Tuesday, 1 November 2016

''Bleak House'': Novel and 2005 TV adaptation

It took me several weeks to finish reading ''Bleak House'', a novel by Charles Dickens published (in serials) from 1852 to 1853. To put it simply, I loved it. I really enjoyed reading it, and for a few weeks I was absorbed in the plot and numerous subplots of the novel. I became attached to several of the many, many characters. This was my second full-length Dickens novel- the first being A Tale of Two Cities- and needless to say I have fallen in love with Dickens's style of writing.

''Bleak House'' mainly tells the story of two people: the haughty, charming Lady Dedlock, the beautiful wife of Sir Leicester Dedlock. The Dedlocks reside in a magnificent house called Chesney Wold. Lady Dedlock, however, has a secret: a secret, if revealed, will bring drastic consequences to the lives of many people. The family lawyer, Mr Tulkinghorn, accidentally gets a hint about the secret, and delves into Lady Dedlock's past and acquaintances to learn what the secret actually is.

The other central character in the novel is Esther Summerson, a young woman who has never known her parents. She is supported by the wealthy and generous Mr Jarndyce, who appoints her as a companion to his ward and distant cousin, Ada Clare. Mr Jarndyce, Esther, Ada, and another of Mr Jarndyce's wards, Richard Carstone, are initially seen living happily in Mr Jarndyce's house- known as Bleak House- however, different events soon tear them apart.

The thing that casts a shadow throughout the novel is the case of Jarndyce & Jarndyce, a legal case that has been running for decades, a case that originated because of multiple wills made by an ancestor of the Jarndyces. If the case finally gets a verdict, the fortune of several people would depend on it. Several characters of the novel are involved somehow with the case: including Mr Jarndyce, Richard, Ada and even Lady Dedlock.

These three major plots, along with the numerous subplots, weave Bleak House, and though it might initially seem hard- and at times a bit annoying- to keep track of the numerous storyline and characters, it eventually culminates wonderfully: with various consequences coming to different characters. This is a tale of discovery, reunion, devastation, separation, happiness, and pain.

I loved the way Dickens was able to interlink so many characters. I loved how every single subplot somehow were linked with the major characters. Each character was extremely well developed.

I loved some of the characters: Esther, Mr Jarndyce, Ada, Mr George. These were definitely my favorite characters. Over the course of the novel several characters go through dynamic- yet realistic- changes, including Sir Leicester Dedlock, whom I initially thought to be haughty and stupid but circumstances over the course of the novel made me change my opinion. I definitely cared for Lady Dedlock, though I must say I did not love her the way I loved Esther Summerson. There are so many other characters worth being mentioned: Richard, Mrs Bagnet, Mrs Snagsby, Mr Smallweed, Mr Skimpole, Mr Guppy, Inspector Bucket, Mrs Rouncewell, Miss Flite, Caddy Jellyby, Prince Turveydrop, Charley and so many other characters. Mr Tulkinghorn makes a cold, well developed villain. 

The novel has two narrators: Esther and a third person narrator. I personally loved Esther's narrative more: it sounded to me much more personal, much more melodious. 

If I need to choose a favorite subplot, well, that would be difficult. But perhaps I would choose the subplot concerning Mr George, mainly because I really started loving the character and I liked the revelations and the unexpected twist in this particular subplot.

Overall, I really, really, really loved the novel. (Right now, I'm reading another of Dickens's novels, David Copperfield. I'm enjoying it so far!)

