; movieschocolatebooks: February 2016


Sunday, February 28

Mustang or the loss of innocence

When a house full of joy, youth and innocence suddenly turns into a wife factory, spirits gets crushed and monsters get out of the closets. And like all monsters, they wear the attire of traditionalism, respectability, and morality. Same old, same old, yet Mustang gives a refreshing view on all things beautiful.


First, there are five lively sisters who celebrate the beginning of their summer vacation by swimming in the sea alongside their male classmates. A neighbor sees them and misinterprets their behavior so their grandma punishes them and no longer allows them to leave the house. The five girls are in the care of their uncle who decides to marry them off to preserve their honor and save himself some trouble. In fact, girls, grandma and uncle all have a hidden agenda. The rest of the story is predictable, tragic and painful. Mustang is an honest, natural view at life at it is, with its struggles and disappointments, unfiltered beauty and pain. 

The movie has the amazing score of Warren Ellis, a talented musician with experience in movie music and former partner of Nick Cave. Its tunes puncture the highs and lows in the story and mix beautifully with the scenery of rural Turkey. Summer is in full ripe, girls are candid, intimate and uninhibited. They riot against the adults'choices and break free. When they can no longer escape the barred windows, they turn inside and survive. Or not, depending on the depth of their hidden wounds. 

Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven, Mustang is magic due to its sweetness and silent beauty. There is a sense of abandonment in the girls, who come out in unity, a one-being sisterhood of life, only to emerge on their own, once crisis burst out and initial balance is upset. Together they stand impenetrable, divided, they either succeed or fail in contouring their identity. Their own bond reverberates with the older women's identity in the episode of the soccer game escape. The girls enjoy their last getaway together and grandma and the women around the houses that teach them how to grow into meaningful wives, cover up their traces and rally with them against manhood, restrictions and male privileges.   

Strength lies in victory and failure alike and each girl passes an imaginary torch to the next, inside an inner ripple of traditionalism and religious boundaries. The story is narrated by the youngest, Lale, too young to be married off, too stubborn to accept her fate. She is the one whose character gets more focus and better crayoning to the my disappointment. I felt curious about the rest of the sisters, and longing to get more intimate with them. Also, their confined world and the pressure seemed familiar as other Turkish movies depict the women's struggle to escape arranged marriages and harrowing circumstances. Yet, there is also a shred of humor and kindness in the movie -the teacher who goes to Istanbul, the truck driver who teaches Lale to drive, the wedding ceremony that allows the two youngest sisters to escape. It feels as if the director tried to compensate for the tragedy and the misfortunes in their young lives. Nevertheless, one cannot escape the pressure of having others decide what is best for you and making choices in somebody else's name under the false pretenses of love and care. All these and then something make Mustang a necessary movie, one picture that voices injustice and the need to break loose from the hypocrisy that defines religious, traditional family life.

Thursday, February 11

Inside out or Adulthood by NICO

Te uiti la desene animate?
Cum de am devenit adulti asa deodata? Cum de nu mai suntem deschisi noului, greselilor si curiozitatii la fel de usor cum o faceam in copilarie? De ce suntem asa seriosi si preocupati si interesati numai de lucruri serioase? Ei bine? Un raspuns ar fi...viata ne-a facut asa. Uitarea. Problemele ne-au facut asa, alegerile si frustrarile...

Am vazut un desen animat din care copiii nu vor intelege prea multe lucruri, dar pe care adultii ar trebui sa il vada. Ar trebui sa vada cum de au ajuns adulti, cum de sunt cum sunt, cum de bucuria copilariei nu mai este la fel ca in copilarie, cum de nu mai rad la fel de des, cum de au uitat sa se bucure de lucruri mici si simple....Cum de vad intr-un obiect strict folosinta lui reala si limitata. Cum de au devenit stricti cu ei insisi...si cu cei din jur.

Povestea din INSIDE OUT este a unei fetite, a unui copil...cu sentimente, nevoi si dorinte... fiecare fiind un personaj ce ajuta la crearea memoriei. Ce se intampla daca unul dintre aceste personaje pateste ceva? Ce s-ar intampla daca Bucuria se imbolnaveste, daca Tristetea fuge sau daca Furia ia decizii... Daca Frica nu mai participa la luarea deciziilor...si asa mai departe? 

