Captain Miller slumps against the wreck of an abandoned motorcycle with a German bullet stuck in his chest. A dust cloud hides something big. Suddenly it is torn apart by the huge shape. A Tiger tank rumbles over the bridge towards Miller.. Miller draws his pistol and aims at the tank. He squeezes of one shot.. Then a second.. A third..Another… bang.. BANG. The tank explodes in a huge ball of fire.
History it ain’t.
To understand Saving Private Ryan is to watch the official trailer. The story is given to us in a 136 seconds nutshell . A mother – the father isn’t mentioned – loses three of her sons to war, two alone during the invasion of Normandy alone, that last great invasion during that last great war(so the movie has it), the fourth son is lost somewhere in Normandy at a place called Neuville. His exact location and fate are unknown. Nevertheless a band of brothers is send out to save this one man as to spare the mother the loss of her last son.
The trailer keys us in on a few more things. For one there is not one shot with a German in it. It isn’t about them at all and their presence is more a matter of necessity that an actual attempt to portray Germans at that time. During the whole movie we will not be meeting any Germans but one, who is portrayed as an ugly, cowardly murdering man spouting foreign lines(his German is atrocious). French civilians also feature, for convenience sake they happen to speak English. The movie is not about them either.
The movie isn’t even about the question whether one man should be saved at the cost of another. Or others.
The movie is about memory. The clue is given at the beginning. We start with an unknown old man at a war memorial cemetery. He isn’t named. We don’t know where he is. At the end of the scene the old man stares into the screen and the movie fades into June 1944. Normandy. This particular part of the beach is called Dog Green. Is this his memory? Or is this Captain Miller’s memory?
What we see is what that old man thinks occurred. It is the distorted memory of one man. It is a story he gobbled together in his mind, from survivors, from movies, from documentaries, from books and from people he met. After fifty odd years this is what he has in his mind. And therefore things happen that did not happen.
The movie reports that no tanks reached the beach but as a matter of fact, Dog Green, the part of Omaha beach where Miller lands, had ample tank support. 40 out of 48 tanks actually made it to that beach. The water is colored red by blood. Alas it takes a lot of blood to do that. It is unlikely.
It takes them about thirty minutes to clear the beach and pierce the enemy positions. In reality it took them much longer. Miller and men are send from Omaha to Neuville to find Ryan. Trace the route and one sees it an odd route to take, especially considering Omaha being heavily opposed, while Utah, much closer to the airborne troops, would have been a far better jump off position. Did Tiger tanks and SS men assault a group of Americans defending a bridge near a place called Ramelle? There is no place called Ramelle in Bretagne and there were no SS and Tiger tanks until weeks later, and those were mostly deployed against the English sector and the connection between the English and American part. To drive a stake into what was believed to be the weakest part. During that fight we even get an interesting image of Ryan. He isn’t fighting the Germans, he is screaming in terror doing nothing at all. He isn’t even in the battle.
Saving Private Ryan is what Ryan thinks about when he walks over the cemetery towards Miller’s grave. He stands before the grave and asks himself the question.
Am I good man?
At the end we do not get an answer. James asks his wife, but she hesitates and then sort of admits it in an ambivalent way. But we will actually never know, because how could we? We simply do not know anything about Ryan, but that he has family and that he says he tried to live a good life. But what does that tell us?
The question extends further into: was I worth the deaths of this man and all the others? It is another question that never gets answered.
The movie doesn’t actually turn around this, but around the idea that a group of men go out and do something because that is what they have to do. Not for any lofty reason. Miller says it in the trailer: if getting Ryan out is going to get me home, then that is what I will do.
He has to do a job, so doing the job is what he does.
The funny thing is: he had no choice in the matter.
There is a deeper message behind the movie. That warfare is something you do because you do it, not for something like patriotism, or honor, or god, or liberty, but because it is a job that you do. And here lies a great danger. For once a soldier is just a guy paid like any other guy, you can point the finger at anyone as long as you pay him. The soldier is no longer a citizen, he has become a soldier of fortune: a paid killer.
As Vito Scaletta in the Game Maffia II says: in the war I killed who the president pointed at, now -back in the US- I kill whomever pays me points at.
It might be a dark future that gets revealed here.
While doing some preliminary research for a short article on Mass Effect 3 story telling I ran into the linked article.
I think it’s an interesting article that investigates how a sequence of stories(games) that allows for shaping your own tale can have impact on the the next installment and, when not handled properly, can lead to making large groups of people unhappy.
I do not agree that this is the only reason as I wanted to show in my short article on one particular story in Mass Effect.
“I’ve played through the Mass Effect series a number of times to get a feel for the different directions the story can go and it is clear to me that of the three games Mass Effect 3 is the weakest. It is also the one that has drawn the most ire from fans. So I thought it would be interesting to really dig deeply into what was done not just in the 3rd game but the series as a whole and identify what caused the final game to end up in the state that it is in. The results are long, so bear with me.”
The other day I happened to look at the College Tour. The College tour is a Dutch program in which the host Twan Huys invites famous people to talk about what made them famous and allow the audience(students mostly) to ask them questions. In this particular episode the guest was John Cleese. During this interview someone asked Cleese about his lectures on creativity. Cleese told that he has been fascinated by creativity for a long time and it was his observation that creativity came from the subconscious, for if creativity was something that logic and intelligence brought about, than it would stand to reason that people of logic and intelligence would be the most creative. And that is certainly not always the case(:P).
