Friday, 29 May 2009

Film Review: Rebecca

They don't make them like this any more. Admittedly, there's some good to that, as this aging black-and-white psychological-thriller-mystery-drama has an incredulously drawn out and dull first hour, and so it becomes a really long film once you factor in all the suprising and compelling events of the second hour as well, finally clocking at 130 minutes. The story told is just a good old-fashioned mystery - so why is this, Hitchcock's first American film, so well loved?

It could be the twisting plot, which does have its moments, and the hopes we have for something better for new bride of Maximillian De Winter, who is hopelessly (and annoyingly) out of her depth in Max's vast Gothic house. Together with her we discover the strange obsessions of the occupants of the house, and some irrestible family secrets. Perhaps the main appeal for me though was the way you are gradually drawn in, through the unsettling, down-right morbid reminders of the death of Max de Winter's first wife "Rebecca" that took place near the mansion. Such reminders come around with an odd and unnatural insistency, making us think that the house and grounds themselves are still somehow linked with the dead "Rebecca", especially in one masterful scene when the camera pans across where Rebecca had once walked across the room, following Max's memory of her, as if she is still there as a kind of lingering, bodiless presence.

It is perhaps worth adding that Hitchcock shows how much significance can be attached to the material, for Max's bride (the central character, apparently unnamed throughout the whole film) discovers that everything in the house is connected to a memory of Rebecca, and it is much harder for Max when he is closer to where Rebecca was than when they are far from the events of the past. It is definitely a film where the everyday becomes sinister, but in a different way to say, his classic Rear Window. Here it is because of the link with an unknown past, which has a hold on Max and which is clearly not done with any of the household either.

Recommended if you already have seen some of Hitchcock's later, often better-paced films, and you'd like to try something more unashamedly Gothic yet still with a solid focus on character. It often seems to ask us "What would you do in Max's position? Or if you were his new bride?" and draws us closer and closer to what we feel will inevitably be a very personal disaster for the pair... We could perhaps call it a study on coping with death, or a very specific view of fate actually works. Anyway, enough said by me - anyone else want to chip in on this one?

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Round-up of what is catching my imagination

What caught your imagination this week? For me it was several unexpectedly fun things.

For one I just had to point out this book - the cause of laughter in Waterstones the other day - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!! Even the first chapter is a mix of faithful reproduction and its own twists: While Mrs Bennet's job is to marry off her daughters, Mr Bennet, obsessively polishing his musket, has the job is to keep them alive. I can only guess the struggle Lizzy has for the right sort of equal-footed marriage for herself and the best course for her sisters is only confounded by the outbreaks of zombies roaming the streets and potentially infecting relations or partners... can't wait to read it!

Other stuff I've been enjoying includes: listening to a magical set from Snow Patrol at Swindon on Radio 1, hearing about God's all-surpassing goodness even when it doesn't seem like it (from Psalm 73), defending a wounded comrade in Eastern Europe in Call of Duty 4, drawing a fine leafy plant in the office while on the phone, and following Boy Blue's adventures through volume 6 of Fables. I'm loving the way the Fables universe has been expanded by this latest volume, and we've seen a new side of our good-hearted Boy Blue, and while even sly Jack managed to surprise me by getting a return for his riches. I also love the inclusion of Jabberwocky's vorpal blade, which goes through a fair few of the adversary's forces, representing the first aggressive tactics the modern-day Fables have taken in a while. Also I've been finding some mainstream comics fun, such as Spiderman's part in Civil War, and Batman's RIP story is a worthwhile, shocking read, which throws a lot of established parts of Bruce Wayne's world out of the window. More comics news coming soon... including my impressions of some less known Vertigo books, and maybe some comments about the increasingly zany and morally challenged mercenary Deadpool. If you're a comics fan, try this site for some recommendations:

Also: Now that Heroes season 3 has finished with some more frankly ridiculous but fun Sylar-centred episodes, I hope to get back into some other TV, and I wonder if anyone else is sad to have missed Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra recently? I only caught the end, which raised a few smiles.

Monday, 4 May 2009

God actively showing us how to live!

Just a quick post that I'd like to file under the increasingly random tag of "reflections". Let me know if this sort of blogging informs your own thoughts!

Now in the wake of Easter, I have been able to see God's work pushing me to invest in people the way that Jesus invested in us, wholly and sacrificially. This has been brought home in a number of ways:

1) I've had a new chance to show people I am interested in their lives at work as I have moved to a new, more talkative, team - and God has been fantastic, really providing good times to chat about Him. Pray these continue and that interest in the Lord grows.

2) A news update from the Bulgarian Christian Union movement, BHSS. Here's an extract: "Easter is a great time for witnessing to students! Just before Easter, the BHSS students from the Bible study groups in Sofia, together with other students from Studentski grad (the Student Residential Area) ran a clean-up in front of apartment block No. 21. The students chose the motto: 'Clean up and be forgiven'. It was a great opportunity for the Christian students to share with their non-Christian friends how in a similar way, God ‘cleaned-up’ and forgave us on the Easter day." During the project one leader was allowed to run a lesson about Easter in a pre-school, where the students painted the play areas, and after the project 4 non-Christian students started coming to their regular meetings. It's encouraging that God works through people choosing to go out there, rolling up their sleeves and just going to people with good intentions and words of hope.

3) Talks by Tim Keller at The London Men's Convention which showed us just how incredible our God is. In the Garden before he went to the cross, Jesus was faced with the choice "him or us" by his Father - and right at the point where He was seeing the lowest of human sin, too. He knew that on the cross he would take on all the ugly sin of human rebellion and wickedness - and had no reason to choose "us", to face the whole ordeal and the full wrath of God for us - but he did! One way this applies to the Christian who Jesus has saved is this: When I'm faced with the choice to help others, to go the extra mile, to be with them in their hardship, will I choose God's way or my way, will I choose "myself" or "them"?

4) Serving in church, even merely by deciding to speak up in prayer or in showing interest to others - and, crucially, appreciating when others do this, some of whom I really admire.

5) Working through some of the New Word Alive notes I made (which I have largely yet to blog on!) Go here to listen to some great talks. I will highly recommend Mike Reeves' Justification track, Dan Strange's series on 'Rules of Engagement' with Culture (it has a hard first session but gets a lot better) and the Pastoral Care track, too. The lessons of the latter one in how to care like Jesus are continually demanding lessons, but also confirmed over and over by Scripture, which reminds us of the reality of our hopeful yet often trying situation as wait for the only big day left on God's calendar: the end of the world, the day he judges, righting all wrongs, and bringing believers into a wonderful, fully-realised realm, free from evil, where Jesus is our majestic King. While we wait, we are called to encourage each other in the church (Heb 10:24-5), and this involves hard work, joys and sorrows (eg Heb 13:3), much prayer for and with one another and great dependence on "the God of matchless care" to inform and inspire our caring.