~ The mystery of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ ~ 🖤🌹

‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is definitely a tale about escapism- Christine spends her whole life being coached by a ‘mysterious voice’ that mentors her to do better and achieve beyond what she thought possible, when she finally steps through the mirror and meets the man behind the voice, her illusion shatters and she is repulsed by his deformed face. 💀

Instead, she goes for her childhood sweetheart Raoul, and, the phantom realises that despite all he’s given her, she still turns away in horror. She pities him and yet still agrees to lay a trap, by going along with his grand plans for her on the stage, but in the end, his jealousy still destroys them (and the opera house which is also his home.) 🎼🎭

We see him as the villain of the story, but we also feel sorry for him, hiding away with no love and kindness- and perhaps it’s this forced solitude & space to develop his talents that turns him into a musical genius. There are many things to learn from it, that you can’t force love, that you can’t expect too much from anyone, yet also the power of forgiveness and also dedication throughout a lifetime. 🖤🖤

Another thing I love about the Phantom are the aesthetics, the opulent backdrop & historical references- after all it’s a theatre, the masquerade balls, the grandness, and of course, the amazing soundtrack!! Andrew Lloyd Webber really transformed it and made it his own- hence why it still stands the test of time. 👰🏻👻🎞⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

~ 𝔔𝔲𝔬𝔱𝔢 𝔠𝔬𝔯𝔫𝔢𝔯~

“They played at hearts as other children might play at ball; only, as it was really their two hearts that they flung to and fro, they had to be very, very handy to catch them, each time, without hurting them.”

“And, despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.”

Le Petit Prince ~ Review

 

I finally found time to watch the film of “The Little Prince” and it really didn’t disappoint. I was intrigued with how it stuck to the original storyline and how they developed the idea of the prince growing up in the real world, how society had affected him and how these characters he had met on the planets were manifested in modern society.

Many of us can relate to the girl in the film, who is pressurised to conform and grow up to be a responsible and hard working adult with good academic achievements. Her neighbour ‘the pilot’ deviates from this and allows her to explore her ‘creative’ and free state of imagination without the constraints, timetables and rigid structure her mother lays out for her.

The animations were captivating, with many touching points that really pull at the heartstrings. No doubt there are many instances where the characters drift apart/must say goodbye to one another. But, it is all part of life.

Some morals I learnt from watching it:

1. Everything lives on in the heart even if you can’t see it anymore

2. It’s okay to deviate from rigid rules, and yet pursue what you want through seeing it in a different light. Never dream too small, and always maintain the childishness and innocence in you. Be brave.

The fox is also pretty darn cute too!

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Bookilm Day 2: Childhood Fear of Witches?

600full-the-witches-posterLuke is a character you easily identify with as a kid, he’s loyal, adventurous, knows the difference between right and wrong, somewhat geeky with a wide eyed innocence.  Even if you can’t relate to him, you can understand him as Roald Dahl’s male protagonist.

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Luke in “The Witches” (1990)

So what happens in the film? Luke, after the death of his parents moves from Norway to England with his grandmother, who often tells him stories of witches. They go on a trip to Cornwall, with his two pet mice, but things start to take a strange turn. Chasing his escaped mice, William and Mary, he happens to be in a RSPCC board meeting- a room filled with women, but as he soon finds out, witches. They take off their wigs, their gloves, their shoes. He witnesses them turn a small boy into a mouse. He makes an escape, but unfortunately is captured and shares the same fate as his friend. But no, it does not stop there, and being a children’s film, the brave Luke must find a way to destroy all the witches, in the body of a small furry talking mouse.

The term ‘witch’ has all sorts of connotations, they are portrayed as old, crooked with gnarled noses, warts, hump backed and altogether really ugly. The witches in Roald Dahl’s books aren’t that different- they are bald, have square feet and no toes, blue spit, and purple eyes.
They’re not supposed to be nice. They are there to scare children senseless.

