Tuesday, May 29, 2007

La terra trema: Episodio del mare

La terra trema: Episodio del mare directed by Luchino Visconti is one of the movies that have managed to make me feel depressed for days.

The first interesting thing about this movie is its cast. Right on the beginning, the actors are listed as Sicilian Fishermen. And indeed, the entire cast was composed of non-professional actors - real people that are portraying their lives. The story is settled in the village Trezza and those people truly are genuine fishermen and inhabitants of Trezza. Now, this really gives authentic feeling and you are going to care (more than usual) about those people and happenings that will take place in their lives.

Visconti was forced to sell some of his mother's jewelry and one of the family's apartments in Rome to finish this film. He got only one award - Golden Lion, which is absolutely amazing for me, simply because I think this movie, made almost as a documentary, deserves much, much more!

La terra trema: Episodio del mare is a heart breaking study of the Sicilian fishermen family Valastro. They struggle to survive, while being heavily exploited by fish wholesalers. But wholesalers are not their only enemy. There is also an unpredictable and dangerous sea.

The family Valastro tries to overcome their poverty by buying their own boat and becoming their own boss. They are forced to take mortgage on the only possession they have – their family house.

Valastro’s decision is welcomed and supported by the other inhabitants of Trezza, the same inhabitants that won’t have any mercy and compassion later on, when faith turned down its favors to the Valastro family. Was it faith or greed that made them sink so deep? I think they simply didn’t have luck nor enough money to recover after the tragic lose of their boat and with the mortgage on their back.

At one point, Visconti clearly identifies the corrupt, exploitive wholesalers with the Mussolini’s regime. He also emphasis that we all must work together for the common good and only then everyone has a chance to succeed.

Yes, Visconti was Marxist, but I think he didn’t make this movie in order to judge or to make a political speech. Even if he did, you can dislike his political attitude and ideas but you simply can’t disregard the fact that this movie has a universal message and is telling the story that can take place anywhere and at any time in history, and that’s all that matters. And what a story!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Einstein’s Dreams

Each time is true, but the truths are not the same.

Has anyone read Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman? It is one of my favorite books.

Lightman is known as the man that made fundamental contributions to the theory of astrophysical processes under extreme temperatures and densities. His research has focused on the relativistic gravitation theory, the structure and behavior of accretion disks, stellar dynamics and relativistic plasmas. In a way, his book Einstein’s Dreams brought science and literature together. The book contains 30 little fables about places where time behaves quite differently, but these are also the fables about the way we live. I liked Lightman’s style very much. I found this book to be very original and interesting. Once I started, I couldn’t stop reading it. I totally recommend it.


Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.

For the most part, people do not know they will live their lives over. Traders do not know that they will make the same bargain again and again. Politicians do not know that they will shout from the same lectern an infinite number of times in the cycles of time. Parents treasure the first laugh from their child as if they will not hear it again. Lovers making love the first time undress shyly, show surprise at the supple thigh, the fragile nipple. How would they know that each secret glimpse, each touch, will be repeated again and again and again, exactly as before?

On Marktgasse, it is the same. How could the shopkeepers know that each handmade sweater, each embroidered handkerchief, each chocolate candy, each intricate compass and watch will return to their stalls? At dusk, the shopkeepers go home to their families or drink beer in the taverns, calling happily to friends down the vaulted alleys, caressing each moment as an emerald on temporary consignment. How could they know that nothing is temporary, that all will happen again? No more than an ant crawling round the rim of a crystal chandelier knows that it will return to where it began.

In the hospital on Gerberngasse, a woman says goodbye to her husband. He lies in bed and stares at her emptily. In the last two months, his cancer has spread from his throat to his liver, his pancreas, his brain. His two young children sit on one chair in the corner of the room, frightened to look at their father, his sunken cheeks, the withered skin of an old man. The wife comes to the bed and kisses her husband softly on the forehead, whispers goodbye, and quickly leaves with the children. She is certain that this was the last kiss. How could she know that time will begin again, that she will be born again, will study at the gymnasium again, will show her paintings at the gallery in Z├╝rich, will again meet her husband in the small library in Fribourg, will again go sailing with him in Thun Lake on a warm day in July, will give birth again, that her husband will again work for eight years at the pharmaceutical and come home one evening with a lump in his throat, will again throw up and get weak and end up in this hospital, this room, this bed, this moment. How could she know?

In the world in which time is a circle, every handshake, every kiss, every birth, every word, will be repeated precisely. So too every moment that two friends stop becoming friends, every time that a family is broken because of money, every vicious remark in an argument between spouses, every opportunity denied because of a superior's jealousy, every promise not kept.

And just as all things will be repeated in the future, all things now happening happened a million times before. Some few people in every town, in their dreams, are vaguely aware that all has occurred in the past. These are the people with unhappy lives, and they sense that their misjudgments and wrong deeds and bad luck have all taken place in the previous loop of time. In the dead of night these cursed citizens wrestle with their bedsheets, unable to rest, stricken with the knowledge that they cannot change a single action, a single gesture. Their mistakes will be repeated precisely in this life as in the life before. And it is these double unfortunates who give the only sign that time is a circle. For in each town, late at night, the vacant streets and balconies fill up with their moans.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Banshun – Late Spring

I had luck to find several of Yasujiro Ozu’s movies and the first one I saw was Banshun.

The story is very simple and lovely. The main character is 27 years old Noriko and she lives with her widowed father. They’ve developed a special bond and, although it’s time for Noriko to get married, she is having a hard time to leave the father. On another side, father will miss the daughter but he is a remarkable and selfless man and he worries about the daughter’s future and happiness.