This remark gave me a flash of insight, for I have always been fascinated by stories, specifically stories that are combined with pictures. Now I realize that many of the things that I posted here, such as my first post for the sl scrapbook, fascinate me because of their story like qualities. In Second Life you get, if you listen, to hear a lot of stories and some perhaps are as close to the truth as can be possible in a virtual world and others are totally fabricated, sometimes without the teller actually realizing this.
One of the things about a place like Second Life is that truth and lies are so mixed up that it is hard to tell where one starts and the other begins. In fact, if you were of a very negative mindset you might say: it is all lies, as it is a make-believe world in which people live make-believe lives and claim make-believe qualities and experiences. Or even: they believe perhaps that which did not happen did happen. The mind can be a great tool for deception! Specifically when it is convenient and the deception is helped along through imagery, sounds, mood, education and social pressure. But perhaps instead of looking at things in terms or lies and truth, one can look at these things as stories, which might be true, but perhaps not. but are mostly aimed at conveying a story instead of a truth of one kind or another.
Recently I became interested in the stories that were told in the bible and therefore I borrowed this Bible for the Youth from the library(see below for the source:*) . Next to having pictures, I thought that a bible for youth might be interesting because when you tell something to young people you have to make it pretty engaging and to the point. And this is something the translators have been trying according to their introduction. In addition they claim to provide facts too. Which will be interesting.
Let’s have a look at the first part of the bible: the old testament.
Above is the first large picture you see in the book and it shows Abraham looking at the promised land before dying. He was called Abram first, but his name was changed to Abraham when Yahweh* decided to make him the founding father of Israel. The story itself, to which this picture belongs, is further into the book after the creation stories. I wanted to show this picture because it is the first big picture in the book. The book is A4 in size and the style of drawing is the one you see above.
*(a side note on the use of the words god, God and Yahweh. We have been learned in the west to write the name of the god of the Christians with a capital to differ him from all the other gods. I will not follow this practice because it comes from a Christian centrist world view. In this view God defines just the one specific Christian god and if you are not part of that world you would not use God to describe the christian god. Since continuing this would be disrespectful to other people and would lead to confusion I use the name Yahweh to denote the christian god. )
The bible: a very short introduction.
The bible is a collection of writings of different sources spit in two parts. One is called the old testament and has the Jewish people and (the relation to) their god as central themes to unite the writings. The other part is called the new testament and basically tells about Jesus and some of his followers, notably Paul. The two parts are roughly equal in size in this version of the bible, thus Jesus gets as much space as the Jewish tribes and their history. This shows how important Jesus is in the christian faith.
While the new testament has a kind of plot structure, the old testament has nothing of the kind. It seems like a loose collection of anecdotes and there is no specific purpose in the story or even a clue or a dramatic moment to work towards. In fact you might think that the old testament would lead inevitably to the new testament, but there is nothing that connects the two because there is a gap of almost four hundreds of years between when the old testament stops and the new testament picks up.
The old testament
The old testament is split in various sections that bundle certain writings. The first part sets up the scene with the creation of the universe, the creation of earth and the creation of mankind. The next part covers the birth of the Jewish people with Abraham/Abram and the move to their homeland, which seems to be called Canaan The next part is mostly about Egypt, how they get to leave Canaan, become slaves and then finally escape their slavery and Egypt. The last part covers the life and times of the Jews in their land including a moment in which they are forced to leave their country. In the first part of this section they are mostly at war with the Philistines, later on the stories mostly tell about confrontations with the various big empires that emerged in the Middle-East such as the Babylonians, Assyrians and the Persians. These were powerful nations against which the Jews stood no chance.
What general picture emerges from the Old Testament according to the Bible for the Youth?
Some detractors of the bible point out, sometimes with glee, how the bible is full of killing. And it is. This bible of the youth, of which you would expect it to be moderated somewhat, fills the pages with Yahweh or people killing people or planning to kill them.
There are other stories full of death and killing, but in the bible this borders on the deranged as it is mentioned in such an off hand way as if killing is a normal reaction to any kind of conflict. Strife between people, notably brothers, often leads to murder or the planning of murder. Kain kills Abel. Esau plans to kill Jacob after the latter cheated the first out of his first born child privileges. Twelve brothers plan to kill Josef out of jealousy because he is favored by his father and he narrowly escapes this fate by being sold off. Saul is jealous of David and tries to kill him on several occasions. Whole peoples get slaughtered simply on a the flimsiest of pretexts. The whole earth gets flooded because people sinned. Sodom and Gomorrah get leveled because they sinned. Killing is so normal that after a while I found myself even accepting this reaction. An example is for instance the story of Mozes. At some point it is told that an Egyptian is flogging a Jewish slave..Mozes kills him for it. At various points people get killed because they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Jephthah promises to offer the first thing he meets when he gets home if he wins in a certain war. And the first thing he meets is his daughter. David lusts after a woman called Bathsheba, her husband is in the way so he is ordered into battle to certain death. Then Yaweh gets angry with David because of this and communicates via Natan that the child he will get with Bathsheba will be killed because of this. And so it happens.
