Category Archives: historical

Good Night, and Good Luck * George Clooney (2005)

Good Night, and Good LuckSo what does Clooney have with 50’ies films about early television and the communist-craze? In “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind” he made these elements into a thriller, this time we get a very slow drama. Showing the power of media and the crazyness of the exposure of communists, “Good Night, and Good Luck” follows TV showhost Edward Murrow who makes critical shows about some powerfull men and their ways. Of course things are not made easy for him. Being a nice peek into a strange time in the USA, “Good Night…” as a film is too slow and not very exciting. The filming is good, the acting is good, but inspite of that, the result is not all that good.

Elizabeth: the golden age * Shekhar Kapur (2007)

Elizabeth: the golden ageThe first Elizabeth (“the virgin queen” 1998) is one of my all time favourite films (but apparently older than my writing of film reviews). I had seen the box of this film several times, but I thought it was just a rerelease or something. It turns out that almost 10 years after the original film, a sequel was made with almost the same crew! Apparently it has been a while since I saw the first one, since watching “the golden age” does not really bring back memories. The first one blew me away with its dark epic about the violent struggle between Catholics and Protestants. I do not even know “the golden age” is supposed to play before or after “the virgin queen” or perhaps it is another look at the same period. The story goes that since Elizabeth I (Protestant) remains childless, her cousin Mary Stuart (Catholic) is used by Spain to overthrow Elizabeth. War is waged.
“The golden age” is another great history lesson, but as a film it does not reach the level of “the virgin queen”. This could be because the novelty is gone or perhaps because “the virgin queen” is darker. “The golden age” is still a top class film though and a must-see if you like the first film.

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex * Uli Edel (2008)

After a nice opening scene on a German nude beach follows a very violence report of an outrageous knockdown of a student protest against the visit of the Shah of Iran to Germany in 1967. This smack in the face seems to make clear how some of these students radicalised into the extreme left terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Fraction, RAF). The next thing you know is that young men and women are prepared to go very far for their “revolution” against capitalism, the American war in Vietnam, the occupation of Palestine by Israel (helped by the Americans), etc. The group gets bigger and bigger and more and more insane and megalomanic, especially when the main people (including Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin) land in jail. In the beginning of the film, the group is linked to the French and Chinese student protests of 1968, Che Guevara, etc., lateron members of the group align with Palestine militants and a connection is even made with the 1972 Munich Olympics where the Israelian Olympic team was massacred. Edel portays the bombings, shootouts, abductions, etc. in all their violence and here and there you will see how the people from the RAF thought about certain things. You do not get to see how Edel stands in the discussion, since his film seems to go back and forth between ‘pro’ and ‘con’.
Uli Edel manages to loosen emotions, from disgust and anger for the police actions in the opening scene to disgust and anger for the vastly out of every proportion actions of the RAF. The film is harsch and heavy, the only points of light come in scarce funny scenes and some female nudity. Like “Waltz With Bashir“, this is a good film, but not a nice watch. An apparently objective view on a forgotten recent phase in history. Perhaps this film can even put the fear for Muslim terrorism in some perspective. Just one generation ago, people from our own ranks were just as mad (the idea of using a plane was already present in RAF circles). The RAF perhaps did not want to kill civilians while some parties nowadays do, but the number of actions was much larger. And are the reasons for these ideas and actions then and now not for quite the same reasons? Shouldn’t that finally make us think? “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” shows one character who suggests to not only fight the result, but also think about the cause. Maybe this grim lesson in history could prove to be very actual.
By the way, “Die Bleierne Zeit” which I recently reviewed puts a fictionalised magnifying glass on a small part of the story.

Die Bleierne Zeit * Margarethe von Trotta (1981)

My girlfriends colleagues pulled this DVD out of some arthouse section of a local DVD shop for her birthday, most likely having no idea what the film is about. Funny enough it is about the Rote Armee Fraktion, just like “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” that recently premiered. That is to say: according to the box of “Time Of Lead”, it is about Gudrun Ensslin “one of the key figures of the Baader Meinhof group”, but when I would not have read the box, but only watched the film, I would not have known that.