 

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Grand High Witch- Quentin Blake illustration

The book allows you to use your imagination in its full fledged form, but you can argue whether this fear factor is reduced, translated onto the big screen. Personally I don’t feel this to be true. You have to take into account this is a 1990’s film, using props with no CGI. As a kid, there’s something grossly realistic about seeing a woman peel her face off in front of the audience, showing square feet and purple eyes and gnarled and crooked fingers in all their glory.

For the longest time I believed my dad when he said witches were real and I had this fear and also constant anticipation of catching one in the act of smuggling away a child, or hunting them down, just like Luke does-I was captivated by witches, and wished to be a good witch with magical powers. Much like “Matilda” and her ability to move things with her mind, the stuff of children’s dreams.

So here are some points to consider.

a) The Grand High Witch- the worst of all the witches, is seen to have a pretty mask which covers her true form so as better to fool people with. Moral: Witches are always in disguise, just because they are attractive doesn’t make them more trustworthy. And let’s not forget when the Grand High Witch takes off her mask- it is the stuff of nightmares.

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Angelica Huston as The Grand High Witch

b) Luke is advised not to shower too often by his grandmother, in case the witches sniff him out, and clean children smell just like fresh dogs droppings- so keep a look out for women in the streets who are holding their nose when they pass you!

c) Witches are all women (though, if you look closely in the film, some of them are male, probably due to lack of members to cast)

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RSPCC board meeting (“The Witches” 1990)

d) They plan on setting up sweet shops all around England in order to poison children and turn them into mice so they can be squelched.

e) They commit vile and despicable acts of cruelty and show no remorse.

So what does this teach young, impressionable young kids?

“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of cleverness….”

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Roald Dahl illustrations- which one is the witch

That they go around suspecting everyone is a witch- at least until the effects of the story wear off.
But it does draw attention to trusting strangers and accepting things from them. One memorable part is when Luke is playing in his tree-house, and a witch appears below and tries to entice him down with a bar of chocolate. Now, if Luke had not been wise enough, (and if the woman didn’t have purple eyes), well, we all know what might have happened.

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Erica “The Witches”

Perhaps another memorable in the story is of a little Norwegian girl named Erica, who after being kidnapped by a witch, appears in her father’s painting. However, not only does she often change position in the painting, feeding the ducks, or standing in the farmyard; but she also grows older. The years go by, until one day- being an old woman, she disappears from the painting altogether.

 

Erica vanishes into the Painting

Creepy huh?

We assume she has been killed by a witch, but her ‘presence’ in the painting makes it all so eerie and gives you goosebumps. Is it really her in the painting? Her ghostly echo is heard calling ‘Papa’ several times. Who would cause such torment?
All these thoughts spiral in a child’s mind. And the answer to that is witches. They are demonic and punish children for no reason at all.

But don’t worry, because as there are bad witches, there are also good witches that counteract their evil. Phew!

Just as well they aren’t real, right?

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Here are some good extracts from Roald Dahl, which can be good discussion points for students in class. What do they teach children? And does this apply to real life?
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”- The Twits

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”– Roald Dahl

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”– Roald Dahl

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”– The Witches

The Narrative Voice of Death: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

liesel-libraryThe narrative voice, as one who unravels a story to the reader; is interesting to explore as it bring a unique perspective to the novel. In this case, the narrative voice of Death acts as a director of the lives he witnesses, a storyteller masking the misery during the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jews during WW2 through the simplicity of storytelling. “The Book Thief” takes the form of a Meta-fictional style, the act of writing becomes the subject; of which the character of Death capitalises on the “truth” blending fiction and reality through irony and self reflection. In the text, the narrator reflects on the capability of humanity and mankind’s ability to be simultaneously beautiful and destructive; characteristics which often puzzle and surprise Death. 