(Sidenote: It seems that the bible is even more bloody than this Bible of the Youth, so yes they actually did moderate the bible. An example is the two evil sons of Eli. They get killed for their evilness in the bible. In the Bible for the Youth they are just mentioned to be evil but their deaths is not mentioned).
Lack of compassion
The bible is full of stories about strife, punishments and destruction and it pained me to read how little compassion there is for those who get in the way. The earth gets flooded because the people have sinned and there seems to be no way for the sinners to redeem themselves. Sodom and Gomorrah gets destroyed and again there is no option for people to make amends. In fact, in both cases it is not even clear whether the people who were about to be destroyed were aware of their impending fate. This gets even more disconcerting if you think that Yaweh is the god of Israel and seems to be only interested in the tribes of Israel, yet he does drown the world in water killing a lot of people who have never even heard of him..
An example of this lack of compassion is in the Mozes story. When Mozes returns from the mount Sinai, after he received the ten commandments, he finds out that the people made an image of a golden calf to worship. This results in Mozes killing everyone who worships the statue. There is no compassion from either him or Yahweh for these people and although they get a chance to return to god, those who refused to do so were killed. Mozes is not one for tolerance, nor is Yahweh.
Disloyalty towards god
One thing that surprised me is how often the Jews, Yahweh’s chosen people, turn away from their god. At various moments it is told that the Jews start to worship some other entity and grieve Yahweh by not living according to his commands. An interest aspect of this is what is told about King Josiah: a prophet tells hat Yaweh would have punished the Jews if it was not for their King Josiah who was good man and thus loved by Yaweh and as long as Josiah lives the Jews did not need to fear their god. It is interesting in that in many cultures a king is often presented as a go-between a god and their people. It is of course a neat way to strengthen their rule and it still is done today. Coronations are usually also religious ceremonies to underscore that a god approves of the rule and that whomever rebels should fear the wrath of the god as they are of course rebelling against a god approved ruler.
A very interesting parallel can be found in the Roman empire in which the various worldly positions are tied in with religious functions. One such function is that of the Pontifex Maximus: the highest priest. The Pontifex Maximus associated the emperor with the god(s) and is therefore one of the pillars on which power of these rulers rested. In fact, insulting the emperor could get you convicted for violating the majesty of the ruler. This usually meant death.
Yahweh loves men, not women
Women are not men and thus, with perhaps the exception of Esther , women only function in the context of a male, just like Eve was made for Adam. Even Esther, who gets a book named after her, has only a role to play because she is married to Ahasveros, the King of Kings of Persia and can influence him because she is pretty. The Queen of Sheba appears in the bible only to admire Solomon. The good qualities of women are to be pretty(and young) or rear children(when they get older). Men have friendships, companions and kindred spirits. Men can love their fellow men and most of all they can have a relation with god. Women have almost no relations of any kind with other women with the exception of being sisters or daughters. But these are only of importance because there is a man involved. The only exception seems to be the tale of Noomi and Ruth, but even that tale ends with finding a husband. No woman talks to god directly nor does god ever talk to a woman. Nowhere in the bible of the youth is written that god loves a woman.
Women do appear as evil at times. Such as the famous Deliah, who causes Samson’s downfall.
A source of amorality
If we set aside Yahweh as the inspiration of actions and assume that these are the actions of men -and non other than men – then what picture does emerge from the Bible for the Youth?
We get a shocking display of amoral behavior. People trick people(read about how Jacob tricks his near blind father in blessing him to be his successor). People steal other peoples wives(David). People commit suicide(Saul). Men have multiple wives(almost all of them). People make their servants pregnant(Jacob). Kings break the laws the are meant to uphold(Saul).. and so on.
One particular dubious story is that of the prophet Elisha. One day he is offered hospitality by a rich woman(without a name, because women do not matter, see above) in a place called Sunem and one day she complains to Elisha that she likes to have a child but that her husband is too old. Well, Elisha predicts that she will deliver a son. And she gets one. One he even saves from death. Probably because it was his son(my interpretation).
By the way Elisha is also the guy who has a group of kids killed by two bears for mocking his baldness. This is told in the sideline as the tale itself will probably raise to many awkward questions.
It is curious that non of the figures that feature in the stories actually display any of the moral qualities that are attributed to them. Successors to kings are often chosen on the ground that Yaweh wants this or that person to succeed or because they are sons. It is seldom that it is said that a person should be king because of their leadership abilities or because they are elected by the people.
Sometimes you get a peek at the underlying reality of the story. For instance in the story of Samuel. He is the adoptive son of Eli, a high priest, and Samuel is good and the two sons(unnamed) are evil. It almost feels like we are witnessing some kind of rivalry in which Samuel had to prop up his position as successor to Eli by describing that his two sons were evil and he was good(a man of god). It is probably remains of a fight for supremacy in which the victor’s side of the story is the only story left to us.
Even more interesting are all the claims that are unfounded. For instance Solomon is described as being wise and for once in the bible we get a display of a claimed quality. In this bible no quality is otherwise demonstrated or proven. You just have to accept the bible for being true. The sole exception is Solomon. His wisdom is demonstrated by his judgement of two women who claim to be the mother of the same child. To figure this out he threatens to have the kid chopped in half. The argument is that a real mother would not want her child killed while the false mother would settle for half because it would be dead and nobody would get it. And so it happens. And this then is the demonstration of his wisdom.
