough did for Gandhi. Both men were yardsticks unto themselves, drawing inspiration from their respective faiths, combining lofty idealism with the soil of ordinary life. A distinction could be made in their respective view of means and ends, but that would amount to hair splitting, given the different circumstances.In one of the brilliant moments, Lincoln correlates his ideological core of faith with one of Euclid's axioms. While it is futile to compare the stature of the two men, Spielberg's achievement is perhaps greater than Attenborough's, in terms of aesthetics, comprehension of the subject, and being less sentimental, reverence for his suybject notwithstanding. Indeed, this is the Spielberg of the dazzling historical canvas, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. No wonder since David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia was Spielberg's first inspiration, which decided him on his choice of career. Tentatively, a great movie.