The Second World War was a pivotal event not just for Britain but also for the rest of Europe. In the wake of the end of the war all art forms embraced questions about war in particular and human conflict in general. One of the important British films to emerge in the Second World War milieu was The Battle of the River Plate. Though the film is largely drawn from real historical events surrounding the war, it is a feature film and meant for entertainment. Though the story is broadly consistent with historical record, the dialogues were almost nearly invented. The challenge for the film maker venturing the world war genre is the upkeep of historicity. The British audience has always allowed a fair license for fiction in the genre for the imperatives of the narrative form. Even allowing room for fiction, the ultimate success depends on the degree of authenticity that the filmmaker could bring to his representation of real history. It is for this reason that critics were . . . Read More
Video as a medium of communication has been in existence for more than hundred years now. In this time the role, technology and application of the medium has evolved considerably. Experimentation is done for numerous purposes. The obvious motivation is to stretch, test or expand the techniques of creating video art. But the manner in which content is formatted, presented and perceived can also be experimented with. Today, directors are empowered by the new digital technology that is available, which makes experimentation easier to carry out. But this comes with the proviso that the audience is still able to understand and appreciate the novelty being offered them. This essay will explore this subject in detail.
Video art is applicable to a diverse set of broadcast mediums. Chief among them are television, cinema and the Internet. In the case of television, “the televisual public sphere disseminates and normalizes a model of split identification in which the . . . Read More
William Shakespeare and JS Bach are perhaps the two most important cultural figures in Western Civilization. This high pedestal that they occupy makes questions over their authorship almost blasphemous for their admirers. If Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has come for scholarly debate in recent years, the question marks over Shakespeare’s authorship were raised four centuries earlier and cover a substantial part of his work. The Anti-Stratfordians (as those sceptical of Shakespeare’s authorship are called) prefer to attribute his works to one among the following contenders: Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Edward Dyer, the earl of Derby or especially Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford. In this backdrop, the challenge facing both the faithful and the doubters is the scarce historical record to either support or disprove their claims. If the late Baroque obscurity surrounding Bach’s primary documents lead to no definite conclusions, it is even more . . . Read More
I attended the Student Half Recital by Melissa Hight on the 3rd of November. The program was conducted at the Mathes Hall Auditorium at 3pm. It was one of the rare occasions where I had the pleasure of enjoying classical vocal music. The solo vocalist Melissa Hight and pianist Dr. Jessica Keup brought their experience and expertise to bear on the performance. The whole program can be roughly divided into five sections.
The first section began with Mozart’s delightfully romantic song Oiseaux, si tous les an. It was given a mellifluous rendition by Mellissa Hight, who was suitably complemented by Keup at the piano. One of the features of the song is its strong lyricism. The song begins as a quiet tribute to nature in the first verse. It then expresses more passionate feelings in the second verse, all the while keeping the same melodic line. The duo on stage did justice to the demands of this masterpiece from Mozart.
The second item in the . . . Read More
The basic plot of the movie – that set on the last days of a dying young woman – hints at being a tear-jerking melodrama. But contrary to this threat My Life Without Me delivers a surprisingly novel representation of a life about to end. The announcement of death, instead of limiting the physical and mental possibilities of the young woman Ann, actually liberates her to explore them to the fullest. The film is rich in its philosophical content, particularly themes central to Existentialism. This essay will showcase how through the strength of her character and a preference for rationality over sentimentality Ann represents a true existential hero.
Hardly 23 years of age, Ann lives an arduous yet contented life. She lives with her young family in a caravan put out in the backyard of her mother’s house. Although the relationship with her mother is somewhat troubled, she has a loving husband and two adorable girls. Her father is . . . Read More
The two music pieces chosen for this exercise are JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto 4 (First Movement – Allegro) and Joseph Haydn’s London Symphony (No.104 First Movement). These two pieces were chosen on account of the sharp differences between them in terms of style, texture, genre, period, etc. For example, Bach’s piece is written for a chamber orchestra of not more than 17 players. This was roughly the common size for the Baroque concerto format. Haydn’s piece, on the other hand was written to be performed by a much larger symphony orchestra comprising around 40 musicians. It is perhaps due to the limited resources at Bach’s disposal that constant invention in music was a matter of necessity than of will. In contrast, the bolder, simpler style of Haydn is typical of the Classical era. The following observation by Igor Stravinsky’s in his 1947 work Poetics of Music (1947) applies to both the works in question:
“All music, whether it . . . Read More
The Pursuit of Happyness was a commercially successful film whose main appeal is its ‘feel-good’ ending. It treads the much worn path of the rags-to-riches narrative, albeit with some variations in plot, characterization and context. This paper would argue that despite the commercial success of the film, it fails as a social instrument. In other words, if the purpose of cinema is not merely to entertain but also to educate, the Pursuit of Happyness fails on the latter count.
The main criticism is toward its core message that among the thousands of honest aspirants for the American Dream only a few lucky ones make through. The final shot of the film is not merely the triumph of its protagonist, but equally the defeat of multitudes of his brethren. The defeated cannot said to have all been less industrious than our hero. Luck plays a major role in deciding who succeeds. One also needs to question the kind of culture in which the odds are so stacked that . . . Read More
The Journey of Man, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells, is a very important documentary film that sends out a message of human solidarity. As Dr. Wells says in the introduction, it is the retracing of the all routes of human migration out of Africa in the last 50,000 years. It is a fascinating story constructed on a grand timescale. The drama and significance of this story lies in the high stakes involved for those early humans who ventured into alien territories. There are several facets and themes to the documentary film. But the most striking and profound is that of human solidarity amidst diversity. This essay will expound on this thesis.
In this most compelling story of natural history, the pivotal moment was the great Ice Age that set in 50 thousand years ago. Up until this point, the entire human population (technically of the species Homo sapiens) were confined to just the African continent. This is understandable, for most of the early hominids . . . Read More
Ludwig van Beethoven’s music is generally understood as the composer’s personal expression of his deep-felt emotions. The mercurial composer not only suffered from a progressively worsening deafness but also turbulent romantic relations. His music is said to capture the high and low moments of his personal and professional lives. His music is also divided into those that were meant for public performance and those that were written for private/intimate enjoyment. The Moonlight Sonata falls into the latter category. The first movement, which is set as Adagio sostenuto sets the romantic mood to perfection. It is very intimate and an expression of longing and anticipation. This is followed b the second movement which is a short Allegretto that provides sharp contrast in tempo and rhythm to the first movement. And finally the third movement, set as Presto agitato, offers an apt conclusion to the sonata. The meaning of the third movement can be . . . Read More
A Day in the Country is one of Renoir’s early forays into narrative story telling. One can see the tentativeness of a filmmaker finding his feet in the new medium which was only a few years past the silent films era. A characteristic of the fledgling days of cinema was its seeking of ideas and stories from classic literature and theatre. In the context of French cinema, works of such iconic writers as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Alexander Dumas were heavily drawn upon. Guy de Maupassant’s short story A Country Excursion is one among many instances of early cinema embracing literature. But there are numerous challenges in adapting a work of art to a radically different medium. Theatre and cinema can be said to share some affinity in terms of principles of mise-en-scene, accepted rules of screen-play, shared exploration of genres, etc. But literature to film is a big leap and film theorist Dudley Andrew identifies three basic types . . . Read More