This is so obviously fake because only retard would fall for this trick and it shows how badly the writers think of women in general. They are retards. But in addition. Let us look at the picture that comes with this grand tale of wisdom:
So a kid gets hold up by it’s feet and threatened in be cut in half. How more brutal can you be? The whole judgement has nothing to do with wisdom, but with violence and making women out to be retards. And this is then the showcase example of the wisdom of Solomon as given in the Bible for the Youth.
If there is one thing that simple lacks in the Old Testament then it is any kind of fun. It reminds me of the Name of The Rose in which people get killed because they come in contact with a work of Aristotle that discusses humor. Humor makes life bearable, but the murderer kills the people because knows that humor (notably mockers) also reduced the fear for Yahweh. Nobody should laugh at him. And perhaps that is the reason why there is no humor whatsoever in the bible. Except unintentionally. It is a dry dreary tale lacking any sense of gaiety
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Richard Dawkins)
Richard Dawkins’ statement is actually not entirely correct. Read on.
Reading the old testament as presented in the Bible for the Youth is an awful experience. The blurb on the back of the book promises to give us all the important stories of the bible. I assume this claim to be true. The bible is a cavalcade of unlikable characters and non of them have any redeeming qualities. Most have no personality to speak off, those that do are abject people. I don’t mean people with their strengths and weaknesses, but just abject people. They are nasty, selfish, petty, cheats, dishonest, bloodthirsty killers. Some were obvious confidence tricksters, like the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
And this is why Dawkins statement is’t entirely correct. This statement is about Yahweh, but as said before.. if we assume that there is no Yaweh this means that all the acts are done by the people that are in the bible. They are petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freaks; vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleansers; misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bullies.
The Old Testament as a great tool for story telling.
While the Old Testament is an awful book, it is however a supreme book for story telling. This sounds like a complete reversal of what is said above, but allow me to explain.
The Old Testament reads as if someone quickly penned down a series of sketchy plots without filling in the details. It is like a bare-bones framework. As such it can be a great source for developing stories and it should perhaps be read in that fashion. Shakespeare’s plays are full of murder and mayhem and people think his works are among the best that English literature has to offer. The Old Testament itself is a crude storybook, but I can very well imagine how it has been used throughout the ages as a means to tell stories that adapted over time. In this perhaps the Old Testament’s strength is the same as it’s weakness.
(*Source: De bijbel voor jongeren. Verhalen en feiten in woord en beeld. Naverteld door Selina Hastings met illustraties van Eric Thomas..)
Yesterday I saw the Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies, and wrote a short scathing critique of the movie on metacritic. This third episode is simply a long series of fights interspersed with some dialog. However, besides giving criticism I want to learn from such movies, so I am going to write a few short notes the story telling in this episode.
The biggest problem.
The biggest problem is that Jackson wanted to make an epic movie that mirrored Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit wasn’t enough of an epic book to provide the material for such a tale. In fact the book reads as a bedside story the kind a parent tells to one of his kids just before sleeping. The hobbit is the kid undergoing the adventures in a world where magic and magical creatures exist. A wondrous tale of adventure and danger ending with treasure and the defeat of a mean dragon.
Because the story lacked body, it got expanded.. Hence the introduction of Azog, the orc, the addition of a love story between an elf and a dwarf and the adding in of a fight between Sauron and the good powers.One can be against adding such extra stories, but in itself I find this neither good or bad. You might not agree with it, but it doesn’t make for a good or bad tale merely because something is added that wasn’t in the original book or, the opposite, because something was left out.
To a certain extent a movie maker is at liberty to do whatever he or she wants with his movie, although if a movie maker changes too many things in the story, he or she might probably have to change the title to be fair to the original book or writer.
The problem with the last entry in this trilogy is twofold. The lack of things to tell becomes glaring obvious and what is added never feels part of the overall story as it doesn’t integrate well.The effect is that story telling suffers.
But how can this happen while at the same time so much is going on? In fact.. there is so much going on you might think that having enough to tell is the least of Jackson’s problem. Yet at the other hand; there is nothing much to tell either. This sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?
The issue is that Jackson doesn’t seem to focus. He wants to do a lot, but never concentrates on a single thing.
Even with the massive cast he already has( the thirteen dwarves, a hobbit, bard, Gandalf, beorn, the elf king, the bad orc) he still adds more, like Alfrid the side kick of the master of the town who he made up himself(why if he already had the master of the town to fill that role) and Legolas, who isn’t in the book and could have been left out because he will get a big role to play in the lord of the ring movie. And he still adds more. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel, Elrond all put in an appearance to add an extra scenes that feel like filler. And of course Radagast is in it too. And if that is not enough he adds a love interest for the dwarf Kili.
In fact he has pretty enough of stuff to tell. Like Thorin getting greedy and the impending conflict with the townsfolk. And the battle between the five armies would have in itself given enough to tell about.
Ironically Jackson resembles Thorin in that he sits on a stack of stories that is more than enough to make for good movie but he wants to add more and more. He hurries from one scene to the next, never giving enough time for things to develop. Like for instance the relation between Tauriel and Killi feels just rushed.
What than can we learn from this?
