Love for life
As promised, here is the link to the full movie based on Dream of Ding Village. This movie is directed by Gu Changwei, one of the most famous “fifth generation directors” in China, and performed by many famous Chinese actors, such as Zhang Ziyi. You may be familiar to her early film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Love for Life was released on 10 May 2011 in China. Though this movie is a little different from the novel and focuses more on Tingting and Ding Hui’s love, it faithfully illustrates the rural background and the tragic flavor of the storyline. Hope that you will further understand the setting of the novel by watching this film.
“Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup” — Sunset Boulevard
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of movies and I haven’t watched The Wizard of Oz or A Streetcar Named Desire to better understand this play. However, Prior’s makeup and lines in the clip that we watched in class on Monday did remind me of Norma Desmond, the main character in the old but famous movie Sunset Boulevard. Here are two pictures for you to visualize their similarity:
Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 American movie directed by Billy Wilder and won three academy awards at that time. In the movie, Joe Gill is a screenwriter who accidentally rushes into an old mansion and meets Norma Desmond, a forgotten silent film star. Norma Desmond is working on a script for a film in which she plans to be the main actor and she wants Joe’s help. After Joe starts to live with Norma, Norma falls in love with Joe but Joe refuses because he falls in love with Betty, another girl. Soon, Norma looses her hope to return to the stage because Paramount is clearly indifferent to her film script. At the same time, Joe plans to leave her so she kills Joe. In the end of the movie, Norma is detected as the murderer and her mansion is surrounded by police and reporters. When she steps out of her house, she dreams that she finally comes back to the stage and says “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”. Here is the final part of the Sunset Boulevard:
Prior is similar to Norma in many ways. They are forgotten and abandoned by their lovers and society; they put on lots of makeup to hide their weakness; they both use hallucinations to soothe their pain or depression. Most importantly, they rely too much on hallucinations and dreams, so they may be confused between dreams and realities. Different from Louis, Prior suffers the most but he acts as a stronger figure though we can clearly see his struggle. As a “homo” with AIDS, Prior is definitely belittled and isolated by the mainstream conservative society. However, he wishes to be like Norma, who arrogantly and elegantly walks to the sunset of her dramatic life.
Contagion: The movie!
Below I have attached the trailer of the movie, that goes by the name Contagion. This movie is an attempt to depict what might happen if a deadly pandemic takes place in 21st Century.The movie documents the spread of the virus transmitted by formites. The virus causes global pandemic and nobody knows its cure until the very end of the movie(unlike in the real world, most of the movies have happy endings 🙂 ). Similarly to the texts we studied, in the movie the government tries to contain the virus by imposing quarantine but is not completely successful as people find ways to escape it. Although this movie is set in 21st Century, the government and public still act in the same way as they did in the Arthur Mervyn and Journal of the plague year.
Be careful on what you touch and share in public places as you might be carrier of a deadly virus that is about to cause a global pandemic. 🙂
Enjoy the trailer.
Jane Austen, meet Arthur Mervyn
If anyone here is a Jane Austen fan, you may want to think about the fact that Brown’s Arthur Mervyn and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are separated by roughly a dozen years. I’ve written here before about ties between these two novels — and on the special consideration novels in general give to questions of love, marriage, and property — though coming soon, we may also have to consider additional connections between Austen and our course material …
AIDS in Teen Subculture
In looking at the theme of Contagion in Angels in America, perhaps we can be aided by also looking at this same theme in pop culture. The first movie that came to mind for me when I thought about the AIDS epidemic was Kids by Larry Clark (1995). In its day, this movie rose to infamy due to its graphic nature and the age of its cast/subjects, most of whom were young skaters hanging around Washington Square Park. The movie was also Harmony Korine’s screenwriting debut, an opportunity created after Clark asked Korine, a 19-year-old skater, to capture the crazy haphazard modern life of teens in New York City.
The story of the movie revolves a few 16 and 17-year-old characters, namely Telly, Caspar, Jennie, and Ruby. Telly, obsessed with having sex with virginal girls sometimes as young as 12 and 13, is infected with HIV but doesn’t know it. The summer before, he had sex with Jennie, and Jennie finds out she is also infected (by Telly) after she goes into the clinic for STD testing. Throughout the movie, Jennie tries to stop Telly from infecting his next victim, who is, in this case, Darcy, a 13- year-old virgin and younger sister of a friend.
Darcy and Telly at the swimming pool.
(points to lesion) “What’s that?”
“That’s my triple nipple.”
