Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

# Tired. Every time M. is on holiday and I'm working Mon.-Sat., the days just start blurring somehow, and I lose all sense of time. It doesn't help that work is really, really, uneventful at the moment, to say the least. I'm starting to feel guilty they're actually paying me for what little I'm doing.

The weather is nice though. The last few days I sat on the grass on the Heldenplatz for half an hour or so after work, reading, but mostly enjoying the scent of the lilac and the warmth of the evening sun. What I really love about this season is all the scents. You walk home, and there's always something flowering somewhere.

# Feeling torn between the urge to finally watch all of the Sarah Jane Adventures, and the guilt that it's only now that I'm feeling this urge. (Ah, guilt. What would my life be without it. *sigh*) And actually, that's not even true. I was checking amazon before she died...

# Finished watching S2 of The Grand, and after S1 I found it a bit of a let down. S1 is certainly tragic and depressing enough, but it's also very, very good. Every single of the eight episodes is spot on and tells a story worth telling; if anything, it's almost over-ambitious for the format with all the themes it tries to address within the frame of the relationship/family/hotel life drama plot, from class issues to war trauma, suicide, prostitution, and all the ways women struggle and suffer in a patriarchal society. And the characters are just fantastically written, complex and layered throughout.

I fell in love with it twenty minutes into first episode, when Stephen, who returns from the war, dropping more or less directly in on the re-opening party, has this conversation with his grandmother:

— I do hope going abroad hasn't filled your head with fanciful notions.

— I wasn't on holiday.

— No.

— Sorry. Maybe that party was a mistake. Felt like I'd come back to a world of music and... chat.

— We can agree on that. Ever since the armistice the churches have been empty and the dancehalls full. You'd think we fought the war for the right to be frivolous.

— And what did we fight for?

— Stephen.

— No, go on, tell me.

— You know full well.

— Tell me it was for king and country. For honour and freedom. I'd like to remember that. Because when you're there, with that noise in your head, and you're stepping over corpses so you can run and hide, then you're fighting for just one thing: to stay alive. You talk to a man, sitting there, in the cold, and you tell him everything. Your whole life, things you'd never said before. And then you'd find that man with a bullet through his head. And you'd walk on. Turn to the next man. Tell the story all over again. And then... And then you come back here, and you talk to people you've known all your life, and the words... are gone. It's just become... chat.

— Well... it's over. It's finished. And you're safe.

— It isn't over. Thousands of men still out there, and still carrying that war with them. You know why they didn't demobilise all at once? They looked at these soldiers, these men they'd created, and they were frightened. Frightened of what we'd do once we got back.

And then, after having survived the war, he comes close to killing himself because he can't bear the dissonance between his old and his new life, to see a friend reduced to a broken shell by the war, to lose another friendship to the return to peace and re-emerging social barriers, while at the same time being told that everything is back to normal now, over. Which I'll admit pushed all my narrative buttons because of all the writing I did about death in TW and DW, which makes it fascinating to see how far back these themes go, but it's not just that; there's a lot of brilliant writing throughout the first series. Brilliant acting, too.

There's Sarah and Marcus, also in the first episode:

— All it gets is one night of glory, then it's back on with the dust sheets. I didn't even get to dance with you.

— John thinks it's all his fault. Is it?

— It's bad luck. Though some would say that the luck you get you deserve.

— What's he done to deserve this? He's a good man.

— The good men led us into war, and the good men died, and they have no place in the world that's left. The rest of us? Saw it coming. In the end that's the problem with good men. They aren't ready.

Then there's the second episode, Janet's tragedy and Sarah's moral ambiguity; ep. 3 with Miss Harkness's story, Celia and Stephen, and the ethics of prostitution; ep. 4 once again addressing the war theme with Mr. Collins trying to come to terms with his son's execution for desertion; ep. 5 is terrific storytelling with the ground it covers in 50 minutes from the harmless beginning to Maggie's terrible revelation in the end. It's an uncomfortable episode, with Maggie, the abuse victim, in her turn exercising her class privilege and victimising Kate, someone she does have power over, but it also has all those little moments of the women of the story trying to support and stand up for each other; Adele and Maggie, Monica and Kate, Ruth and Maggie, Miss Harkness and Monica...

And then of course there's Monica's story developing over the final three episodes, the tragedy of it playing out against the background of the fracturing relationships between John, Sarah, Marcus and Ruth.

I don't know what exactly happened with S2, but to me it was a few steps down from that level. It doesn't have the same momentum, and the intensity doesn't come close to S1; the themes feel more than a little repetitive and the characters lose some of their definition and complexity, and for large stretches become much more two-dimensional, occasionally almost bordering on caricatures of their former selves. The storylines, on the whole, are much more relationship driven and have the tendency to get mired in sentimentality a bit. On the whole the storytelling strikes me as cruder and a lot more conventional than in S1. There's a certain satisfaction in Miss Harkness conspiring with Monica's brother to murder one of Monica's rapists, but is it a good story?

The John/Sarah/Marcus triangle was much more interesting while it was being set up in S1; the way it played out to me was anti-climatic in comparison, and John and Sarah's exit mid-series seemed a bit abrupt, especially as I really loved Sarah in S1 (although not so much in S2), and would also have liked to see more of Adele's story. The most tragic storyline certainly is Ruth's doomed marriage to Marcus, but even that didn't quite have the impact it might have had. I'll admit upfront that I generally have a hard time relating to storylines about children/maternity/etc., so maybe that was why the story fell a little flat for me despite its tragedy, but it might also be because S1 had already shown exemplarily how society fucks women over in a way that is hard to top.