Kill your darlings You and I have heard this before. Leave out the things that do not really belong to the center story.Legolas could have been left out. Like Alfrid, Radagast. Saruman, Sauron, Galadriel: they are are superfluous. I am not against the introduction of Tauriel. I actually thought it was a good idea, but I don’t think the love story with Kili was such a good idea. Elves and Dwarves somehow don’t mix. Perhaps it would have been better to hook her up with Bard. Which might have been too much of a reprisal of the love between Arwen and Aragorn, but at least more believable.
Concentrate on a few individuals
Unless you are planning a television series, it’s probably wise to concentrate on just a few characters. Thorin would have been an obvious choice. Bilbo of course, perhaps Bard and Tauriel. Four characters that we follow that can be paired. Thorin with Bilbo.. Bard with Tauriel.
Make them change
Thorin was a great character with his faults and as such I think he was probably the best of the characters. We could see him change, make wrong choice and at the end he changes and become the great king he wants to be.
Bilbo we see change from a reluctant bumbling hobbit into a brave hobbit that does the right thing when Thorin doesn’t. It leads to betrayal. It is the ultimate setup for a good storyline.
Bard was a character that should have been worked upon. He could have been given some weaknesses that either make him change or make him a hero. He could have been a glory hound for instance, believing himself to be marked out for glory from the start. Maybe he should have been portayed as a kind of William Tell. Perhaps he was even a poacher and that is where he knows Tauriel from.
Tension between characters make for a good story. It would be obvious that Thranduil would collide with Thorin. This could have been made more complicated by a relation between Bard and Tauriel which might be souring the relations between Bard and Thranduil, who are allies opposing Thorin initially. The master of the laketown could have been give a kind of secondary role in opposing Bard. Since Bard claims the right of rule while the master is an democratic elected ruler. This could be done with all the available characters with the need to add or change things too much. Of course it would require some additional writing and some additional acting.
Wrap things up neatly
One thing that perhaps needed to be done is wrapping the story line up. The Hobbit feels rushed and drawn out at other times. When the battle is won, the orcs are defeated and the next moment we see Gandalf and Bilbo in a very long end scene in which Bilbo say farewell to Gandalf travels towards his house where they are selling his property because they believe him to be dead.It is a strangely long out end scene.
Instead we do not get any idea what happened to everyone else. It isn’t really wrapped up neatly.
These then are some quick notes about the movie. I hope to add some more later.
Welcome to the third part of my posts about Jurassic Park in which I am trying to delve into the story as to learn from it. Perhaps this is useful, or perhaps it is not.
As already mentioned there is little to no character development in this movie. It is simply not that kind of movie in the sense that it is more aimed at action and showing the dinosaurs, but also because the movie covers less than a day in full. While it is not impossible for a character development to happen in less than a day, it is not very common or realistic.
However a movie doesn’t have to be realistic in the sense that a movie might show a change of character that happens within a very short span of time simply because it can do that and does not have to stick to reality.
To discuss the changes in the movies I want to look at patterns. A pattern is used to visual guide the watcher through the movie and make scenes link. This is probably even more important in a movie than in a written story as a movie is a visual medium that uses imagery to convey a story or in any rate: can make use of it.
What is a pattern you might ask? A standard pattern is a chronological one in which things linked to each other happen in order of time. In Jurassic Park we will also examine few other ones. Let’s have a look at how Spielberg uses patterns to convey the story.
Hammond: the road from joy to sadness.
Hammond is the ceo of the company that builds Jurassic Park. As mentioned in the two earlier posts.. he is the creator. He is thus appropriately dressed in white for that seems to be the color associated with creators such as Yaweh, the ultimate creator of the universe according to the bible.
In Jurassic Park Hammond will go from an joyful and boisterous mood to sad and downcast mood in the course of movie, thus mirroring the downfall of his creation over which he lost control. The short of it: the human that is the creator overreaches himself because nature can not be controlled(and will not according to Malcolm who almost present nature as an entity). This is not only shown when the dinosaurs escape after the deliberate breakdown of the system, but also made clear because the dinosaurs propagate uncontrolled as Grant founds out during his trek through the park. The creators thought to control their creation by only having female dinosaurs in the park, but through something called: dna drift some females spontaneous change into males and couple.
This sequence is shown in a series of screenshots below.
Grant and the kids.
Grant has problems with kids suggesting basically that he is a big kid himself.. at the end he is a man and at ease with the kids.
The mosquito in the amber.
A recurring item in the movie is the mosquito in the amber. The mosquito delivers the blood that is used to retrieve dna for making the dinosaurs.
The ever changing Sattler.
While most people in the movie do not change, not even their outfits..Sattler, being the only mature woman in the movie, changes throughout the movie. She is in fact the only person in the move who undergoes these changes.
Nedry and food
Nedry, the computer nerd is busy with eating or drinking al lot, or surrounded or associated with food. It is the excuse he gives when he leaves the central room. He says he is going to get a soda.
– The story (almost) begins with a helicopter scene and ends with it.
– Hammond is the creator and dressed in white, while his worst critic, Malcolm, is dressed in black
What is the meaning of all these patterns?
As mentioned above these patterns are guides that help you watch the movie and guide you through the story. In that way the movie becomes better watchable and better make you understand the story. My next post will be an examination of Avatar in which we will see perhaps some other patterns appear.
If I find more reasons for these patterns I will update this post.
