Life as it ain't

"I'm not really from outer space. I'm just mentally divergent."

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“Religion is deemed by the masses as true, by the wise as false… and by the rulers as necessary.”

Posted by Ronak M Soni on January 19, 2011

Originally published at PassionforCinema.

Franklyn, directed and written by Gerald McMorrow, starring Eva Green, Ryan Philippe, Bernard Hill, Sam Riley and William Faulkner (not the writer)

The Fall, written by Dan Golroy, Nico Soultanakis and Tarsem, directed by Tarsem, starring Catinca Untaru and Lee Pace

Many spoilers be here, for there is nothing to be said about these movies without discussing their endings, and I don’t see that they spoil the movies.

Milo: I heard this story once when I was a kid, or read it. It was about a storyteller who was so good at telling stories that everything he made up became real. So the storyteller creates a world for himself where he’s the king of the castle, has a beautiful princess on his arm. And then, one day, he wakes up. He looks around. He kisses her on the cheek and… legs it.

Dan: Why?
Milo: I don’t know. Even though his life was perfect, absolutely perfect, he had the feeling he should be somewhere else. With someone else.

From The Fall; this is a typical example of the respect that Tarsem has for the laws of optics

Promotional image for Franklyn; from left to right, Sam Riley as bereft lover, Ryan Philippe as masked man, Meanwhile City and Eva Green as disrubed art student

Now, finally, is the time I have to admit that I’ve never been quite comfortable with the classification of art into “great” and “not great.” Yes, I’ve myself indulged in it; but only in cases when I’ve been utterly certain. The reason that it is now that is the time is that I’m going to write about two utterly amazing fantastical movies which I cannot in honesty call great but which I don’t think I’ll ever be forgetting.

Franklyn is about four people: a masked man in Meanwhile City (the other three are in London) – a steampunk city in which it is the law to belong to religion, whether it be deep or based on washing machine instructions and in which the masked man is the only religionless man – trying to kill the head of a murderous religion (called, in a fit of inspiration, The Individual), an art student who enjoys attempting suicide, a bereft lover whose fiancé has just left him, and a father whose son escaped from the mental asylum on the eve of his home visit. Well, technically there’s also the guy who insists that your actions’ consequences are felt by people you haven’t met.

The Fall is about a five-year-old Latina girl Alexandria who’s broken her arm and by accident meets a stuntman with broken legs, Roy, in the hospital. Roy starts telling her a story about five bandits who have sworn to kill the terrible Governor Odious. Roy, however, has a death wish and… what he does about it, he invites my profoundest contempt (till the end, anyway, but I’ll come to that shortly).

The first thing in common between these two (apart from the fact that I watched them both this weekend) is that they are about the power of storytelling. The second thing in common is that I proudly admit that I don’t really understand them, though I have an emotional sympathy for them.

First, Franklyn. How can I describe the formidability of Mr. McMorrow’s vision without going on for a thousand words about the plot? Simple: the fifth guy disappears. Ka-boom, we feel as the camera slowly zooms in on an unmanned mop.

For those (everyone, I expect) for whom the last was too vague, here’s the deal: masked man is the “alter-ego” of the son of fourth guy (Meanwhile City exists only in his head), head of the religion is fourth guy and fifth guy… in Meanwhile City he’s the mayor. In London, he is the pastor at some church, a janitor at the hospital in which the art student is a regular who says that you action affects the people you’ve met and a guy in a mental institution who shares the bereft lover’s hallucination of his childhood sweetheart; he’s nothing either more or less than some sort of overseer of stories. And in the end, he disappears, right after some tricks with character placement subtly suggest that all four protagonists exist within each other’s heads, much like this.

Yes, like much good fantasy, Franklyn is about the power of stories. I just don’t know how. Franklyn is the more formidable in terms of vision, but The Fall is the one which stumps me more deeply.

It’s scary. Roy almost kills Alexandria in his attempt to get enough morphine to kill himself and then concludes his story in a way that scares me will traumatise her for life, and yet I’m with him. This is how the story deserves to end, some sort of balance: the real guy doesn’t die, so the people in the story have to. It makes no sense to me, but I’m emotionally completely taken up.

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Logicomix: “A Narrative Argument Against Readymade Solutions”

Posted by Ronak M Soni on November 8, 2010

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, Bloomsbury (2009)

Writers: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou

Art: Alecos Papadatos

Colour: Annie di Donna

The creators of the almost brilliant Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth have forgotten a very important fact; that, to be great lecture fiction, a book must first be great fiction. And one of the rules for a book to be great fiction is that it must not lecture.

However nonsensical it may seem, that paragraph does make sense.

The book opens with Apostolos (an obvious stand-in for Mr. Doxiadis, but none of the characters introduce themselves with surnames, and I will follow that) introducing us to this book he’s writing called Foundational Quest and telling us that he is going to meet Christos, who is a computer engineer and, therefore, an expert in mathematical logic (a textbook written by him resides in my college’s library), as a consultant.

“You see,” he informs us, “this isn’t your typical, usual comic book.” Friends who have been told what it is about haven’t taken them seriously, and, when they have, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

And it goes on, till he meets Christos, and starts telling him a story of Bertrand Russell’s lecture in America on the day England declared war on Germany. Mr. Russell meets, outside the hall, a group of protesters insistent that their country stay out of the war. He invites them in for the lecture, “The Role of Logic in Human Affairs” and starts narrating his own life-story. Meanwhile, Christos and Apostolos have got to the studio and meet the artists, Alecos and Annie (Miss di Donna has also worked on the famous Tintin series), and the visual researcher Anne.

From the very beginning, Apostolos and the artists make it clear to Christos that the book is about the interplay between logic and madness, but Christos doesn’t see the point of it being so character-driven.

Needless to say, he eventually comes around, and the exact chain of events that leads to his understanding sheds a non-trivial amount of light on the major theme.

To be honest, I disagree that this book is strictly about the relationship between logic and madness. It is about the madness that comes out of the thirst for knowledge in a strictly rational epistemology.

A minor disagreement, but a disagreement nevertheless.

This book really needs little exposition from my side; the final pages explain everything that has been explored, and a reread in the light of these last pages will illuminate it all.

What this book is really successful at doing, finally, is not at talking about rationality and madness – though it does do that very well – as much as at portraying the world of philosophical/mathematical academia and what drives the leading figures in these circles.

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