It was simply poetic and beautiful to watch mutual love, respect and understanding between father and daughter and equally hard to see upcoming events that will change their lives. It was a very touchy experience and I can perfectly understand feelings on both sides.

The closing scenes were especially hard. Everything is said there and without words. It is the heartbreaking moment of solitude at the beginning of changes. It is the moment of realization. Father is sitting and peeling an apple. Waves are breaking on the shore…

Changes are inevitable and painful sometimes, but we must accept changes and embrace them as new opportunities in life. Parting with parents is especially hard because they will love us no matter what while we must somehow deserve the love of all other people we meet. Parents’ love is without demands so to say.

There is one more interesting side of this movie and that is the Japanese postwar lifestyle. The American influence on their culture is obvious. We can see a Coca Cola advertisement for example but there are many indications in general.

Setsuko Hara played Noriko and she was simply lovely! Her smile is so adorable and it will light up your heart. Chishu Ryu played her father. They both have done a wonderful job. Don’t miss it!


I know I will be eaten alive for saying this but I didn’t like the movie 300 directed by Zack Snyder. In fact, I was very disappointed.

Oddly enough, I was speaking with several friends (people whose opinion I value and respect) and many liked this movie a lot. Not to mention that my own brother entered my house a few moments ago by saying: This is Sparta! LOL Alright, we all have personal tastes and preferences so let me have my wine and cheese.

I was expecting to see an epic historical movie about the battle of Thermopylae in which a band of 300 Spartans held back an army of thousands of Persians but I got dozens of special effects and pathetic characters. It was like a slap right into the face. Heaven preserve us!

So, what is my problem with 300? I have several but I will state only a few. I know the movie is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel and I know it is not meant to be a documentary from some history channel but I simply can’t enjoy this type of entertainment since we already have too many! I am so enough of entertainment movies. I found 300 to be simply pointless and without any meaning and message. Snyder put all efforts into the visual part of the movie instead to develop something way more important, like characters and the story itself. However, I also think that he should simply call this battle and people by some fictional names. That would make more sense considering what he presented to us. It was simply hilarious to hear Snyder’s statement for MTV that 300 is a 90% historically accurate movie. I fell from the chair! Later on, for BBC news, he said that the movie in its core is fantasy movie. Someone might have educated him in the meanwhile, I guess.

So, our brave men are fighting for what? What cause and what lifestyle? Let me tell you that they are fighting for the rows of pillars as that is the only thing that you will see of Sparta. Seeing king Leonidas as some sort of a macho man and Xerxes portrayed as androgynous creature was simply hilarious. And the Oracle! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Female priests are exchanged with a bunch of old (leprous?) men in black hoods. God will no longer speak there indeed!

I heard about the protests in Iran. I won’t comment much although I can see where they are coming from. Thanks to the current political situation in the world, people really became paranoid and that is just sad. Yes, Snyder turned Persians into monsters but I don’t think he had any political intensions as he obviously don’t know much about the battle of Thermopylae nor about Sparta or any other historical aspect that he (ironically) filmed.

The ultimate point of 300 is holding on the ground that the small group of people was outnumbered by their enemies and yet they stood up and fought back. But let me remind you that what is presented to be astonishing, heroic and ultimate sacrifice was common sense back then and many other times in history. Not to mention that dialogues are very shallow and emotions were raised to a pathetic level. I truly couldn’t sympathize with Spartans while laughing at the stupid dialogues.

A lot of effort and money have gone into postproduction and I guess that is exactly the part that people like the most. Heck the entire movie is a series of special effects and there is absolutely nothing else to be seen so, to put it simple, you will enjoy some special effects or you won’t enjoy at all!

The official website 300

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Moving and Black Light

So yes, I didn’t post any of my photos lately and I didn’t mention anything about my life in general. As some of you know, I don’t have much time at this moment because I am about to move to another country. Next month I will be in Switzerland.

Moving is hard, meaning there are a lot of a things that need to be done. I have to leave my apartment and the most important is that I actually have to storage all my belongings. The biggest problem is the furniture. I don’t have a car so practically I can take only my suitcases with me, which means that I can’t really carry much. It’s also hard because I have to leave my family and friends and my country. I don’t even know any of Swiss languages but I’m planning to stay there for about two years so I will certainly learn some. Switzerland is a beautiful country and I have traveled there several times. I hope I can settle in some small place by a lake because I want to be surrounded with nature and I like water very much. Anyway, I won’t post anything here for a while, probably from June to July, until I finally settle.

When it comes to photography, I had my third exhibition recently. It was actually a collective exhibition of a several photographers and I have exhibited several photos from my experimental series with black light.

UV lamps or black light fluorescent tubes are usually used in archeology, criminology and medicine. If you are interested to experiment with black light, I can give you some advice. First, I didn’t use flash or any other source of light, except one weak black light tube. Common is to use two sources of a black light but I used one. Tripod is a must. The main problem is bad visibility and focus. Light up your subject and adjust the camera settings before you switch to black light. You can also focus on the visible light and shoot with the maximum depth of field. However, the best is to make tests for the correct focus and exposure. I didn’t use any filter but common is to use a filter that will block visible light.

Some colors and materials are especially vibrant. If you want to get black background the best is to use black fabric. I didn’t use any particular background because my black light source was weak enough hence the background appears to be black. I’m planning to experiment further and to try out different effects. Anyway, I hope this information was useful.