Monday, September 13, 2010

See, books are very important.

Even to (some) Nazis!

The Reader directed by Stephen Daldry. This director has done other films like The Hours and Billy Eliot. Film was originally a novel written by a German law professor, Bernhard Schlink. I would very much like to read it.

First off, don't be fooled by Ralphe Fienne's name in the credits, he has very little screen time. Secondly, there is something quite unsettling to me about this story, which was obviously the point, but it was just queasy and strange, watching this fifteen-year-old kid sticking it to Kate Winslet. The fact that the character, Hanna Schmitz, later joined the SS didn't really have much shock value for me (I had no idea what this was about, going in) since I was already a little suspicious of the character's moral fibers, if you get me. Oscar-worthy? I'll say it definitely sits better than Sandy Bullock, but I got the distinct feeling that her going without makeup for the role and flashing her goodies around had a good piece to do with it. She wasn't playing an ugly person, and other than all the buggering and Nazi business, she didn't seem all that horrible, really. I feel like those were the only two things we actually learned about her. But then, BOOKS!

She couldn't read!

I suppose if I dig deeper, I could deduce that the kid fell in love with her, completely, but never really knew that she was only using him, first for sex, and then for reading. And then he lived his entire life trying to wrap his head around it, together with the fact that she became a Nazi. That's pretty heavy. I was kind of on the fence about the film for the first half hour or so, but once the reading started, once it became about BOOKS, I put down my cross stitch and actually watched, which honestly doesn't happen very often. It wasn't happy, and it didn't give me a good feeling at all, but it was interesting. Like that film Closer (Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, and Jude Law); I didn't like anything that was happening in the film, but I couldn't really stop watching it, either. This film was like that, but with books.

In other news, I've unfortunately had to discard two more from the September book stack. That makes us 0 for 3, thus far. What Will Be, the technology book? Was written in 1997. What a boner-kill. The Shack is out the door, too. The writing just really started to piss me off, mostly the dialogue, which I will also call a boner-kill. The thing that bothers me in much of the shitty literature I read is bad dialogue, which slays me; do the authors themselves speak this way? Because if they do, they must not talk very much, people would laugh them right off the curb. I get people who don't talk, not everyone is annoying like I am, but BLOODY HELL, MAN, you at least gotta listen!

During the extra footage in The Shining, Jack Nicholson gives a little interview to Kubrick's wife about how he approached the character of Jack Torrance. He said that at first, he wanted to do it as real as he possibly could, he wanted to act legitimately crazy, crazy the way he thought a crazy person would be. Then Kubrick apparently sat him down and told him that while he respected what Jack was doing, sometimes real isn't very interesting. A lot of Quentin Tarantino's dialogues are spectacular, I think, because he gets this. The banter and style in a Tarantino scene seem to be real, but much of what's actually being said is sometimes unreal, ("I used the same soap you did and when I finished the towel didn't look like no Goddamned maxi-pad!") but it's always very interesting.

There is a very fine line between real (believable) and interesting, and I think it's never more obvious when someone gets it wrong than in fiction. It's like you can tell when writers love words, or love what they're writing, because it comes across, clearly. I don't think the writer of The Shack loved or even liked words very much. (Pity).

In the meantime, I have been carrying on with a Joyce Carol Oates anthology of American short stories that I gave to my mother and then stole back from her house. Thank God I did; it has been like literary Vampire Blood.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

The Reader was an odd film and I'm still not certain how I feel about it. First of all, it's basically a porno. Let me get that out of the way. But not a sexy porno. An unsettling one. The relationship between the main characters was disturbing on a number of levels, and I found it difficult to get past.