Random Review: The Vanishing (George Sluizer 1988)

The Vanishing

Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna ter Steege), a Dutch couple, are travelling in France when they stop at a service station and Saskia disappears. Dutch director George Sluizer’s adaptation of Tim Krabbé’s novel The Golden Egg is concerned with the aftermath of the disappearance, and focuses on Rex’ obsessive quest to find out what happened to Saskia, but also on uncovering the mind of her abductor.

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Thoughts immediately after being cat-called

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Content note: sexual harassment, reference to rape

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Things I learned putting together a writer’s CV

So I’ve recently been pitching articles to magazines and applying for journalism work experience, some of which required me to put together a ‘writer’s CV’ and an online portfolio of existing work. I’ve managed to publish a few creative and factual pieces, all on scattered websites and for free, but I’ve been pretty disorganised about keeping note of what was published where, so tracking them all down meant a lengthy and frequently revelatory odyssey through my preoccupations and writing styles of the past.

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Five high points of glorious stupidity in The Musketeers

The Musketeers

Some of the BBC’s most high profile dramas recently have consisted of taking a story with a well-known title, then ‘adapting’ it into a bunch of plots that have nothing to do with the original story and everything to do with a committee of scriptwriters meeting at 9 am on a Monday and struggling to reach any original ideas because the coffee machine they rely on to slice through the exhaustion and apathy clogging their brains is broken. That’s how we got High Camelot Musical and The Sheriff of Nottingham Is an Unsubtle Metaphor for the War on Terror.
I couldn’t even get through the Ladybird Classics edition of The Three Musketeers, so when I caught the last two episodes of The Musketeers on BBC 1 (which evidently likes to keep its exact number of musketeers ambiguous. Possibly they are legion. Possibly there are only two), I couldn’t possibly comment on how much and how badly they’ve changed the source material. I tried the Wikipedia plot summary and found ten paragraphs confusingly crammed with characters whose names have a ‘de’ in them, but  the BBC’s version seems pretty much made up from scratch, and unfortunately, from a hilariously terrible scratch, chiefly for these five reasons:

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If Virginia Woolf wrote on WordPress, she’d totally use this

I’ve just discovered the ‘Distraction Free Writing mode’. It allows you to write your entire blog post on a blank white slate, cutting out all the side bars,  putting you in a pure frame of mind where you can just concentrate on honing your prose until it expresses the important thing you said with perfect clarity. The way the great writers of the past wrote, on parchment or a typewriter.

Of course, you can still instantaneously open another window. What’s distracting me when I’m trying to blog isn’t the other stuff on WordPress (no offence, WordPress), it’s the other stuff on the Internet. And there’s quite a lot of it.

If I’m never going to be a great writer because I need to constantly check whether The Editing Room has a new script up when I should be writing – would I rather not be a great writer? It’s depressing, but sometimes it looks like it.

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Review: Fill the Void (Rama Burshtein 2012)

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In my last post (which, as usual, was too long ago!), I wrote about how the best fiction and discussions about marginalised groups are created by people in that group. Then I saw Fill the Void, which I think is a really good example of the kind of art from viewpoints we don’t often hear from, that should get out there more. Unlike 12 Years a Slave, it isn’t even distanced from its characters’ lives by history. Rama Burshtein’s debut feature Fill the Void is set in a contemporary world I knew nothing about – the Orthodox Hassidic community, where there’s a huge social focus on arranged marriages.

The film begins with its eighteen-year-old heroine Shira and her aunt spying on a potential match in the supermarket, and the theme of marriage – meeting prospective husbands, attending weddings, arrangements falling through – dominates almost every conversation, as the characters follow it with an intense interested designed to, perhaps, fill the existential void referred to in the title. This film fails the Bechdel Test, but on purpose – the female characters talk to each other about men and matrimony because it’s such an important part of the story and their lives. As an outsider, I can’t judge how accurately this film represents the community, but it feels authentic and I found it an eye-opening insight.

Shira seeks advice on her first meeting with her prospective husband from her pregnant sister, Esther. But Esther soon collapses at a family gathering, and is taken to hospital where she dies in childbirth. Her family and her husband Yochay mourn her loss and care for her newborn son, but soon the question arises of whether Yochay should remarry. Desperate to stay in contact with her grandchild, Shira’s mother suggests that she should become her brother-in-law’s second wife.

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Call in the experts: When solidarity becomes speaking for

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One of my seminar groups is made up of around ten female and three male students. This week we were discussing Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which evolved into a discussion about how far gender equality has been achieved in general. One of the male students pointed out that, in an English Literature undergraduate course at any rate, there are more women than men, and another man replied that he’d noticed that the few men in every seminar still speak for at least half of the class discussion. At that point I wanted to contribute ‘That’s because women are socialised to not express opinions’ but before I could speak, the third man in the room said “Perhaps women find it harder to express their opinions?” These three men began to form a tight and confident circle, their arguments flying back and forth with no breaks where anyone else could speak, as they discussed feminism in front of twelve (counting the professor and teaching assistant) women who weren’t included at all. We still have a long way to go before men and women are equal, they concluded. Women don’t speak up so much in seminars because they’re socialised not to trust their own ideas, not to speak up, not to argue with others, they lamented. It’s terribly sexist that women’s voices aren’t heard enough, at university or elsewhere, and something really should be done, these three men, speaking in front of twelve silent women, decided.

There was possibly some irony in that situation which went undetected.

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