Earlier in the movie, the attitude towards the disease can be seen in a speech from a boy in Telly’s gang. In this scene, they’re all sitting around, getting high, and bragging about their sexual conquests and proving their superior knowledge about women. When they get onto the topic of condoms, the boy starts ranting,
“That’s the whole thing though, you know what I’m saying? All you hear about is disease this and disease that. Fucking everyone’s dying and shit. Yo, fucking, that shit is made up. I don’t know no kids with AIDS. Y’no what I’m saying. Ain’t no one I know that died from that shit. It’s like some weird make-believe story that the whole world believes.
Very ironic. He’s going to have a lot of dead friends soon. After the speech, the boys at the roundtable yell out in delight that they don’t care about condoms, they just want to “fuck.” The attitude towards AIDS is drastically different from Angels in America in one aspect. No human in AIA dares to laugh in the face of the disease. Some deny it, some run away from it, some fight it with all their might, but no one tries to provoke it.
This film is placed and was shot in the 90s, a decade or so after Angels in America. America is far gone from Reagan and at this time under President Bill Clinton from the Democratic Party. In New York City, a group of teenagers are unruly and ruling this turf, where we may have, a decade ago, seen Joe and Louis talking together on a bench and Harper camping out with her insanity as company. Kids, like Angels in America, also brings under scrutiny the moral situation and degradation of the United States, the theme of contagion and how one deals with death, and the life and struggles of a subculture. When it comes down to how they all deal with the disease, the film does not give much insight into their lives. Throughout the entire movie, Telly never realizes he has AIDS and continues to have sex with other people. Jennie’s identity as a HIV-infected individual is never really shared with many people other than the audience and the doctor. Caspar unknowingly infects himself. Perhaps the entire film can be encapsulated in the last four words of the film.
“Jesus Christ, what happened?”
Casper, Syphillis or Strigoi?
Ghosts. When I heard Regine and Oswald in there, it was just like seeing ghosts. But then I’m inclined to think that we are all ghosts, Pastor Manders, every one of us. It’s not just what we inherit from our mothers and fathers that haunts us. It’s all kinds of old defunct theories, all sorts of old defunct beliefs, and things like that. It’s not that they actually live on in us; they are simply lodged there, and we cannot get rid of them. (Ibsen 126)
I don’t how it all happened with you guys…But when I read these words in Ghosts by Ibsen, I was somewhat confused. What on earth did Mrs. Alving mean by “ghosts”? And, more importantly, what is that to do with the play?
It didn’t seem that Mrs. Alving was actually haunted by supernatural things she saw. It wasn’t like in the Ghost Busters movie, it wasn’t anything like Casper.
So how was it? Why was the play named Ghosts, after all?
Trying to answer this question, I familiarized myself with one of, what seems, the funkiest Romanian beliefs. Belief in the Strigoi.
What is Strigoi?
In Romanian mythology, strigoi (English: striga, poltergeist) are the troubled souls of the dead rising from the grave.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strigoi)
As far as I understood, nowadays, the not so well-known “Strigoi” is the famous “Vampire”.
According to Wikipedia, “strigoi date back to the Dacians. The strigoi are creatures of Dacian mythology, evil spirits, the spirits of the dead whose actions made them unworthy of entering the kingdom of Zalmoxis.”
In short, “Strigoi” is a lost soul that wasn’t able to enter neither Heaven, nor Hell and hangs somewhere between those spaces on Earth i.e. troubled.
Considering this information, I started wondering whether Oswald himself is a… Strigoi?
What if his sinful father’s soul, after death, didn’t find peace and settled in his son’s body? Can Oswald be considered a Strigoi? Can this actually explain and acquit Oswald’s behavior? Furthermore, maybe the soul perishing him is his sickness? Not syphilis — but a Ghost who killed the poor young man?
If we look deeper into the last scenes of the play, we would see an echo of Regine’s mother in Regine herself. Did her mother’s soul settle into her body too? Would this soul perish Regine’s future? We don’t know.
Furthermore, we don’t really know what Mrs. Alving wanted to say by mentioning “ghosts”.
However, we can guess. And my guess is that she has seen Strigoies.
Thank you for your unghostly (or maybe ghostly?) attention,
Hi, all. As we prepare to begin discussing Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, here are a few links to help get us thinking:
An earlier convener’s post, taking up the question of public discourse on the plague. In what ways is communication like the disease? What mileage does Defoe get out of the link between the two?
An image of the Bills of Mortality this novel refers to.
A link to a piece considering Defoe’s book as a precursor to zombie novels and films.
Finally, here’s an award-winning short film based on Defoe’s book that raises its own questions about how to behave during an epidemic.
Bring out your dead!
I had a flashback to this clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail for some reason …
A friend of mine, Caleb Crain, wrote about Contagion for The Paris Review back when the film was released. Note the cameo appearances in his review by Defoe, Camus, and none other than Arthur Mervyn! Caleb’s more extended reading of Arthur Mervyn can be found in his book American Sympathy.