The 2005 BBC serial consisted of fifteen episodes, and was directed by Justin Chadwick and Susanna White. Though it is true that not every character, not every bit of this huge novel could be included in this adaptations, I must say that I loved it! This series definitely did justice to Dickens's novel. It is indeed a very good adaptation. It is extremely well written and the subject matter is wonderfully dealt with. I loved some of the additions: for example, Mr Skimpole is antagonized more in this adaptation and is far less comical than he was in the novel. I really admired this alteration. Mr Snagsby, for example, is more warm and amiable than comical, and I really appreciated it. Mr Guppy is more creepy and it was definitely funny (and creepy) to watch him. The performances were so very good! Though it could not include everything, I must say its a very good adaptation! 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

''Lost in Translation'' (2003 film)- Review

Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Released: 2003
Country: United States

Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


 I found ''Lost in Translation'' a subtle yet sublime, a simple yet highly relateable film.
Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, has come to Tokyo with her husband, who happens to be a photographer. While her husband spends his days outside, working, Charlotte spends all her time in the hotel, shrouded with loneliness. In the same hotel, famous middle-aged actor Bob, played by Bill Murray, is staying. He is filming for an ad in Japan. Bob is equally lonely, stuck in a problematic marriage and going through a midlife crisis. When the paths of Charlotte and Bob cross, they strike up a friendship that eventually helps them overcome their loneliness and find answers to many of the questions they were asking themselves.

''Lost in Translation'' deals with a subject matter simple yet touching, and Sofia Coppola manages to give the film a perfect shape, a touch of great sublimity. The film is a great reflection of human emotions, of loneliness, of dilemmas, of the beauty of friendship, of the meaning of life. The film is subtle, very subtle, yet so very beautiful and perfectly handled that it is a film that definitely cannot be forgotten, it is a film that deals with things that we ourselves keep experiencing in our lives: loneliness and a search for fulfillment, a search for a way to get rid of emptiness. Many of us have met a certain person- or certain people- who have helped us overcome these problems. This is why I could relate so much to this film. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray both deliver perfect performances. Add with it the excellent cinematography, background music and the setting. Sofia Coppola's screenplay is brilliant. She takes her threads from loneliness and the beauty of friendship, and weaves them together into a deeply moving film.

Friday, 22 July 2016

''Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'' (1967 film)- Review

Directed by: Stanley Kramer
Released: 1967
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy-drama

Main cast: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, Katherine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway, Beah Richards, Roy E. Glenn, Isabel Sanford

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Such a wonderful and thought-provoking film it is! ''Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'' tells the story of Joanna Drayton (Houghton), a girl from a progressive upper-middle class white family who has always been taught by her parents that there is no difference between a white person and a black person. The film is set in the 1960s, when interracial marriage was still illegal in many of the states of the United States. Joanna falls in love with John (Poitier), a highly educated and well-established African-American young man. When Joanna introduces John to her parents, her parents are surprisingly are in a dilemma, which is pretty much in contrast to their mentality which enables them not to judge people based on the color of their skin. Joanna waits for her parents' approval of the marriage. While Joanna's parents are definitely not racists, they still fear what their daughter might face if she marries John, they are uncertain about and afraid of the things that she might have to face from the society and the people around them. As the evening approaches, all of them get together, waiting for dinner: Joanna and her parents, John and her parents- who, like Joanna's parents, are also uncertain, and a family friend who warmly approves of the relationship. What will happen and what will truimph? The love between two human beings or the fear of the mentality of many of the people around them? 

''Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'' is definitely a thought-provoking film. While there is plenty of humor, there is also a great depth in the film, great character development- along with great performances by both the lead and the supporting cast. The story is definitely very interesting, the screenplay is wonderful, the subject matter is serious and thought-provoking. There are plenty of scenes that make us laugh, but at the same time, there are plenty of scenes and situations that make us think hard. Spanning just a single day, the film is about how, with the passage of time, the characters deal with the situation that has arisen and deal with their own dilemmas, providing us an insight into the minds of the characters to whom, over the course of the film, we get deeply attached. 

(Also, the song ''The Glory of Love'', with which the film begins, is beautiful and very, very memorable!). 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

''Gone with the Wind''- Book Review

Author: Margaret Mitchell
Published: 1936

Gienre: Historical fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5


Its hard for me to write this review. It actually is. To express my feelings on this novel. To express how powerful this novel is. To express how heartbreaking it is. To express the myriad of emotions I went through while reading it. I finished reading it just a few minutes ago and wanted to wait for a while before I would write this review, but I couldn't. I feel like expressing all the things I feel about this novel, all the powerful emotions I experienced reading this novel, right now. 