Welcome to part second part of the movie Jurassic Park in which I am trying to analyse the story-telling.
In a previous post I discussed the first fifty minutes of the movie including the introduction of the central characters. In this part I am going discuss the remaining two hours of the movie which might conceivably make for a very long post were it not for the fact that most of the movie is a lot of the same stuff: the humans trying to deal with the predatory dinosaurs and the dinosaurs trying to deal with the humans(by eating them).
We left part two with the picture of the dinosaur with the name I have a hard time typing properly: the triceratops, a kind of heavily armored rhinoceros(I am probably offending some dinosaur experts for this triceratops probably has got nothing to do with the rhinoceros.) The poor animal is ill and therefore lies prone on the ground. Which is handy for patting it.
This scene had me puzzled: why is there no fence between the cartrail and this particular dinosaur? I thought there were fences on both sides of the trail, but I was wrong apparently. The fence was meant to keep the meat eating dinosaurs inside I guess. But if so, why do Grant and the two kids climb a fence to get at the other side to escape an approaching T-rex(i think, for we don’t see it but only hear it) just to discover that there is a T-rex at the side they escaped to. Also this scene seems to add little to the story.. unless the illness of this triceratops and the illness of the brachiosaurus later in the movie are connected(which I though it was) and would point to a kind of War of the Worlds development in which the dinosaurs would all be killed by a disease. But nothing of the sort happens. This leaves me to believe this scene is just meant to show a dinosaur upclose. By the way, in the extra features there is a storyboard for a scene with a baby triceratops toppling Lex in a funny scene. It didn’t make it into the movie.
Part 3: The shit and the fan
We are now past the fifty minutes mark. In the previous part the scene is set and the characters are introduced. The domino pieces have all been put in their place. Time to make them fall. So it is time for action and we start with a rain storm. Storms are very neat devices in movies for the rain and the wind add to the confusion, help make communication harder thus adding to the isolation, make things more difficult to see and have then storm break things.. like power lines.
And after this climatic series of images the story actually settles down and is the same for the rest of the movie as Raptors and a T-rex make live difficult for the human cast and eventually kill four of them. There are a few more developments:
Grant’s character develops as he takes care of the kids, thus overcoming his unease with children.
Hammond and Sattler have an emotional moment. While Hammond in an emotional moment shows he has not learned anything and vows to do better next time, Sattler goes even more emotional on him and tells him that people are dying for crying out loud cause he fucked up.. How about some yoghurt?
After some tos and fros the surving cast ends up in the central building and Hammond calls for a helicopter to pick them up after Sattler reactivates the system. The group then heads for the helicopter pad while being chased by raptors. These manage to corner Grant, Ellie and the kids in the central hall, but they can escape when a T-Rex attacks the raptors.
Part 4: the end
So it’s time to finish the story and this is actually done in one of the better scenes in the story(in my humble opinion) which summarizes and then wraps up the storyline.
So this ends part 2 and we even have a part 3 to wrap up and make some overall observations.
(This movie shows three key scenes.. if you do not like spoilers you should not watch after the first scene has ended. There is a red walking dead sign dividing the first and second scene.)
I was fortunate that I did not buy the video-game the walking dead. I was somewhat suspicious about it actually being a game, so I decided to find out what kind of game it before buying it. You see, the maker of the game, tell-tale games. made and makes click adventures. Click adventures are the kind of games where you have to click on objects in the game to combine them so they can be used to make the game proceed. It is not my kind of game. In fact ever since I played Zork way back I stopped playing those kind. I vaguely recall that I had to do something with a piece of string and a clay brick to open some kind of doorway. I think the piece of wire was meant to go into the clay, then the clay was made into a brick and the brick with string attached had to be put in a wall to open a secret door.
The walking dead game was exactly the kind of ‘game’ I expected it to be. So based on that conclusion it would not be very interesting for me. However I became fascinated by the game movies that one guy called the rad brad had made. I followed him playing this game from start to finish. And it was clearly not a game but rather an interactive movie. The whole story line did progress along the same path regardless of what options the player choose. Most of the options available were more to give the story a slightly different feel then make for a dramatic different game or create an complete different conclusion.
The game might be disappointing for people who want to play a game that gave them the option to make decisions that had important repercussions. However as a story it captured me even though it had it’s weak moments.
I was wondering what actually made the story work for me and after some pondering I figured that the most crucial thing in the game is the relation between the main character Lee and the little girl Clementine. Lee acts as Clementine’s replacement dad. It is therefore that I made a small movie showing two crucial moments in the game…the one where Lee and Clementine meet and the one were they part. In addition it also shows you how the game ends.. So that is three scenes.
In addition to the central relationship in the story I have to name the voice acting as a impressive. The fact that the game makers stick to a simple story line seems to work well and most of the characters are believable people that you can identify with, care about, understand, suffer or perhaps even hate. Unlike many characters is other movies and games where nobody really cares about them because they are not believable people. Lee, for instance, is the kind of guy I liked from the start as being a former teacher. Clementine is a kind of kid that you like.
Because I like pictures above typed text, let me go through some of the movie scenes and comment on a few scenes that makes this video game/movie stand out.
