Zero Dark Thirty

Prior to watching Zero Dark Thirty, I had no knowledge or background of the film or its subject – except that it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, that the lead was Jessica Chastain, and that it was somehow related to Osama Bin Laden.

Post-watching this film, I realised just how poorly equipped I was to watch the shocking spectacle that was, this film.

The opening scene was not really a scene at all, but rather, a sequence of voices, overlapping, distorted, blurred, and to be perfectly honest, utterly confusing. However, I think that’s what the director was hoping to achieve – a true representation of the chaos and horror that terrorism creates.

Having not watched a single Bigelow film preceding this one (namely – The Hurt Locker) I was caught unaware, in witnessing such brutal raw violence. Although some may disagree, I don’t believe it was gratuitous, but rather, acted as a driving necessity for the maintenance of the pace and intensity of this film. The lack of exaggerated editing and non-diegetic music allowed the meaning and reality of torture and helped me realise its place not as a glorification of torture, but rather a truth and as presented – a means to an end. It also helped that these scenes focussed featured heavily on the distraught reactions of Maya, played by Jessica Chastain – and further amplified the humanness (and consequentially, the inhumanness) of the act.

As for Ms. Jessica Chastain herself – I found she gave quite an astute and sustained performance throughout and despite, of all the tumultuous chaos of her character’s ‘hunt’ and  as an actress, brought an insight of character, producing a credible, human story – supported by the evidently incredible director Kathryn Bigelow.

It is the human story, amongst all the contextual details, that allowed me to fully appreciate this film. Although predictable, the unconventional story-telling techniques employed in this film are what set it apart. Emotions were evoked not only in the dialogue (as is normality) but rather in the pronounced body language of the actors once again, creating  room for multi-layered interpretation and a meaning that is not clear or explicit but fascinating.

Overall, an extremely intelligent, clever representation of a very unclear reality. I cannot say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, nor can I say it was particularly thought provoking however it is smart, unrefined (in a good way) and above all, VERY good entertainment.

Fahrenheit 451 :: Ray Bradbury

It is a classic, that I know. It marked the beginning of the lovable genre of Science Fiction but apart from these limited, loose facts my knowledge about this novel prior to my reading it, was at best, rudimentary. Admittedly, I was doubtful about the usefulness of reading it. At first, the title didn’t really speak to me. I mean, it’s an extremely high temperature measure but apart from that, I gathered nothing (being the dimwitted girl I am).

Boy was I in for a surprise.

As a science-fiction/dystopian novel, it had the tell-tale cautionary aspect in the narrative, hinted at throughout the book. What I interpreted, is the repeating of mistakes previously made. The war, although not highly prominent in the book, recalls the wars we have had in the past and the wars we currently wage and to hear this message from a book set in the future, reflects our nature and the way we think. As a collective, we cannot stop making the same mistakes over and over again, and personally, an an individual neither can I.

The writing style of book is simply divine. Subtle, descriptive but not over the top, detailed enough to paint a picture, detailed enough to let the imagination run wild…you can tell I’m in love :) In particular, Beatty’s speeches are highly entertaining and in some cases, quite closely reflects the society we live in today – I have to say that I expected this but didn’t realise the significance of the similarities until after I finished the book.

It is a novel about burning books and of course the inevitable quotes to other texts cropped up continually. Having not had an extensive reading history myself, most of these went right over my head and yet, I still understood the underlying meaning of the text.

I also think it’s interesting that the books themselves are not deemed important by the ‘educated’ of the society. It is their content and the knowledge that it carries as opposed to the physicality of it. This idea connects to the importance of books (giving us experiences and knowledge without us, as the audience, having to actually read it) but also links to a popular source of conversation in the society of 2012. With the rising popularity of the Kindle and other e-book readers, has come the rising indignation from the book-lovers and library goers of our community, who adore the smell, the flipping of pages, the holding, the folding and the idle browsing in libraries like old friends. I have to say, I don’t share these feelings (you can see them in action here and here) but I am on the fence on this matter.

With all this in mind, let me tell you this – Fahrenheit 451, must be read – but be prepared to read between the lines as well. One must be prepared to submit to the desire to eagerly deciphering metaphors when one reads the likes of Ray Bradbury ;)