Death is an omnipresent and omniscient force whose job is to collect souls; it is humanised and displays a vulnerability and sentimentality of spirit. The question is put forth to the reader; what if Death can possess the ability to feel and care for the lives of those it witnesses?  As the narrator itself claims, “the human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I am always finding humans at their best and worst.  I see their ugly and beauty and wonder how the same thing can be both.”(p.491) It is through the narrative voice which brings our attention to the nature of mankind and teaches us to observe what we as humans are capable of; and the possible consequences of our choices in life.

f992718582e6ba92d30f06f6a156840cIt points out it is often misconstrued as a stereotypical being, a Grim Reaper figure with a cloak and scythe. Cynically, it continues, “You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.” (p.307) Though this is metaphorical, it brings to the reader’s attention how Death is within all of us, our fears, hopes. The concept is all around and part of us, it is something we should not be afraid of. So what shapes our view of Death? Is it shaped by what we see in the media, as shown by the vision of the Grim Reaper, or by our experiences? From an early age, our first experience of Death is perhaps through the loss of a pet. If a pet dies, parents struggle with how best to share this information in a way which will not horrify or scar the child, as it is something which will remain in their experiences for years to come. For us all, death is equated with sadness and pain so it is no surprise we are scared of it. “Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready.” (p.532) The narrator, though direct and frank in its choice of words; illustrates to the reader the familiarity it has with humans, like meeting a close friend. There is a comfort in that, it is familiar with its occupation and therefore imparts to the reader the lessons and inevitability of life to soften the transition.  

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“The Book Thief” (2013) Liesel and Rudy race each other

Death often refers to Liesel as the “Book Thief” in the novel. The title of the novel is dedicated to her. So what is the significance? The reason for this is her love for stealing books. In the case of Liesel, not only is stealing a representation of a girl’s defiance against adversary and the influence of the Nazi regime but she is taking her education into her own hands.

So is it acceptable to steal something if it is abandoned, or left to burn? As children we are taught to treat books with respect, to assign value to words. Nowadays we live in a society which relies predominantly on technology. In the West, there is still a focus on reading for pleasure, yet less and less children have the motivation or desire to read storybooks, especially ones that do not contribute to schooling. So how do we encourage kids to read and share their love of reading with others? Like Liesel it can be a very special and personal experience. For her, it is the thrill of stealing something back- everyone has their own motivation, the conscious act of choosing their first book and their sense of achievement when they finish it. Through a Russian Doll effect, of a story within a story, the narrator Death has a unique ability to reignite the passion to read, the act of picking up a book and feeling its spine, the letters on the cover. Each book is different, just like each individual in the world. Perhaps it is this love and treasuring of words that makes Liesel’s actions more acceptable to the reader; after all, Death does not judge Liesel for her acts of stealing but regards her determination with pleasant surprise.

Liesel in the neighbour’s library

A history lesson

Death can be considered a very unlikely narrator giving a history lesson to children in the text. Comparable to the autobiography “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” from a Jewish girl’s perspective, “The Book Thief” focuses on a German girl’s point of view. Though this is a novel, many children today live similar lives to Liesel; orphans, homeless, starving in the backdrop of war. Death serves as the omnipresent and omniscient voice that as a reader, we do not doubt, focusing on children and how war impacts on them. The world is watching events unfold in the past, yet do we learn from our mistakes? Is history repeating itself? The narrator wishes to highlight on this important point, encouraging the reader to think and, as mentioned above to form their own opinions on what is right and wrong. In fact, the narrator believes: Living a good or bad life is its own reward or punishment.

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“The Book Thief” (2013) Liesel & Hans

Language to convey meaning

Another point to discuss in relation to Death’s narrative voice is the understanding of the structure of language to convey meaning, “the words were on their way and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds and she would wring them out; like the rain. (p. 85)” It is the unexpectedness of language and the unique way Death offers information. It explores everyday and common aspects such as rain and clouds but describes it in a way which seems unique and different to the reader; as if they are seeing it for the first time.

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“The Book Thief” (2013) The Hubermanns’ at home

The narrative voice of Death is a teacher, a guide and storyteller. Death transcends time and place, encouraging us to think about topics in a way we are unaccustomed to, allowing the reader to learn about themselves through the narrative. It is a process with no definitive outcome. It is the punishment and reward of living, a story of hope and the beauty of mankind despite humans ability to perform such horrors and destruction.Essentially the novel is a universal book because it appeals to our human psyche, our compassion and our sense of right and wrong; of injustice. No matter our background, our situation in life or where we come from, there is undeniably something for everyone in the novel. May it be the love of books, of music, of singing or reading and drawing. Of friendship and family and laughter, the narrative voice of Death cements all together through its brilliant storytelling.