The walking dead opens with the skyline of Atlanta and it is a link between the television series, comic and the game. That way people will know the setting. In a later post I will comment further on the interaction of thoughts, feels and the use of language and imagery to invoke stories. Above the picture somehow I thought it read “A brand new day.” Note the beautiful blue sky and the sunny setting. Interestingly.. while this is the skyline of Atlanta we do no go to it.. the story takes us away from it. In this manner a possible conflict can be avoided. Bye bye Atlanta.
The conversation between Lee and the cop is done partly via the rear view mirror. This way we can follow their expressions. It also underscores the relation between the two and will aid in setting up the scene where they have the accident. Note that setting is still pleasant. There will be message on the radio and police cars driving towards Atlanta. We know what is going to happen.
After the police car hits a roaming zombie, it slips, crashes through this rail and ends up at the bottom of this slope. While this is a very unlikely occurrence (those rails can stop trucks) this makes for a very engaging shot from above. Note the corpse of the cop in the right top corner and the trails of blood that runs from the car to him. The shades and dark lights create for an ominous scene. The sunny happy mood has been replaced by gloom and creepy shadows. It is a cool way to make a picture. The look from above to below zooms out give an overview and also makes everything remote. Note that the darkness is on the edges. It creeps in from all sides.
Again the above shot is almost like a painting.. which perhaps it is. The low quality of the graphics is used to the advantage by changing it all into a more comic kind of style. I suspect it was a way how the makers had to deal with a technical limitation, yet kept the whole in style and interesting. Incidentally.. the original comic is done in black and white which is probably a way to save cost on having to color the pictures
After escaping from the zombies Lee finds himseft on the grounds of this suburban home. The shot is zoomed out which show us he is completely alone.. his shouting made me cringe. This will be used several times during the game. Someone shouting in an otherwise silent place. Did you notice the eerie yellow sky and gloom? In the distance it almost looks like there are yellow vapors rising from the ground.
When Lee enters the nearby house he moves from out of the light into the darkness. Again creating an eerie atmosphere. This is the home where he meets Clementine. As you can see this whole setup is deliberately. In the previous pictures it is dark as if the evening has fallen. Then the scene is changed to an eerie sick yellow color. Here the color outside is almost golden, while inside darkness is hiding unknown dangers.
The central working element in the game is the relation between Lee and Clementine. While the art could be better and is not that original as some people claim – it resembles that of other games and movies(Borderlands spring to mind) – the use of expressions and the voice acting coupled to the images make the story work. In fact it works better than many movies with real people.
Lilly is the leader who continuously struggles with her role. I am not sure how other people feel about her, but I think she was wrongly treated in the story line. She was obviously put in a role she felt uncomfortable with and she tried to do her best in a bad situation. Nobody, not even Lee, actually volunteers to take over her leadership role, yet she is keenly aware of unvoiced (imagined?) criticisms towards her own short comings. She has to make though decisions and at one moment during the game she makes Lee, who is the main potential challenge to her leadership, even if he does not want to, choose whom to feed. The makers of the game do something harsh towards her halfway into the series although it is not out of character. This act makes her flee the group and thus leave the story.. although there is possibility she might return in future episodes.
As a story element the above scene creates a placid scene. The sky is blue and it almost looks like they are sitting around a campfire as if on holiday. Not even someone on guard. Which might be a deliberate move. A guard would spoil this ideal camping picture. Note that nobody seems to change clothes throughout the game, except for Kenny, who switches t-shirts..
Another use of colors in the above two scenes. When the group enters the city of Savannah.. the scene is set as if it is a nice summers day.. when the zombies arrive.. the colors are turned to dark and threatening. It is one of the ways to underscore the mood…
Note the sky above this scene.. bad things are about to happen….
This scene is cast in an almost pleasant like forest view. In this case the dark threatening colors are no used.. because the sunray that shines into the clearing makes for a nice contrast with the next scene.. The light guides our view towards the center..
Zombies shamble towards the group…
The above scene with the dark clouds that seem threatening is the stage for this little drama.. you have to either see her killed by the zombies or you have kill her yourself. Watching this scene gives me a sad shocked feeling. I know what is going to happen.. You can see she must have been through a rough time with her being dirty… she almost looks like a zombie at this point, and you can see the desperation on her face. He looking as a zombie creates this feel that she has been in the pit.. tries to escape.. Lee and Kenny are near.. yet within sight of salvation they can not help her..and only kill her quickly to spare her an agonizing death…
This camera is set low.. so we are at eye level with the kid.. the two grown-ups loom over the dead kid.. It is a classic scene of a vulnerable kid being at the mercy of two strong grown-ups.. The gun illustrates this to a point.. If we did not know from the story-line this might be even interpreted in another way. This is one of the things about a story.. like a house it is made up out of smaller parts that give it context and meaning.. Context and meaning that could be changed by changing the constituent parts of the story.
The camera shot is marvelous: the one hand holding Ben, the zombies roaming below and climbing the stairs. The darkness creeps in from all sides.. again.
This last scenes are done in a stark dark color. We are in the pit of darkness…
This is the scene of Savannah just before the group enters the town..They travel towards the sun.. the bringer of light, warmth and hope.
Mei is the name I give to my little sister. I could have thought of a better name than Mei, but I decided to call her like that because we agreed to hide her real name and I wanted to show somehow that she is my little sister. So I looked up what little sister was in Chinese and it was Mei Mei. Mei sounded like an apt name, because in Dutch it is the month May, which is the month in which nature blossoms. A joyful month therefore. And little sister is much like that.