''Gone with the Wind'' is the story of Scarlett O'Hara and set in the Old American South, starting a few days before the American Civil War. Scarlett is the pampered daughter of Gerald O'Hara, the owner of Tara, a huge cotton plantation, and lives a sheltered life, a privileged, carefree life. Scarlett has admirers and ''beaux'', but loves Ashley Wilkes, a neighbor, only to discover that Ashley has made his made up his mind to marry Melanie Hamilton, his cousin, who is like him in tastes, gentle and refined, unlike the wild, coquettish Scarlett. This breaks Scarlett's heart, but being embittered, she makes up her mind to marry Melanie's brother Charles, mostly because she wants to make Ashley jealous. However, immediately after all these, the Civil War starts, and all the young men she knows have to go to the war. The war, however, devastates their lives, devastates their lifestyle. Very soon, everything is shattered, not just their old dreams, but also their old lifestyles, their civilization. Scarlett, the sheltered daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, has to make her way through the clutches of poverty, a girl who never had to get her hands dirty has to work in the fields to ensure food for herself and those she loves. This is the story of Scarlett O'Hara, of her plights and the people she loves and the things she loves and the lengths that she can go to achieve what she wants. This is the story of Scarlett O'Hara who faces defeat and endures only to hold her head high once again.

''Gone with the Wind'' is an intensely powerful novel. This is a novel that spans several years and introduces us to many, many characters. This is not just the story of Scarlett O'Hara but also that of the people around her, the places she knows and lives in. There is so much depth in it all. The most remarkable thing about the novel is the character development. These characters are so richly development, they have so much depth. Scarlett O'Hara is a character I often disapproved of. She is a character that can often be annoying and irritating. She is a character that I often found stupid. But at the same time, I applauded her when she triumphed, I felt sympathy for her when she was cornered by those around her. I appreciated her when she- though rarely- developed warm feelings for those around. It took me around two weeks to finish reading this huge novel, but by the time I finished reading the novel, I had grown so attached to her, I knew her thoroughly and had followed her through her journeys and her trials and tribulations. She is a flawed protagonist, often an anti-heroine, yet she is so human, she is such an excellently developed character. 

There are many, many other characters. One of my favorite characters- if not my very favorite- is definitely Melanie. She is such a wonderful person, a person who always tries to find the best in everyone. And I loved the way friendship- a deep, deep friendship- is developed between Scarlett and Melanie. No matter how much Scarlett thought she disliked Melanie. Then there are characters like Rhett, Mammy, Ashley, Aunt Pittypat, Will, Uncle Peter, Gerald, Grandma Fontaine- and many other excellently developed characters.

I know I am returning to the topic of Scarlett once again but I am doing it because I need to. She is such a richly developed character, she indeed is. And the way she has to go through her trials and tribulations, her struggle to survive in a world greatly changed- and the way she took care of everybody around her in the hard, hard times. I know she can be annoying. I know she can stupid. Even disgusting at times. But she is a human being. Sh experienced so, so many things. Margaret Mitchell makes sure that we get an inner view of Scarlett's heart, and the deep human emotions and feelings- whether good or bad- she goes through throughout the novel- is described with so much depth! 

This is a story of love and hate and misunderstanding and stupidity and devastation and most importantly, human nature and human emotions. The book moved me and touched me in a hundred different ways with its depth. 

5 out of 5

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

''The Remains of the Day'' (1993 film)- Review

Directed by: James Ivory
Released: 1993
Country: United Kingdom, United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


''The Remains of the Day'' is set in Darlington Hall, a large English country house, and the central characters are the butler of the household, Mr Stevens, played by Anthony Hopkins, and the housekeeper Miss Kenton, played by Emma Thompson. Mr Stevens has worked as a butler all his life, and is a man with a serious composure, almost never expressing his feelings. The comparatively openhearted Miss Kenton finds it odd that Mr Stevens never expresses his feelings. But the middle-aged man thinks that a man in his profession should solely focus on his work, properly serving his employers. Miss Kenton, with the the passage of time, finds herself developing feelings for Mr Stevens, feelings which the man could have perhaps been able to return had it not been for his strict dedication to his work.

