Friday, September 01, 2006

Remember, remember...

Lately I haven't been doing anything much except working. On an average weekday I go to work to start the first lesson at 8.50 a.m, get home around 4 p.m. and continue working till about 10 p.m. On some days I have nearly fallen asleep on my laptop or lessonplans.

Honestly, I know it's not going to be this difficult for long, because soon I have taught all the courses at least once, but at the moment I sometimes seriously doubt the reasoning behind my career choice. Like the other day, when I had a headache and a bit of temperature thanks to the flu I caught about two weeks into the semester and the students were bouncing off the walls when I tried to teach them whatever it was I had planned for the day. It was literally the first time ever the thought "I can't do this" has entered my mind during a class.

Sure, it was mostly thanks to the fact I wasn't feeling too good physically, but it's really not that nice to doubt one's abilities, not even for a while (and especially not in front of a class - I'm glad I got over it fast). But what it really emphasizes once again, is that I can't let myself become exhausted because of work. I know myself well enough to know that I have a tendency to feel really crappy when I'm really tired. In other words, I'm glad I've been able to get to bed early enough on weeknights and keep the weekends mostly clear of anything mandatory. Reloading batteries is very important.

And besides sleeping, reloading with quality entertainment is what I like to do. Last weekend my choice battery chargers were the movies The Libertine and V for Vendetta and the BBC series North and South.

I went to see The Libertine with mom on Friday evening, after a couple of hours of idle shopping and a pizza for dinner. I was interested in seeing Johnny Depp in yet another impressive role, this time in the role of the notorious Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot. His performance is, once again, admirable. He struts his stuff all over with gusto, making the Earl a character worth hating and loving.

I found the movie fairly good, although the acting was better than the story. I liked the way the movie was lit, all shadier and murkier than your average epoch film. It brought a touch of believability into the movie. For once candlelight looked like candlelight, not like an industrial heavy duty flashlight or something.

But the story itself, well, I thought it could've had something more to it. The life of John Wilmot was certainly a tragic story in itself and for example his last speech to the Parliament, bandages hiding his face, deformed by late stages of syphilis, is a touching one. And whereas the speech is touching, the play that the Earl wrote to the King earlier, is flat out outrageous. Or what do you think about commenting on the current reign (as filled with debauchery as it may have been) with a play that flaunts giant dildos and sexual organs on stage? Might be accepted nowadays, but I can easily imagine how it would've been frowned upon in the 17th century. I think I'd like to read some of the Earl's works some day... ;)

Even though I didn't think The Libertine was a great movie, I did think V for Vendetta was one. Absolutely blew me away. I had heard a lot of praise for it, and had wanted to see it for a while. Last weekend provided the perfect occasion - I wasn't feeling like watching some lighthearted comedy or a fluffy romantic chick flick and rented V instead.

I hadn't read the comic, so I had very little knowledge of the story, what to expect from it. Just a week earlier I was in Finncon and walked around Helsinki accompanied by a friend of mine dressed as V. His wife had painted the mask on his face and it looked great. He and his wife had also recently watched the film and had obviously liked it, too. They told me how the fifth of November is mentioned in the film - and I didn't ask any details, which then resulted in a heartfelt "duh!" when I finally understood what it was all about. And I was really glad I had just watched the miniseries Gunpowder Treason and Plot on tv this summer. I actually knew what the background story was about! How much easier it was to understand where V's ideology came from, knowing Guy Fawkes' story.

First of all, I'm in awe of the acting skills of Hugo Weaving (Natalie Portman was very good, too). It's really amazing how he brought the mask to life and made it very easy to feel for V. It's actually exactly the same as it is with Darth Vader. Despite the character having just one expression moulded on his face, the expressive power is there. Body language, tone of voice - wow. And V, I did fall in love with him a little, I admit it. (And naturally I cried in the end - so technically that makes V the second comicbook/graphic novel character that has made me cry. The first being the Sandman, of course.)

And the message of the movie then? Keeping the current events of the world in mind, the movie is downright scary in its accuracy and the image it paints of the future is chilling. And keeping the past events of the world in mind - I don't think I need to even go any further. I'm actually pretty sure I could use the movie as an educational film on several occasions in senior high. The discussions after seeing it would be interesting. And since most kids don't read books like The Animal Farm or 1984 anymore, maybe the power of the dystopian imagery of the movie would make them think. And most of all see a great example of how popular culture can be a powerful tool for social commentary.

And just as I would like to read some of John Wilmot's texts, I'd love to read the original V for Vendetta comics now. I'm pretty sure someone I know is bound to have the albums and I can borrow them. Right?

Ok, so after crying over V on Saturday evening, I radically changed topics for Sunday, but cried nontheless. The BBC drama series North and South was a wonderful story situated in the fairly newly industrialized England. A perfect Austenesque story of love first rejected and then accepted. Ahh. (And I could use bits of this series in class, too, btw. - See how I don't stop working at all?) Made me feel a bit lonely, though. But that's what romantic stuff does to me nowadays, can't help it. I need to get this series on DVD, too. (Just like the Forsyte Saga. I'm not allowing myself to buy it in September, however, since I already bought the Kingdom of Heaven DC today, whee!)

Oh dear, the time. I'd better get to bed now...


Donna said...

I love Johnny Depp, and I can't believe I haven't seen The Libertine yet, since I absolutely love period/historical movies. MUST RENT THIS MOVIE. I also really loved V for Vendetta, although people I know that read the graphic novels said it didn't go far enough. Maybe if it had stayed truer to the novel it would have been too over the top. I thought it was perfect.

Reel Fanatic said...

V for Vendetta easily ranks among my favorite films of the past few years ... along with the fantastic performances, what I liked most was that you could bring your own poltics to it and take away whatever you wanted to from this fantastic kick in the pants of complacency

Johanna said...

I love Johnny Depp more and more every time I see him perform - and lucky for us he's been so busy lately!

But you're probably right, Donna, I think it's usually necessary for moviemakers to cut down the originals a little, for various reasons. And in the case of a story like V for Vendetta, the movie might've lost viewers, if it had been too radical. I so need to get my hands on those graphic novels. I'm sure the criticisms are sharper in them.

But nevertheless, a truly great movie! :)

Tero said...

I think the movie updated the very Thatcherian dystopy of the comic to the present admirably, if a bit heavy-handedly at times. There was some annoying normalization compared to the comic (the main character was made more hero-like; in the comic he’s pretty much just an anarchist terrorist with no clear wish to actually create a better world), etc., but all in all the movie was an extremely succesful adaptation, I think.

And yes, of course you can borrow the graphic novel. :)

Johanna said...

I knew I could trust you and your collection of graphic novels! ;)