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 (Review on “The Book Thief” 2013 film will follow shortly…)

Copyright © 2014 by Kate W J White (All Rights Reserved)

Bookilm Day 1: The Spirit of Robin Hood

 

Most people remember the outlaw Robin Hood as robbing the rich to give to throbin-hood-clip-art-10e poor. Yet this is only on the surface. In fact, the earlier ballads told of him doing no such thing. It was only at the beginning of the 19th Century that he has become known for this, his skill at archery- his ability to shoot arrows from a great distance to land its target and being good with the sword. Though originally he is shown as a Yeoman, (a commoner who cultivates the land) later on Robin is portrayed to have lands and position as Earl of Huntingdon, which have been snatched from him by the eager and cunning hands of the Sheriff. In the versions that followed, it is said that Robin went on the crusades to fight in the Holy War for King Richard the Lionheart. His acts of courage and battle hardy skills are all contributing factors to appoint him the leader of the outlaws.

So what do we know about Robin Hood? At first glance he is considered loyal and brave;a good leader. He would lay down his life for his men, and they for him. He does not harm women or children and always comes to the rescue at his own peril, to save those about to be executed; or hung or amputated.

No honour among thieves? Seems there is- he punishes the corrupt and is saviour of the oppressed.

In this way, Robin typically signifies a ‘concept’, a martyr of the people, those who are too weak to look after themselves and are taken advantage of by those in power and authority. The stories tell of his adventures as he one by one recruits his men, from Little John, to Allen a Dale, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and Much to name but a few, not forgetting his childhood sweetheart and heroine Maid Marian. In the retelling, their adventures often involve a fight in each chapter and the scrapes they get into, but Robin Hood and his merry men clad in Lincoln Green always triumph over injustice and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

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Marian

The character of Marian is depicted a spirited and outspoken lady who, not only is good at fighting herself, but often disguises herself as a man in order to avoid detection in and out of the castle. She is seen helping those in need and acts as spy for Robin and his gang in Sherwood Forest whenever there is need.

It is interesting to see the changes made in the adaptations of the original ballad, from modern day TV series to films that tell of Robin Hood and his merry men. There have been countless adaptations which have featured the happy outlaw and cater for a modern audience.

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Robin & Marian (Robin Hood BBC TV Series)

For Saturday night viewers, those who remember the ‘Robin Hood’ series starring Jonas Armstrong (before ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ & the results show)- it is a family show that caters for a younger audience. Robin is in his mid 20’s, with the attractive Marian who, along with the presence of Richard Armitage as the sneering leather clad Guy of Gisbourne, was one of the main reasons I watched the show. When she left, the show introduced a variety of meaningless characters with a plot bordering on the ridiculous. They were there for the sake of being evil, but nothing could bring Marian back, and shattered all hopes of Robin and Marian being together like they should be. The show only lasted three seasons before it ended.

To act as a further comparison, later films (including Ridley Scott’s adaptation of the popular legend and ‘Prince of Thieves‘) reveal a mature Marian and Robin, supporting a different take on the ballad. A more accurate portrayal, in my opinion, of the stark and brutal reality during Robin Hood’s lifetime.

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“Prince of Thieves” 1991 film

There is no denying there has always been comedy in Robin Hood. From the fierce yet frustrated sheriff who is always duped by Robin, to the adventures of the merry men whose presence it can be argued; is to provide comedic relief; there is something to make it light hearted and enjoyable for all audiences.

The fluctuation of character portrayals can be quite amazing. Let’s take Guy of Gisbourne for example.