The story of Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton is told along with a number of subplots concerning the household of which they are a part. A major portion of the film is set in the mid-1930s and Lord Darlington's (the owner of Darlington Hall, played by James Fox) political views- which would eventually make him despised by everybody over the course of the years- is an important subplot. Minor subplots include one about Lord Darlington's nephew, played by a young Hugh Grant, and a very minor subplot concerning the affair of one of the maids of the house. All these subplots help in the weaving of the gentle main plot concerning Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton, as they witness all the incidents happening in the house. 

Miss Kenton. Mr Stevens. These are two characters that you start caring for. The plot and the character development are so very good, and the best thing about all these is that these developments happen gently, slowly, giving us the opportunity to properly get to know the two characters. Emma Thompson's quiet performance is extraordinary, while Anthony Hopkins is perfect as Mr Stevens, making the character believable. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay is brilliant, it really is. The developments of the characters and the story are done so very well.

 The film is as simple as it can be but this very simplicity is beautiful and heartbreaking. At the end of the day, we are left with a film that is simple and gentle yet extraordinarily powerful. ''The Remains of the Day'' is a beautiful film.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

''The Theory of Everything'' (2014 film)- Review

Directed by: James Marsh
Released: 2014
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Biographical, Romantic drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


''The Theory of Everything'' is the story of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones). The film spans years and begins when Stephen is a PhD student at Cambridge. He meets Jane, who is a student of languages and could not be more different from him. Eventually, the two very different people fall in love. Its a beautiful, beautiful affair, but things take a different turn when Stephen comes to know that he has motor neuron disease, which will eventually make it impossible for him to talk or walk, and he is expected to live for a maximum of two years. The young Stephen is deterred, he loses all hope, but then in steps Jane. Jane, who deeply loves Stephen, wants him to continue his studies and hard work in spite of his disease. She encourages him, and eventually decides to marry him, to the surprise of everyone. In a very memorable scene in the film, Jane tells Stephen's father that she may seem softhearted but she is strong enough to take care of and encourage the person she loves. 

Spanning several years, ''The Theory of Everything'' focuses, firstly, on the relationship between Stephen and Jane. Secondly, the things that Stephen accomplishes one after another, in spite of his serious illness. Thirdly, the problems and complexities that Jane faces over the course of the years. While the film focuses greatly on how Stephen deals with the situation he is in and defying all challenges, continues his hard work and research, the film is also as much about Jane as it is about Stephen. Jane has her own struggles, her own emotional ups and downs, her own challenges. Its a film that deals with the challenges faced by Stephen and Jane: Stephen dealing with his physical and emotional challenges, while Jane, over the years, goes through complexities of her own and faces them bravely. I admired both of them. I admired both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. They were perfect in their roles. Really.

''The Theory of Everything'' is a deeply moving film: its about the bond between two people who, many years ago, had fallen in love. No, they do not remain the carefree university students that they were in the beginning of the movie. Lots of things change, their lives change.  While the romance between the two of them might not have remained constant, their love story is something that might not have always remained the same and many changes came to their lives but the basis of it, their emotional bond and respect for each other, always remained.

 4 out of 5

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

''Brooklyn'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: John Crowley
Released: 2015
Country: Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Brooklyn'' tells the story of Ellis Lacey, a young Irish woman, who leaves her small Irish town for the United States in search of a better life, leaving behind her widowed middle-aged mother and supportive elder sister. Life in New York, at first, feels unfamiliar to Ellis, making it difficult for her to adjust there. She longs for home and her life in the small idyllic town. However, things change when she meets Tony, a handsome young Italian man played by Emory Cohen, at a dance. Falling in love with him, she finds it easier to adjust in her new home, in her new country. She becomes more socially adept, more friendly than before, and on the other hand, her love for Tony flourishes. However, their relationship faces a challenge placed by distance when Ellis suddenly has to go back to Ireland after  a dreadful tragedy.

