Friday, 28 February 2020

Michael Wood, bbc channel 4 tv., 'The Lady of the Mercians' from the series 'King Alfred and the Anglo -Saxons'

Michael Wood, bbc channel 4 tv., 'The Lady of the Mercians' from the series 'King Alfred and the Anglo -Saxons'

This hour long program shows Michael Wood with his usual impish enthusiasm exploring the life of Aethelflaed in the tenth century in Britain, before England existed as a unified country, Queen of Mercia, at a time when she needed to either fight or to negotiate with Vikings and did both.

I thought this program was really beautifully made. Every shot of bleak countryside or present day towns was stunningly beautifully composed and lit. A shot of a field's rich earth surface was like an abstract painting. My own home town of Derby, a place the Vikings named, was shown looking so beautiful that I almost felt like returning there.


Derby - Sadlergate

Suitably spare and evocative music was used.

In addition to this there were many images of medieval manuscripts, hand written, which the presenter was able to read and translate from the Anglo Saxon. There was an elaborate illustrated family tree of the Monarchs on a scroll. There were drawings done with that lively economy of line in pen and ink that is so delightful and with which in my own drawings I feel a great affinity.


Michael Wood talked to various learned historians and archaeologists who each made interesting contributions.
We saw precious objects and ancient buildings. Above all we learnt that occasionally a woman could have a lot of power and influence in the middle ages.

There were a lot of battles and inhumane slaughter. It was almost the custom that plotters would murder rival heirs to the throne.

Returning to our present political democracy it seemed with all its difficulties a good deal more tolerant and peaceful.

Michael Wood turned the pages of a book made about a thousand years ago - not wearing gloves, in direct contact with the scribe who wrote it, and we participated in his wonderful enthusiasm and knowledge.

Note- there is a controversy over the term 'Anglo-Saxon' which has been used by racists in USA
but was used from early times without any such connotations as is explained by Michael Wood elsewhere.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

I Kill Giants - a film review.

'I Kill Giants', a film directed by Anders Walter 2018. Stars Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots and Sydney Wade

This film is about a young secondary school attending girl called Barbara constructing an elaborate fantasy that helps her deal with an unbearable situation in her life. 
This makes her fairly unbearable also and we see people trying to help her and some girls being nasty to her in the general odious ways of school bullies.

Unfortunately it would be difficult to watch this movie without having already grasped something of the plot from the cover or the publicity.
Therefore the ending isn't entirely surprising although not completely obvious.
Also the plot hinges on no one mentioning facts that it's unlikely no one at the school young Barbara attends would know and mention.

The acting is fine and the special effects of frightening giants are impressively gothic. The details are imaginatively peculiar and the brooding landscape is dramatic.

One scene moved me to tears and then I felt the ending was unrealistic - the director's own escape into a comforting optimism.

It's an interesting foray into using imagery to convey emotions - film being so suited to indicating visions and craziness but so rarely used for this.

I call it a brave attempt to tackle how the mind can invent to protect a person from pain that is too much to stand.

Maybe that's why we have religion persisting in a scientific era but Barbara constructs her own mythology.