“Die Bleierne Zeit” “fictionalized” the events and follows Juliane, an idealistic woman and journalist who appears to have feminist and far leftish ideas. Her apparently quiet life is every now and then interrupted by a woman called Marianne (her character is based on Gudrun Ensslin), a woman that proves to be radical, selfish woman without taking much notion of Juliane having different ideas than herself. Juliane and Marianne turn out to be sisters and the film shows a lot of scenes that are flashbacks, but this is not always clear. Marianne is radical enough to land in jail for having had something to do with bombs. However the film shows how both Juliane and Marianne were in their early days pushed to the far left of the political spectrum, the film does not show what their ideas exactly are, what the revolution stands for that Marianne fights in, not even what it is exactly that she did that put her in jail. The film had its premiere only four years after a tragic event that is also in this film and which might or might not have spelled the end of the Baader Meinhof group. This leads me to the idea that when the film was made and shown, it was for the audience that knew all about the Rote Armee Fraktion, its actions and its ideology and that the film shows the story behind some of the RAF’s members without having to give information about the RAF itself. As for an unknowing viewer 27 years later, I see a film which tells a story, but leaves out all the essential information. I cannot place the film in any perspective and therefor it is just a drama about two women with a strong bond and similar ideas but very opposital in the implementation of them. “Die Bleierne Zeit” is not a boring watch, but people from outside Germany and/or not having read the newspapers of the time will need something to place the story in. Perhaps the film “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” is such a film and when you saw that one, “Die Bleierne Zeit” will work better.

The Mahabharata * Peter Brook * 1990

A masterpiece directed by a true master of theatre (Peter Brook)
Based on an classic Indian epic, Peter Brook & his international team have created masterpiece film. Peter Brook captures not only the story/plot but conveys the nuances & philosophies within this Indian epic. It is amazing that Mr. Brook captures the essence of the characters even in the “stylized” filming. If I am not mistaken, the full version is nine hours long. Nonetheless, it captivates the audience. Peter Brook is a great director. Excellent!!!

This is what it says at the IMDb page of this film. I just pulled it from the shelve at the DVD rental, interested to see if the gigantic Hindu epic would fit in a 164 minutes film. Reading the quote, the film is again a shortened version of a TV-series (which apparently also has a 9 and a 5 hour version). The film is alright story-wise. Slightly confusing is the fact that Gods and men are all just men and rather quickly is jumped from the world above to the world below. Furtunately I have read my share about Hindu mythology, so most of the time when I hear a name, I know what the film is talking about. It looks like Brook stayed quite closely to the actual story, so this film/series works well if you want to get a rough scetch of the Mahabharata.
As for the film itself, in my eyes it is far from a “masterpiece film”. The acting is silly, the dialogues boring and the English pronounciation awfull (which is in a way a good thing, since at least mostly indigenous actors were used). These harsch words do not mean that this is a terrible film. I had to get used a little to the 90’ies overall appearance, but the story and the way the text is dealt with, still make this a nice viewing experience, especially from an educational viewpoint.
-2.5-

Girl with a Pearl Earring * Peter Webber * 2003

This film ‘aged’ a lot faster than I thought! I remember it being released and figured that I wanted to see it some time, so, five years later I did. I suppose you already know that a whole story is spun around the famous image of “Het meisje met de parel” as Vermeer named his painting. In the film the young working maid Griet comes to work for Johannes Vermeer who was a renowned painter while alive. With his work he supports his wife, ever growing amount of children, his mother and some workers and all in a rather big house. When he is captured by the beauty of his new working maid, he lets her help him painting and eventually paints herself to the big dislike of his wife. The events seem a little far-fetched to me, but the film has a nice atmosphere, setting and good acting, which makes the film a nice drama playing in times past.
-2.5-

Beowulf & Grendel * Sturla Gunnarson * 2005

For a long time I have wanted to read the oldest English poem, the famous epic called “Beowulf”, but all the time I had other things to read and never came to it. Maybe because of that new Beowulf film with Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins I remembered to buy a copy of the booklet. So I got one of those cheap Penguin books in modern English and started to finally read the story. Then a friend said that besides the sci-fi version of 1999 with Christopher Lambert and the upcoming Hollywood version, there is also a good film version. I think I knew “Beowulf & Grendel”, but I always have second thoughts about such films, especially when the box says: “in the style of Lord of the Rings and King Arthur”, which is probably the reason that I never bought it. The extra push made me invest the enormous amous of € 5,- and eventually watch this classic version of the classic epic.