 ''Brooklyn'' is a charming and sweet film. I enjoyed and loved it from the beginning to the end. The screenplay is excellent and I loved how beautifully it touches the subject matter, making the film a fresh and beautiful one. Romance is such a genre that can become cliched if it is mishandled, but this film avoids the cliches, it is beautiful and thought-provoking, touching and sweet. I find it hard not to mention one particular scene. There is this scene where Ellis and Tony are on a bus, and at one point, they are both smiling, without looking at each other, smiling at life, happy for having met each other. I found this this scene to be one of the most beautiful and charming scenes in the film.

Saoirse Ronan is so wonderful in this film! I have admired her ever since I first saw her in ''Atonement''. Then came films like City of Ember, The Lovely Bones, The Way Back, Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved her in all of these films. But in ''Brooklyn'' she delivers a performance so magnificent that it rivals her own excellent performance in ''Atonement''. As Ellis, she is sweet and strong, expressing all of the emotions of the character with precision and strength. I felt so proud of her in the confrontation scene with Miss Kelly, possibly one of the most important and well-written scenes of the film. Emory Cohen, as Tony, is perfect as well. Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters deliver excellent performances as well.

Excellently acted, directed and written, ''Brooklyn'' is definitely a magnificent and charming film, a lovely love story.

4.5 out of 5

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

''Fight Club'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: David Fincher
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf Aday, Jared Leto

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Theme-wise, ''Fight Club'' is a satire of the increasingly materialistic society of the modern world, the effects of isolation, how consumerism has taken away from human beings their souls and energy. Storywise, its a captivating psychological thriller that climaxes with something that is unpredictable and culminates in an unforgettable ending.

''Fight Club'' is basically the story of a narrator whose name we never get to know know, played by Edward Norton. Entangled in a monotonous corporate life, his life seems to revolve around the materialistic society of the present world, collecting expensive furniture and commodities to satisfy himself. His life feels dull to him, he feels monotonous, lonely and bored, and suffers from insomnia. He starts going to support groups pretty much everyday, finding out that the things said by those at the support group- cancer patients, for example- helps him to actually get a taste of life, as there he can find the soul that he feels is missing in the otherwise materialistic society.

The narrator's life changes the day he meets Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt. They meet on a plane. Tyler is a soap salesman. Finding out that his house has mysteriously caught a fire, the narrator moves in with Tyler, who he feels is a charismatic friend. He engages infistfights with Durden, finding it strangely entertaining. Very soon, seeing them fight in the streets, curious onlookers crowd around them, and, encouraged by their curiosity, Tyler and the narrator open a ''fight club'', an underground club where at nights, men meet and engage in fistfights. They feel as if fistfights are giving them solace and relief, and the narrator's life eventually changes as with the passage of time, things start getting out of control and he is not exactly sure about Tyler's plans anymore.

Important in the story is the character of Marla Singer, played by Helena Bonham Carter. The narrator had initially met Marla in the support groups he visited, and he had found out that like him, Marla also was not affected by any of the problems these support groups were for but rather frequented them because she wanted to. Things get messy as Marla starts a relationship with Tyler, much to the narrator's shock.

This is such a thought-provoking film, a film with excellent depth. It presents a story that is unpredictable and way too twisted. It is one of those films which, when watched for the second time, will have you see all the situations in a completely different way as you will be aware of the twists, allowing you to view the incidents in a whole new way.