So Mei was in a shemale bar.
She is like that: she visits places we read about, but never go to. Mei is easy in many ways, especially in accepting other people’s habits. Unless those habits hurt people. Mei doesn’t like it when people get hurt.
Shemales are a curious group of people, mostly because people tend to confuse them with transgenders. To explain something about them, I have to tell what I think a shemale is. I accept the fact that many people might not agree with me.
Shemales are men who behave and look like women and often have had surgery that made them more female. For instance: they have often breasts. However they always retain their manly bits.
Transgenders are people who want to be the other gender. Sometimes transgenders look like shemales because they are physically in transition, but that is usually a temporary and unwanted state of affairs.
Shemales want to a be in that in between state.
So Mei was in a shemale bar looking at some of the shemales dancing on the poles. Mei doesn’t get excited about people dancing on poles, but she likes to talk and pole dancers have to chat to their customers as part of their job description so the chatting was easy and free of charge..
There were also a few other customers in the bar.. One who expressed that she had some trouble with her computer. Her name was Isa and Mei offered to help her, because Mei knows a few things about computers. She doesn’t want to let people know that, because she finds it boring and before you know it people think you are a computer expert.
With Mei’s help they got the problem sorted and then they chatted about other things like: ‘‘where are you from?’ , ‘what do you do?’ and ‘would you like to dance?’
Mei likes to dance so she said yes and they danced, chatted, kissed, cuddled and did things that people who are attracted to each other do. And much to Mei’s surprise Isa was actually a shemale. You could say Mei was falling in love and Isa seemed to be falling in love with her.. Soon they discovered that hours had passed and they were planning to find a place to live together and have kids. And all of this in just one night.
The next day Mei woke up elated. She was sure she would see Isa again soon, although they had not talked to about meeting each other the next day. She knew a small place that she might be able to rent. It was a very small tropical island that was just enough for two people to live upon. She knew of it’s existence because her older sister had rented it once.
Mei visited the place and although it was not available, there was another small island that was.. She decided against renting it at once because she wanted to know if Isa liked it.
While Mei was really happy, she also felt doubt creep in. And when she thought some more about it, she realized that she would be required to give up her whole happy-go-lucky lifestyle she had led the past few years. Mei decided that Isa and she needed to know each other better before she rushed into a long term commitment.
Mei send Isa an enthusiastic mail telling her that she had found a place and that she hoped all was well with Isa and ended the mail telling Isa that Mei loved her.
After a few days Mei had not received an answer from Isa. In fact she had heard nothing from Isa at all.
Now Mei became worried and she decided to go to her old sister Nali for advice. Unfortunately Nali was not the right person to ask, because she had been in a bad relation and mostly because the other in that relation did not keep her appointments. Nali remembered days of herself waiting for hours on her date to appear, sometimes she waited in vain. So Nali advised Mei to stop the relation before it even started if Isa did not bothered to answer Mei.
A few days later Mei got an answer from Isa. Isa wrote that she was busy due to the holidays(it was around Christmas) and would come and see Mei three days later. That was all she said,
Mei felt hurt. Isa had not answered her for almost a whole week and when she had done so the answer was very business-like. Now she was getting second thoughts.. She was going to give up her life for someone who apparently was not as enthusiastic as Mei thought she was. This made Mei write Isa an angry mail saying that the moment was passed and she was already seeing someone else, because she assumed Isa had lost interest in her by not answering her first mail within a week.
Mei never got a reply from Isa on that mail. Mei did not dwell too much on what had happened though. She felt sad for a few days, but unlike her older sister Nali she was not one that would hide herself from the world and grief in silence. Instead she went into town to party and soon forgot what had happened.
A year later Mei was looking through her mail to find a mail from a friend when she found a mail from Isa. It had been send half a year after they had met and somehow she had missed it.. It was a very short mail. Isa asked if Mei wanted to be friends again and she ended with a please.
It made Mei feel sad -actually it gave her tears- that she had missed the mail from Isa and thus had not been able to reply to her. In hindsight she felt that she should have given Isa at least the chance to explain herself. So Mei decided to answer the half year old mail and tell her she would be happy to be friends again.
Until this day Mei never received an answer.
Mei told me this and I wrote it down.I don’t know why I did other than that I found it a sad tale that might have had another ending. Perhaps also because I very much like my little sister.
The next artist I like to mention work from is called Tess Falworth. She makes pictures using Second Life and adds little stories to them. The above painting has great lighting. The picture is a talking one breathing a mood of solitude and wandering.
I search because I need to know.. because I need to feel the earth at my feet, the sand that cascades through my fingers.. I search for the infinite, the real, the surreal.. the beyond and the void. I search for meaning in the sunset… knowing that I am but singularity in the web and my thread may be cut when I least expect it, but until then, I will search with an open heart and open soul.
there are but a few moments in between.. the sweetness of surrender and the triumph of temptation…
Nude don’t do much for me. I know that some people find them fascinating, I don’t exactly see why. However I am not against them either. This one somehow caught my gaze. I have a hard time to tell why. I is a combination of the pose, the way the two ladies are standing, the hand and the gag. I like the way the light is used. There is a story there that wants to be told.