The film begins with Grendel as a child, the first thing in which the film differs from the book. There are much more differences. To make the film more interesting, both the Geats and the Danes are still pagan, while the Beowulf epic is very Christian. Added is a Celtic missionary who Christianises the troops. Also added is a young “witch”. The fight with Grendel is stretched out beyond belief, shorter is the fight with Grendel’s mother and totally left out the fight with “the Worm”. What I think is a bad case, is that king Hrothgar has been turned into a weary old man with a grudge, while in the book he is a respectable king with a big problem. His luxery hall is turned into “some beer hall”. That for how strict the actual text is followed.
The film itself is a mediocre adventure with pagan warriors and too human monsters (I already wonder how Angelina Jolie is going to eat a man in two bites in the upcoming version). The atmosphere is alright, the setting magnificent. The comparisons on the box are not really typical, I would rather compare the film with “The 13th Warrior” or so. In any case, nice, but not great.
-2-

Perfume * Tom Tykwer * 2007

I saw this film (in German) in a room with a few hundred “Grufties” during the 2007 edition of the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig. Not that this has anything to do with the film, but I thought it would be nice to mention.
Tom Tykwer, the many-sided director of Lola Rennt, Heaven, Der Krieger und die Kaisering, this time comes with a historical drama around a boy with a magnificent sense of smell. After a wretched youth he becomes student with a perfume-maker and becomes obsessed with the pursuit to capture the scent of a woman.
“Perfume: the story of a murderer” is a nice historical drama which gives a nice insight in the fabrication of perfumes, has a nice sence of humour and good acting. The beginning and especially the end are much overdone though, both in filming (the beginning) and the story (the end). For the rest a nice watch.
-2.5-

Wagner (series) * Tony Palmer * 1983

There are many old TV-series available on DVD for low prices nowadays, most of them I never heard off. Here we have a very nice series about the famous composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). You cannot ‘use’ these series to become acquinted with his work, because they are purely about the man. As a revolutionary for a united Germany, Wagner had to flee Dresden. Besides being unwanted in his own country, he is a gravely ununderstood musical artist so he mostly lives his life in poverty or on somebody elses money (he did have admirers). In these series you can see an arrogant man caring for noone but himself and his art, traveling ‘from hither to dither’ to try and bring his work to an audience chosen by himself and presented the way he wanted. His attitude brings him almost nothing but resistance and his is not able to do the things he intends to do. During the series you do get to know why the very Christian Wagner wrote ‘pagan’ operas and learn a bit about the writing process of some of his most famous works, but you only get glimpses of practises of plays of them. So, don’t watch these series for the music, but to learn a bit about the man behind it. With this in mind, Wagner is a nice series about an interesting person.

V For Vendetta * James McTeige * 2005

It is the year 2020. The United States no longer exist after a serious (biological) war. The situation in the former USA was misused by a British politician who managed to establish a totalitarian dictatorship holding the middle between the ‘Orwellian’ world of 1984, the Nazi reign of Germany and the communistic terror in the far East. One man who has seriously suffered the worst part of society is up for revenge and uses “the fifth of November” as a “day to remember”. “V For Vendetta” opens with the story of the miniseries “Gunpowder, Treason & Plot” that I recently reviewed. Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the parliament in which the tiranical James (VI of Scotland and I of England) reigns on 5 November 1605. “V” plans on doing the same. 20 Years of preparation and then his campaign of terror begins. He blows up the famous statue of Justitia and anounces a revolution on next years 5 November. In the proces our masked Hugo Weaving (agent Smith in the Matrix films) falls in love with Evey (Nathalie Portman) who eventually becomes his pupil.
V For Vendetta is based on a comic with the same name that was published between 1982 and 1985. The film is the debut of director McTeige. McTeige was assistant director of the Matrix films and the brother Wachowski have put a major stamp on McTeige’s debut. The film is shot originally, has major variation in speed (from extremely fast action scenes to long monologues by “V”), great settings and unorthodox lighting. The atmosphere is nicely bizar, but the message is clear and harsch and also very timely, which is the reason why the film was delayed. All sorts of paralells can be drawn and the film gives enough to think about, which can concern the film itself, but also it’s message about present day society (definately the goal of “V”!). A very nice watch for sure.