In Howard Pyle’s “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”, he appears as a stranger in the forest who is killed within a chapter by Robin in a duel. In the 1956 version by Roger Lancelyn Green, he is the right hand man of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who tries to woe Marian and pursues her any chance he can get. In the 1991 Kevin Costner version (of which the sheriff is played by Alan Rickman and Richard the Lionheart by Sean Connery) Guy of Gisbourne is portrayed as the Sheriff’s cousin, whom he subsequently stabs to death when he fails to succeed in the capture of Robin.

 

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Ridley Scott’s 2010 film

Now we come to the the most recent film directed by Ridley Scott. Guy of Gisbourne does not even appear in this, and the Sheriff is portrayed as a snivelling and power hungry lacky of Prince John who hardly makes an appearance more than three times in the entire film. Perhaps this is due to the vast number of villains, with Prince John holding a prominent role, along with the new character of Godfrey.

Ultimately, whether Robin Hood existed or not matters little. The ‘idea’ of him has transcended time- a hero to represent and defend the people against corrupt lords and the law of the land, inspiring others with his spirit, to address the balance between the rich and the poor; issues which are important to this day.

Beautiful Books Review

LeatherBound Classics

The Leather Bound classics collection are like something out of a dream. They are something you would find in Belle’s library in the Beast’s castle, the smell of leather, as you sit curled up in an old armchair by the fire. The pages are thick and of good quality, not only is the binding immaculate with a great front cover design but there is a matching silk ribbon to hold your place.

I can’t stop staring at them.

Did I mention they change their shades under different lighting? You will have to see for yourself…

Dracula

Cover aside, the first thing that surprised me reading it, was how it was completely unlike the film, or what the modern day audience associate with Dracula.

IMG_20140622_204322The narrative is in the form of journal and diary entries and interestingly enough, the character of Dracula, whom the book is named after- only appears a few times in the novel. It’s about the lives of the others he touches, much like ‘Oliver Twist’, that are the main focal point. At the start, the narrative is unsettling, as if you are running in inescapable circles in the castle of Count Dracula trying to find your escape.

We are introduced to characters such as Van Helsing, the famous vampire hunter and trust me when I say this- nothing about the book is sexually explicit, that the films are so keen on portraying. Count Dracula is an all powerful being that can bend the elements to his will, turn into any creature, scale up walls like a giant crab, transform into sand and float through keyholes, appear as mist, and influence the minds of animals and humans alike. He feasts on his victim every night while they are asleep, returning to the same victims until, eventually, so drained of blood they die, turning them into second generation vampires. Though they have the fear of garlic and stakes through the heart, killing a vampire seems much harder if they are blessed with super strength, cunning and have thousands of years of knowledge on how to survive. Much like an immortal superhero villain.

Terrifying huh?

The Picture of Dorian Gray

If you have read Oscar Wilde’s short stories such as “The Selfish Giant” and “The Happy Prince”, you assume The Picture of Dorian Gray will be similar in writing style – it’s not.

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Though the sentimentality is there, the novel takes on the whimsical reflections of the author, often philosophical which might put many readers off at first glance. For me, it is the concept which draws me to the novel. You get sentences which really resonate such as; “he watched it with that strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid”- a feeling that I for a long time tried to express into words but failed. They apply to a universal reader and often I found myself thinking, ‘ah yes, I agree!’

I first saw the film adaptation of this, before I read the book. Possible error? Maybe not. First of all, Ben Barnes is great in the role of Dorian Gray. He captures the character’s youth and inexperience, but also the darkness of the character’s gradual change throughout the novel brilliantly. As the actor reflects; it is “a morality tale about eternal youth, ageless beauty, self indulgent pleasure seeking and the pitfalls you might fall into if you pursued them so relentlessly.” Dorian Gray depicts human nature and the danger of this ‘pleasure seeking’ which ultimately leads to self destruction.

Though I would suggest to read the book first, in this case; you couldn’t go wrong with reading & watching the film together. They go hand in hand to bring visuals to life which otherwise might be hard to imagine from the book alone. However, like most film adaptations, there are events that do not correspond with the novel and if you want ‘accuracy’ it is best to take it with a pinch of salt.