Saturday, November 10, 2007

Stardust and Hyperion

Finally watched Stardust (in German, reluctantly). The book is based on, by Neil Gaiman, is one of my favourites - it's a beautiful fairytale that you wish would never end. So my expectations for the film were quite high, although I lowered them, partly because it has been ages since I read the book and also because I realize that, yes, a film is different to a book.
All in all I liked the film. It's not perfect. It has weaknesses (as do most films). There's a bit too much Hollywood kitsch and melodrama in it. The first part is a bit tedious, but the nice bits increase in quantity after some time and by the middle the film is quite enjoyable. I even like some of the changes that were made when translating the book to the screen. Captain Shakespeare is a very nice character and the dancing scene on his ship emphasized the glow of the star/Yvaine in a really nice way.
I also liked the camerawork and the effects. The aforementioned glow was fabulous and the green fire effects impressed me, too (and made me wonder when green fire effects in films became a fashion). They seemed appropriate for the kind of film it is and not over the top.
Also, Claire Danes surprised me with her performance. I was not sure she would fit the role of Yvaine, because I always imagined the star as a quite young girl in the book (appearance of a 13-year-old, but wisdom of the ages, that kind of thing). For the film-Yvaine, though, Claire Danes was very fitting and convincing. I also loved her monologue when Tristan's a mouse.
So Stardust turned out to be a nice and very sweet film; special in its own way, as it does not try to copy a film that has been here before and instead sets its own atmosphere.


I also finished reading Dan Simmon's Hyperion. It's a nicely different Science Fiction; almost completely character-driven, and very little actually happens in the book. You basically just get to know the characters' background stories (what a clever way to make the reader buy the sequel) as a set-up for the plot development that is to come. I like that. The little emphasis on character is what usually puts me off SciFi. You even have some of the social criticism that's typical for SciFi. I really enjoyed the religious discourse that worked its way through the book - the novel presents a wealth of world religions (in their futuristic variety) like Judaism, Zen Buddhism and Christianity, competing with each other through the characters (most characters have an emphasis on one religion).
It seems to me that Science Fiction that uses religion as a driving force for the plot or the characters is rare. If religion is present in SciFi, it's only visible as fanaticism (and even then mostly just in end-of-world-scenarios). I guess that's because a futuristic, science- and technology-based world is bound to lose its faith and searches for new gods (e.g. computers, or - as it is probably at least partly the case in the present - Fantasy literature as replacement for the loss of past mysticism, which was greatly based in religious texts).
True enough, Hyperion has an Armageddon-scenario. But it seems to me the religious discourse is still more focused compared to other novels. Moreover, Simmons seems to have researched the religions very thoroughly and developed quite a detailed futuristic version of each, making them more believable. Now I'm very curious how this discourse will resolve itself in The Fall of Hyperion and whether Simmons will actually give one religion a preference (which, I imagine, could be quite tricky).


More experimenting with techniques. I used the same technique as in the last painting, but somehow it didn't work so well this time. Apparently some techniques are better for certain subject matters than others (doh). I'm just surprised because I'd have thought this technique would be better for the pretty-girl-paintings than my normal working habit. Gotta experiment a bit more with it.
(Or maybe it's the colour ... it seems I can get the values alright with this technique, but it messes up the colours so much that I have to do a lot of post-painting editing.)
(And the composition is by far less than perfect...)


Anonymous said...

God is dead! ;-)

Not really dead... I would more likely say he was replaced by the human. "Götter in weiß" as we call medics in German is not just a phrase, sometimes it seems to be the truth. We can now explain so many of those events accredited to god in the good, old time. So a lot of people think we do not need one any more.

Although I do not know this book, it sounds quite interesting thinking - and reading - about a possible future of religion. Of course I have already thought about this topic. I think - and have no proof - that a religious life is quite common in poor countries whereas its rare in richer ones. The latter often deal superficially with religion and are not really religious. That is the reason why I have resigned from the church-club ;-)

I am now trying to get to know Taoism - and I do not mean the esoteric one. I mean Lao Tse and Dschuang Dsi. Although written centuries ago, there is so much wisdom also for somebody living now in these books!

But it is too late for this topic now... good night!

Manuela said...

That's an interesting idea about God being replace by man. It would put mankind back into the centre of the universe (symbolically/mentally). Back to the typically self-centred thinking of humanity ;)

It's quite likely that people are much more religious in poor areas. We tend to only turn to religion when we aren't strong enough to deal with a situation alone and are in need of support (emotional, usually) - a sort of last resolve when you have noone and nothing else to turn to. And when the situation has passed, you forget that you're religious. Makes me wonder how the faith of the people in poor countries would change if the country's economy changed.
Of course, that can't be applied to all and everybody. I've met some very devout Christians who were quite well off when I was studying in England. It's amazing how they manage to make your feel uncomfortable and try to convert you just by being overly friendly (until you start disagreeing with them).

I admit I know next to nothing about Taoism. Right now I'm reading about Zen Buddhism (mostly because of the link to Kendo, but also because a friend of mine is Buddhist and we talked a bit about how she came to be one) and a little bit on Paganism. The Eastern philosophical traditions seem in general more open compared to the Western religions, which are rather exclusive. I have the feeling it's more acceptable to take some bits of the Eastern faiths that you can relate to and integrate them into your worldview, while the Western ones often force you to take all or nothing (a bit like a sect, really).

But I shouldn't really discuss religions. I don't know by far enough about all of them (or any one, even). And it usually gets you into trouble because someone is bound to disagree with you and you end up slightly paranoid and traumatized.

I believe my bed and books are calling... G'Night!