Ce se poate intampla?... Te maturizezi, asta se intampla... Devii serios. Devii singuratic. Devii cum nu ti-ai inchipuit ca s-ar putea sau ca ar exista. Devii adult.

Ce-ar fi sa urmasesti acest desen animat si sa iti amintesti cum te bucurai cand erai copil, cum iti inchipuiai ca soarele chiar are dinti, ca fluturii vorbesc, ca zburai spre luna, ca aveai puteri de super erou...Ce-ar fi sa urmaresti acest desen si sa iti amintesti ceea ce te-a facut sa te schimbi, sa devii pesimist, rezervat si limitat in exprimari? Iti vei aminti ceea ce te-a ranit, iti vei aminti ceea ce te-a bucurat candva, iti vei aminti bune si rele... frumoase si triste... Vei trezi copilul din tine si poate asa adultul va intelege ca a lua o pauza de la a fi adult, nu e chiar o decizie atat de rea...poate un pic grea, da... grea poate fi. Dar vei iesi mai copil, mai relaxat, mai tu...mai optimist si mai vesel si deschis imposibilului precaut. Este in regula sa iti accepti tristetea ce a devenit frustrare in timp, lipsurile ce au devenit resentimente si invidii.... 

Este ok sa fii diferit si curios, este ok sa fii cu bune si cu rele, dar sa stii si sa iti amintesti cum era cand te bucurai de lucruri marunte si cum era, cand imaginatia ta crea povesti doar de tine intelese, povesti unice, minunate ce te umpleau de stralucire in ochi, chiar si cand erai singur.

Sunday, February 7

The Buddha in the attic by Julie Otsuka or how we challenge our humanity

Haruka left a tiny laughing brass Buddha up high, in a corner of the attic, where he is still laughing to this day.

The Buddha in the Attic makes a beautiful writing. It is the story of the picture brides brought from Japan to San Francisco in the decades before World War II. This group of women -Japanese-mail order brides- comes to California to marry men whose pictures they carry in their pockets, along with their dreams and hopes for a better life. Reality fails to see them come true and little by little, they go through life only to witness their world shatter to pieces.

There is nothing else to be revealed about the story. Its simplicity speaks for itself. They come by boat, they meet their men, their hearts get broken, their bodies no longer belong to them, they mother, they work the land, they cook, they clean, they love, they mother again, they cry, they fear, they die, they live, they breathe and then, they are gone. As if the world itself erased all living traces of their presence. In this mass disappearance, their houses, vegetable patches, orchards, pets, clothes, photos, memories are left behind to speak of their passing before season after season bury them. In the beginning, they are spoken of, missed, remembered, asked for forgiveness, written to, then life sneaks up on the ones left behind and soon, the Japanese are but a fleeting memory.  

Julie Otsuka writes a good story that speaks of identity, loss, guilt, blame and redemption. The use of the collective first person stands proof of her allegiance to their fate and misfortune. Her story is the vessel of these women's silent pain. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor cuts their lives short, depriving them of any rights or chance to claim their rights. In a land where they slowly gave up on their Japanese vein to better accommodate the others, they have turned into invisible walking shadows. Moved inland, they lose not only whatever they managed to amass during their lives, but the shred of dignity left in them. In the process, they are deprived of lives, loves, children, houses, money, respect, themselves. Violent uprooting is bound to erase the inner beings and render them powerless in the face of life. 

The ending is quite unexpected in terms of the choice of narrative. The writer switches from we to they; the voice no longer belongs to the women or their dreams and their hidden thoughts, but to the Americans and how they feel about the missing Japanese families. There is guilt and blame in their voices, remorse about the time unspent to gratify and acknowledge their helpers, neighbors and vendors. Their absence deepens the gap and the sense of failing to have acted humanly towards the other.

The book should be dark, yet despite the aching and the almost quiet expression of their displacement, the women's inner thoughts, feelings, emotions and confessions are heart-melting, yet positive. They sound like us, the readers, and it is easy to walk into their shoes and relate to their fears and joys. Nevertheless, like many others, this book stands a lesson to be learnt, a chance to honor these women by reading their story and carrying it not only in our minds and hearts, but beyond. We are as humane as we teach ourselves to be and as alive as we allow ourselves to be. This slender, manicured, unusual novel has the power to tell hurtful truths in a creative, unique manner that is bound to make us better human beings.