Besides having an excellent story, the film is a social commentary and satire, a criticism of the materialistic culture prevailing in the modern world. At the beginning of the film, the narrator lives just another corporate life, trying to find happiness amidst furniture and appliances. Isn't this the major problem prevailing in the world today? People lacking souls and finding pleasure in commodities and appliances? I found the narrator a very believable character: entangled in the present world, living a monotonous and soulless existence. How can only commodities- not emotions- give someone a happy life? This is the major issue that the film tackles. Why are human bonds and emotions so ignored and avoided by many in the present world? Where the narrator truly finds relief are the support groups- where he cries hugging the people actually suffering from different problems- and experiencing these true emotions gives him solace. I appreciated the satire and the social commentary prevalent in the film from the beginning to the end.

Brad Pitt is unforgettable as Tyler Durden, and Edward Norton is amazing, really very amazing as the unnamed narrator. From the insomniac person at the beginning of the film, to the the person finding a different meaning in life, to the person realizing that something is wrong with what is happening around himself and figuring things out- leading to the big twist- he is perfect, simply perfect. Helena Bonham Carter- she is great, just great as Marla, a mysterious and strange woman.

''Fight Club'' can get a bit too violent at times, but the film is a must-watch. It is an exceptionally brilliant satire with a story that left me wondering and trying to interpret it in a lot of different ways.

4.5 out of 5  

Thursday, 23 June 2016

''Being John Malkovich'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: Spize Jonze
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Genres: Comedy, Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Being John Malkovich'' is pretty much a breath of fresh air: an extremely imaginative and original film that left me impressed and fascinated. This is definitely one of the most unique films I have ever watched.

The story revolves around three people: Craig, a puppeteer played by John Cusack, his wife Lotte, played by Cameron Diaz (in a makeup and hairstyle that almost makes her unrecognizable. I did know that Diaz was in this film and I kept looking for her and only a while later did I realize that the actress playing Lotte is actually Diaz), and Craig's colleague Maxine, played by Catherine Keener. Craig gets a job and his office is situated in the 7 1/2th floor of a huge building- this very interesting floor is situated between the seventh and eighth floors, and have low ceilings. This is fascinatingly interesting, and there is a popular (and interesting) story about why the ceilings are so low. Craig feels attracted to the beautiful Maxine, though the latter does not really pay him much attention. One day, Craig discover a portal on the wall of his office. He enters the portal, only to find himself in the mind of the famous actor John Malkovich. For ten or fifteen minutes, the portal allows the person who enters it to become Malkovich, to see the world through Malkovich's eyes. Craig is amused and tells this to Maxine: who comes up with a potentially profitable business plan: they would let people enter the portal and get into John Malkovich's brain in return for money. However, things take an unpredictably different turn when Craig tells about the portal to his wife Lotte, resulting in incidents that eventually, besides sparkling up revelations, changes the lives of all three of them.

I started watching ''Being John Malkovich'' knowing only the basic premise. I only knew that the film is something about a portal leading John Malkovich's brain. I was curious as the premise sounded pretty interesting. Once I started watching it... I was getting speechless scene after scene. The concept is so very original, so amazing! New revelations, unpredictable revelations crowd the film, and we can never guess what will happen next. No formula works in this film: each and every scene of it is something new, something refreshingly original. Each revelation is interesting.

You can probably guess that the thing I loved most about this film is the fresh and imaginative concept. Over the course of the film we get to know more and more about the portal around which the film is centered. We get to know what will happen if John Malkovich himself enters the portal. We get to know secrets about the portal. And of course, in the center of the film we have three very, very interesting characters: Craig, Maxine, and Lotte, whose lives will never be the same as they themselves go through continuous realizations and revelations that not only change their lives but are also powerful enough to leave the audience speechless and fascinated.

The performances are wonderful, of course. John Cusack is really good as Craig. Cameron Diaz, looking pretty unrecognizable, and Catherine Keener, playing Maxine, deliver unforgettable performances, making the two characters strong and believable. I found these two characters better-developed than Craig. John Malkovich portrays himself and he is wonderful.

''Being John Malkovich'' is one of the most original and imaginative films I have ever watched. Films as imaginative and fresh as ''Being John Malkovich'' are hard to find, and when found, they should be devoured and enjoyed to the fullest.

5 out of 5