It's not that Ruth's story doesn't have potential, in the way she is at once fundamentally damaged—a victim of her grandmother blaming her for her mother's death, as well as of the pressure her husband's expectations put on her—, but also able to ruthlessly exploit Edith's desperate situation because of the advantages her wealth and class give her. In the end I think the main problem is that she simply becomes too unlikeable in S2. In S1 all the characters were well rounded; Ruth was neither this broken, nor this hard, and Marcus, while certainly ruthless and unscrupulous, could also be charming and even had his likeable, human moments. In S2 those are almost impossible to find, so when the drama plays out in the end, it is dominated by a sense of Marcus, but also Ruth, getting what they had coming for a while, and, as Aristotle already pointed out, the downfall of the villain might satisfy the moral sense, but it doesn't make for good tragedy.

Regardless, the scene in the end when Marcus stands on the stairs, holding the baby his wife bought and that he just had baptised as his own son, and says, 'He's the past. All the things I have done. The child I deserve. Oh, yes, he's mine. We made far more than a child together. We made our own world. Stinking, dirty world. All of it mine. I made you. I found you, and trapped you and turned you into this. I'm sorry',... it's a good. And in some ways it is tragic. (And it's interesting how many of RTD's characters one way or the other have this 'and look what I became' moment at the end of their arcs...)

There are other moments in the last episode where there are glimpses of the S1 quality of storytelling, especially when it picks up Stephen's story again, showing how fundamentally broken he really is, so much that in the end he joins the army again, because that makes more sense than everything he saw in his own family since he came back. This was already hinted at when he broke off his engagement to Christina, and his 'I'm so tired. Haven't slept in years and years', should have made it clear that this wasn't just about his feelings for Kate; even then he was only moving from one person to another in search of something that had nothing to do with either of them. Christina didn't understand, but Stephen himself knew it, and Kate realises it too in the final episode. Or again in Kate's conversation with Miss Harkness; this is once more the harder Miss Harkness of S1, telling Kate that life is more complex and more complicated ('And if it's not perfect, look around you. What is?'), until even these two antithetic people finally find a moment of connection and peace.

There's another noticeable exception, and that is Clive's story. It's perhaps no coincidence that this is practically a stand alone episode, with a storyline that has barely any build up and isn't pursued afterwards. But for one episode, with Clive's painful, confused struggle with his sexuality, all the complexity of S1 is there again, and it's a brilliant, utter heartbreaking 50 minutes of TV. A great performance, too; the actor who plays Clive is way underused the rest of the time.

(It's also an interesting episode in that while there is at least one clear nod to Maurice'That's what she said. "What was your name again?" All the times I've served her, and she says, "What was your name again?" I bowed, I scraped, I fetched her all sorts, and I'm nothing to her. I'm a uniform.'—it tells the story from the pov of the working class character, giving him his own story and struggle rather than making him a means for the protagonist's salvation.)

The happy ending with Miss Harkness buying The Grand with the money from the Fabergè earring might be a too fairy-tale like and sort of pasted on, and it says a lot about S2 that it's possible at all, becasue it wouldn't have fit S1, but it made me smile regardless.

# Also watched the first episode of A Game of Thrones since everyone is talking about it, but, meh. I haven't read the books, so I can only talk about what I saw, and as far as that goes, I've got to say the most interesting part were the first 20 minutes or so, never mind that I'm not terribly fond of all the beheading & dismembering either. But it went steadily downhill from there. The whole thing strikes me as kind of old-fashioned and rather male gaze-y with all those scantily clad women, and the scene where the blonde girl is married off to the tribal chief by her creepy brother? Yikes. Even if this is how it's in the book, wouldn't it have been possible to emphasise the whole 'savage' aspect a bit less and not play into all the worst racist clichés? From looking around on the internet I gather this story develops and also has less rape in the book, but the TV version is pretty terrible. And there's very little that grabbed my interest overall. I went from 'definitely intrigued' to 'well, I'll give it another episode'. I guess it's maybe a bit jarring moving directly form a show that at least makes an effort to address the issue of prostitution from the female perspective in a rather nuanced fashion, to one that randomly throws in a bunch of mostly naked prostitutes as a joke/titillation/part of the characterisation of a male character.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 23rd, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
On the subject of Game of Thrones, I can see why you would be wary of the sexism and apparent racism. Martin present a typical medieval world where women are bought, sold, and traded and have little power. In Danys case, if her father had not been overthrown, it is likely that she would have married her brother, incest being the way of the Targaryen family. In his mind, he owns her in every way--- as her parent, brother, teacher, and lover. These scenes are supposed to be disturbing, which s why Dany bathed in super-hot water after her brother touched her.

What you see in the women characters is how they get around the restrictions placed on them to have some kind of power in their lives and as leaders. You see this especially with Dany (the white haired princess). This lack of power is also the cause of Cerseis' scheming.

As for racism? I do not want to spoil you, but the books present both the east and the west as savage, believe me. Rape, murder, torture---is rampant among these people vying for power and peasants and women of both classes bear the brunt of it.
Apr. 23rd, 2011 10:46 am (UTC)
I'm beginning to get the impression that it really makes a difference whether one has the background of the books here. From what I'm reading, some aspects seem to come across rather differently and apparently more simplified in the TV version. In any case, I'll give it another couple of episodes and see how it develops...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


solitary summer

Latest Month

January 2016


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow