i was fucking right about spamton stealing the leitmotif in the breakup
i am now going to incomprehensibly rant to you about the fate motif in the dream smp, and why it is the most important thing ever and applies to literally every character and every event. almost everything on the dream smp is about fate and the varying perceptions and relationships the characters have with it. fate referring to, in this context, the idea that all events are predetermined and one outcome was always inevitable and would have occurred no matter what.
c!wilbur sees himself as the protagonist of a tragic play, resigns himself to the Role of villain because he thinks it’s what he deserves. he is a good starting point for this analysis because at his lowest he is pure fatalism, resignation, the ultimate loss of self as the price he pays for playing his part in his unfinished symphony. everything that can happen, must happen. Chekhov’s fucking Gun is carried on his hip; if a gun is shown to the audience, it must be fired, and he will be the one to do it! fate is a wonderful analogy for control — this will come up for other characters, too, but for cwilbur, fate represents his hopelessness. wilbur is afraid of fate, at first, afraid of everything sliding out of his control, and so he shifts himself into the role of the bad guy during pogtopia to regain that sense of control, and from then on he exists to serve the idea of fate. he is truly fate’s Vassal
c!phil is much the same as c!wilbur except he has all the immortal and supernatural swag of being the Angel of Death. in the context of the dream smp, where destruction and loss repeats itself over and over again, fate is near synonymous with death. that’s what it meant to cwilbur, too. c!phil is an extension of fate, a weapon, but he mostly bares witness to it rather than becoming its victim like so many others; not that that role was his choice, of course. over many years this perspective on life has made him apathetic where it made wilbur despaired and afraid, but both of them are as hopeless as each other. cphil is all about duty and responsibility and justice — divine judgement, the ultimate determiner of fate. he holds fate in his hands and so easily it seems he could cut it from the wrist and end the cycle but he cannot, because it lives inside him, makes him who he is….. he is resigned to his role much like his son, and they play their roles flawlessly together
c!techno has in my opinion one of the most fascinating relationships with this concept as he is one of the few people to very openly acknowledge it. techno is as much in a position to be a victim of fate as everyone else but just as he is constantly refusing death he is Constantly fighting back against fate…… that is, until he can’t. he plays his part and he is relatively optimistic, compared to other people, about that role. he truly thinks that if he tries hard enough, this time around, things will be different — in the context of this analysis, techno’s favoring of anarchy is very obviously an extension of his distaste for fate. he wants the freedom to choose, doesn’t want his life or his future to be put in the hands of anyone else, and he wants that for other people, too. but he’s stubborn. he dedicates himself to this cause of freedom because he believes it will break the cycle but by carving out that role for himself he is unintentionally facilitating the cycle of violence and tyranny to continue. and the best part? he KNOWS he is. techno does his grand speeches about how hard he’s worked to make things different this time, about how hard he’s tried, but then he is pushed, and pushed further, until he knows there is no other choice, and every time, without fail, just as fate dictates him to, He Chooses Blood.
“Don’t you see what’s happenin’ here? Don’t you see history repeatin’ itself?!”
c!dream plays god. just as strings can be used to represent him as a puppetmaster, as well as to represent attachments, the proverbial Strings Of Fate clearly find home in this symbolism, too. dream and fate is a story of control just like it is for wilbur, but dream responds to this fear of losing control in the exact opposite way. he does not resign himself to it, does not even attempt to challenge it, as techno does. to challenge something implies a level of respect, an equal playing field — cdream has openly stated he has no desire to play fair. he attempts to entirely overwrite fate in his favor instead, the VERY obvious example of this being the revive book and his power trip after reviving tommy. c!dream loves the idea of fate, but only when he’s the one writing it, loves to watch the chaos of the tragic play unfold but only when he is the playwright. egotistical, sadistic and narrow-minded, fate is his toy to play with in whatever way he finds most amusing. he does not want to be subjected to fate himself (that would require a loss of control he is unwilling to be subjected to) but he loves to watch it play out in the lives of others.
c!ranboo sees fate more clearly than a lot of others but is not equipped to challenge it in any impactful way, by nature of who he is. where techno actively challenges fate but lacks the insight to understand how to really change it, ranboo has the knowledge and awareness to challenge fate but is paralyzed by indecision and fear and lacks the power to make a difference. he is resistant to yet ultimately complacent in fate’s influence. he was there for the events of exile but was unable to prevent them, spoke to everyone on every side of doomsday but was unable to prevent it, was the apparent unwitting accomplice to fate time and time again, dream’s second vassal but without choice. he is once again a beautiful narrative foil to cwilbur, in this way. c!wilbur was aware of dream’s desire to bend fate to his will to at least some degree (see: his open calling out of dream using the manberg war to make everyone weak) and he used that to his advantage, offered himself up as an actor in dream’s play. c!ranboo, too, was an actor, but did his performance while sleepwalking. ranboos most open challenging of fate was attempting to convince people of dream’s influence over it, but he only passed on insight that would further propel others into the roles they’d assigned themselves. particularly cfundy and cniki, and the real kickstart of their hopeless and cynical perspective on the world and on fate.
i could go on and on breaking this concept down and how it has vast significance for EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER. but there’s just no time. c!karl attempting to learn from the history of fate but becoming yet another victim to it like the time traveller before him. c!bad getting corrupted by the egg which was a near-religious alternative to the hopelessness of fatalism that is now the predominant world view on the server, after fate failed him and he lost skeppy. c!sam’s lamentations that things must be done a certain way and there wasn’t anything he could’ve done to prevent tommy’s death. c!tommy constantly changing things and disrupting fate and expectation and c!dream hating that someone else could have that kind of control over the narrative like that. c!eret watching the world spin out of control and deciding, before anyone else, that It Was Never Meant To Be! WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY.
i think understanding this motif really helps in understanding each character and their motives! it gives everything on the server this aura of hopelessness, like nothing they do could ever stop the cycle of suffering, whether they actively work against it or alongside it. narratively speaking, for this concept to reach a conclusion it would require dream to no longer be allowed to have so much power over fate, putting the power of the future back in the hands of each individual person. a shift away from fatalism — in fact, if c!wilbur’s ending is to conclude happily, his story will just be a microcosm of what would need to happen for server-wide recovery and peace to occur. but even in the absence of hope, fate teaches us a lot about a lot of different outlooks on the world, and gives everything a wider, grander context. i just think it’s neat :]
didn't realize this on my first watch of 3x5, but i love the choice to move kyo and momiji's conversation about the curse breaking from the hallway to the school rooftop. rooftops are a big motif for kyo throughout the story, and particularly the roof at shigure's is a place where he lets his guard down, first opens up to tohru, and is generally at his happiest and most relaxed. (we also see him escape to the school rooftop a few times when he's anxious; he just likes them high places!)
given this, i really love that in 3x5 we have kyo finding momiji in his one safe place—the rooftop—when he's already feeling unnerved from their earlier conversation at the house. in particular, i was struck by how they're up on roof, talking about hypothetical curse-breaking and specifically momiji's freedom from his broken curse—and yet, at this point in his arc, kyo has never felt more trapped by his situation. more than that, he's trapped by his own thoughts that the curse will never break, because if he's not cursed he has to deal with a future he didn't plan for, feelings he didn't expect to have, secrets he wants to keep hidden.
with this move to the rooftop, i just love the subversion of the motif where kyo is most honest, emotionally vulnerable, and free on the roof. they're in his safe space, but momiji is the one who is free. kyo is still cursed. he's not free of his emotional demons either, and this pushes him further into panic and denial of everything in front of him. (”i don’t wanna know anything about that. it’s too much.”) he can’t be honest with momiji here, but more importantly, he can’t even be honest with himself anymore.
this is one of my favorite scenes in act III (and in the entire manga, actually). it’s where we really see kyo start slipping, where his world and his resignation to his fate all start crumbling beneath his feet. and by showing a moment that throws him so off-kilter in a setting where he's usually most at peace, i think it does a brilliant job of showing us where kyo’s arc is heading. it shows the emotional turmoil that’s reaching a boiling point inside of him—and it starts to become clear that, eventually, he’s going to break.
I just realized, but Vengeance was probably freed by the Great Cataclysm, which must’ve damaged his prison like it did with the Barraki and the Pit. After all, he just so happened to escape after Lhikan had died, and Lhikan had been killed right after Makuta Teridax cast Mata Nui into a coma. The timeline fits perfectly, so I’m adopting it as my own personal canon.
It’s also darkly ironic; Vengeance was trapped since the end of the Toa-Dark Hunter war for 2,000 years, and was only freed thanks to Teridax... Only for Vengeance to hold a grudge on Teridax anyhow, blaming him for stealing his revenge on Lhikan. To Vengeance it must be some sick joke by fate; The same man who freed him to take revenge was also the same man who took that revenge from him, in practically the same stroke! And Vengeance got out, just in time for his goal to be rendered unattainable.
I wonder then how he feels about Teridax’s death by Mata Nui? Vengeance loses his revenge yet again but thanks to the killer is also freed from another ‘prison’, Makuta’s newfound body. Is he aware of these ironies, do they produced mixed feelings in him? And does Vengeance feel resigned to an endless cycle of despair; Will he attempt to get revenge on Mata Nui, or has he given up, realizing that the opportunity will probably just be taken away from him again, with Vengeance once more freed by the culprit?
Maybe Vengeance tries going after Mata Nui’s spirit in the Ignika, only for Mata Nui to be killed for good by someone else, who also kills the Shadowed One and thus frees Vengeance from his servitude to the Dark Hunters? Velika sounds like a handy culprit in that case... And if we take it even further, Vengeance tries to kill Velika, only for someone else to do that for him, and free Vengeance from Velika’s potential tyranny, as well as the existential designs of the Great Beings; Vengeance and all other biomechanicals are free to live as they see fit, regardless of their creators’ intent!
The question remains if Vengeance will finally make use of his growing freedom, or instead keep paradoxically trapping himself in this cycle of illogical vendettas. Which, I guess that’s a symbolic motif of Vengeance’s, intentional or not; The duality of freedom and entrapment. Freed in real life, only to further imprison himself spiritually in some strange balance; He’s like the Devil card of the Major Arcana, bound by his own personal flaws!
Thinking about cnc today but like...in a soft way...not super violent, just...coercive. You're not gonna throw me down while I kick and scream, but you won't have to, because I'm so scared that you might do that or something else that I just do what you say. Then I thought of a scenario but it got somewhere between the two...
I just moved into my own place and you're a friendly older neighbour living across the street. I'm kind of small and not that strong, and you see me through the window struggling to set everything up by myself. After a long day I'm sweaty and tired and hop in the shower, washing myself off, but I totally forgot that I dont have curtains or blinds yet - you can see me stand there oblivious with my back to the window, water spilling over my butt, and you feel yourself get hard. You quickly turn your lights out and take out the zoom lens on your phone, and begin filming me massage the shower cream into various parts of my body. You think how soft I must feel, and begin to stroke yourself, imagining sliding your cock between my butt cheeks. I turn around, facing the window, and absent mindedly rub shower cream on my chest. I begin to touch my nipples a little. You wouldn't really be able to slide your cock between my tits, you think, they're too small. But that's not an issue for you and you keep jerking off as you see me slide one hand below my belly button.
Suddenly you see me make a shocked face as I duck out of the way of the window, then peek round the window frame to see if anyone is around. You laugh to yourself as I dont seem to have seen you, but you get a little frustrated that you didn't get to see more. You rewatch your recorded clip and wish you could have got more detail, so you find some videos of girls who look like me to finish yourself off.
You see me the next day carrying some large bags out of a taxi. I'm not doing a very good job at keeping hold of them, and something small and pink falls out of one. You decide now is a great moment to take a walk, and go outside. You see a light switch flicker on inside, confirming my location, and quickly snatch the item on the ground to put in your pocket. You walk quickly round the block then return home to take a closer look at your find.
Little pink panties, with a Hello Kitty motif and hearts printed all over, lacy edges and a bow in the middle. You feel your cock twitch again and inspect the fabric. You rub it between your fingers - it's soft and smooth, and you imagine what it must feel like covering my pussy. You're getting hard again. You pull and stretch at them, visualising the size of my hips and butt. You look out of the window, but by now I've put my curtains up and you cant see anything. You feel a little resentful - you want to have what you're craving. You put the panties down, put your phone down next to them playing the video of me in the shower, and jerk off hard and fast. You keep your cock pointed at my panties and imagine me in them, so that when you cum you shoot your load all over them, covering them in you.
You dont see much of me for a couple of days. Then you see a truck pull up outside my place - it's a furniture brand. A man gets out of the driver's seat and takes some large flat boxes out of the truck to place by my front door, and you see me open the door to let him in. I look tiny next to him and it's obvious I could never carry them inside by myself, so you see the man pick the boxes up again and take them inside. You take a look at my miniskirt and cami top. The delivery man leaves and you see him looking too. The truck leaves; you decide to be a good neighbour and come say hello. You want to see me more closely.
You knock and wait for me to answer. I open the door, looking a little confused, tucking my hair behind my ear. Already flustered - perfect, you think. You look down at me, realising you can see the outline of my nipples. You introduce yourself and explain that you live across the street, and that you just thought you'd say hi...but wasn't that truck from that furniture place? And dont you have to put those things together yourself? I half heartedly reply that yes it is, and I'm about to put it together so I should really go. You interrupt me to joke that that must be why I look so flustered and ask what it is, and I nervously reply that it's just some shelves. You say you can put that together for me in no time if I'd like. I look a little more nervous and make an excuse that I dont want you to go to any trouble, and begin to back away. You ask if I'm sure, and step forward. I begin to reply and close the door a little, and you know I'm not going to say yes, so you step right in and push the door back at me, stating you just cant leave that work to a young delicate lady such as myself.
I'm visibly stunned but smile a little and slowly close the door behind me. You ask where it all is and I carefully step past you to lead you to the correct room - as I do, you catch my strawberry and vanilla scent, and you watch my butt as you follow behind me. I gesture into a room and you look inside to see it's a bedroom. Not much is set up, but theres a large bed covered in plushies, a dresser covered in makeup and nail polishes, some of those bags of clothing earlier are spilling open with all kinds of skirts and lacy things falling out. Your bedroom, I ask, and I seem embarrassed as I nod.
"Nothing to be shy about," you say. "I'll help you out. Just think of me as your daddy."
As you're working on the shelves, im hovering by the door looking nervous the whole time. You maneuver yourself to "accidentally" knock a screwdriver over towards me and under a chair behind me, and ask if I could grab it for you. I think for a moment before crouching to get it, but it's gone a little too far under. You see me struggle to lean under the chair to pick it up while holding my skirt in place, but the screwdriver is too far and my skirt is too short. You catch a glimpse of two soft folds underneath heart print panties, before it disappears under my skirt again. I resurface looking a little red and come back to hand you the screwdriver - your fingers clasp mine as you take it and thank me. Nearly done, you assure me. At this point I'm more embarrassed about bending over in front of you than I am about leaving a grown man alone in my bedroom, and leave to wait in the lounge.
You finish the shelves in a few minutes, and hear me rustling through some things down the hall. You take a moment to open my drawers and see more character print panties, little pink bras, and cute socks. You bite your lip to collect yourself and call me into the room - I look relieved to see the shelves fully built. You ask me where I want them and push them against the wall where I pointed, easily lifting the furniture and pushing it into place. You turn around to see me smile and relax a little, and thank you for your help.
"Its no problem," you say, looking at me with the bed behind me. You look me up and down and think about pushing me backwards onto it. Casually, you step to the side a little, towards the door. I step closer to you, thinking you're leaving, but you stop and turn around again. "I hope we'll get on well as neighbours then?"
I'm a little surprised. "O-of course! Really appreciate the help!"
You take another step to the side, standing between me and the door, and I stop smiling. You casually close the door and turn back towards me. "Oh, I almost forgot." I take a step back.
I look nervous again, but smile a tiny bit. It's as if I'm trying to convince myself you still mean something innocent. "What is it?"
"Well," you start. You take your phone out of your pocket. "It's just...I thought you should know that I could see into your bathroom the other day."
You show me the video of my shower and my eyes widen. I step back and stutter a little.
"Now dont worry, theres no need to be scared," you say. "Its just you ought to be more careful. It can be dangerous and I'm just letting you know so you can take better care in future." My eyes dart around the room. "What if this got out?"
Now I look terrified and I'm shaking my head. I flinch and whimper as you firmly touch my face and grasp my jaw. "You dont want it to get out, right?"
"Of course not," you say, slipping your phone back into what space is left in your pocket after you've gotten hard. "Now...I'll keep it safe for you. I told you I'd look out for you didn't I? And to think of me as your daddy." You keep hold of my jaw with one hand and begin to u buckle your belt with the other. My eyes well up a little and I stutter something again.
"Shhh it's okay. I'm just going to ask you a favour, since I did you a favour." Your cock is fighting your underwear for freedom and I whisper, "please no..."
You pat your pocket where your phone is. "Then I'll have to post this on the internet. Do you want that? I could find your family. I could send it to your parents." I'm whimpering quietly. "So you're going to do what I tell you then?"
I weakly nod. "What was that?" you ask.
"Good girl." You let go of my jaw. The second you do, I try to dart under your arm and towards the door, but you step in front of me. I look up at you and you shake your head at me. "Keep your promises."
I step back and stand still, and you let your cock spring free. I look scared as you begin to stroke your length and look me up and down.
"Take off that top, wont you? I wanna see your cute little tits again."
I seem to have resigned myself to doing as you ask. Eyes downcast, I awkwardly pull at it, then pull it up and over my head. Your breathing gets heavier as you see my exposed nipples, and before I can do anything with my top, you hold your hand out expectantly. I'm confused for a moment so you gesture at what I'm holding, and I reluctantly hand you my cami. You sniff it before throwing it on the bed behind me.
"Now your panties."
I bend over as little as possible and shyly remove my panties, my hair falling into my face. You hold your hand out again and this time I already know what to do. You hold it to your face and breathe deeply, then lick the patch that was just touching my pussy. You begin to leak precum as you touch yourself. You look at me standing with my head lowered, bangs in my eyes, crossing my knees under my little plaid skirt, trying to hide my nipples with my hair and hands. You lift my chin to look at my face, and tell me, "Sit on the bed."
You step forward and I instinctively step back, falling backwards onto the bed. I clutch at my skirt to keep it from showing anything as you kneel down in front of me, between my ankles. I move backwards, as far as I can to get away from you, but reach the wall and my collection of teddybears and plushies. You laugh a little and keep slowly jerking yourself.
"Now spread those legs sweetie."
For a moment I dont move.
"Or do I have to push them?"
I slowly move my feet to the side, keeping my knees together, still holding my skirt down with one hand and covering my chest with the other. You smirk at my embarrassment and look expectantly until I move my knees apart too. I push my skirt down over my pussy.
"Now lift up your skirt. Let me see."
A tear rolls down my face as I slowly and reluctantly clutch at my skirt, lifting it just high enough for you to see my bald pussy. You let out a low growl.
"Keep your legs like that," you tell me, smirking and using your precum to lube your cock. "Now daddy needs you to take your hand off your tits and use both hands to hold onto your skirt."
I uncover my nipples and clutch the hem of my skirt, instinctively pulling it a little lower.
"Pull it higher again. Now hold onto it tight and let me take a look."
I hold tighter and you bring a hand between my legs. I whimper and flinch as you touch my lips, spreading a drop of wetness as you run your finger slowly up and down.
"Legs wider." I whimper again and try to force myself to obey, spreading my legs more. It's just enough that my lips part and you can see just how pink I am. You unintentionally buck your hips up and into your hand as you keep stroking your huge cock, and gently touch my pussy and clit with your other hand. You look at me, scared and shaking. You poke one finger inside and listen to me gasp as you slowly rub the inside of my pussy. My legs snap closer again but you stop stroking yourself and hold my knee in place.
"You're very wet there," you say, leaning a little closer. "Keep still." You put in another finger and I let out a tiny sound, somewhere between a whimper and a moan. Your cock twitches with excitement and you lean over me to lick my tits, wet lines from the bottom of my tiny breast up to the nipple and down again, then the same on the other side. You can hear and feel me quivering with fear. You sit back again to look at me.
"Dont be scared, sweetie. You're gonna love it."
You take both my wrists in one hand, pin them above my head, spread my pussy open with your other hand and begin to slide your cock up and down over my lips and clit. You move down and push the tip of your cock into me. You moan and growl at how tight and wet and warm I am, moving a tiny bit. You use both hands to spread my legs apart and push your way in further as I make more of my little noises. You begin to slide in and out, slowly, making sure I feel every inch of every thrust as fully as possible. You feel me get wetter and hotter around your cock. I begin to try to cover myself with my hands again so you lift my ankles onto your shoulders and hold both my wrists either side of my head, looking down at me as you fuck me. My little tits bounce and I cant move at all, as you fuck me a little faster, a little harder, a little faster again. My noises are getting a little loud so you clamp your hand over my mouth. "Shhhhh...this is your favour for me, remember?" You keep going and after a while move your hand to my butt, holding me in place as you pound into me. I turn my head to the side and you bring your hand back up to hold my jaw and make me look you in the eye.
"I'm gonna cum," you say. "I'm gonna cum so hard all inside you, you're gonna be full up of me."
I close my eyes and you kiss me forcefully, pushing your tongue into my mouth and onto mine. The force of your kiss keeps my head in place, your hands hold my wrists in place, and the force of your thrusts and the sheer weight of you leaves no room for me to move at all. I have no choice but to feel you growl and moan into my mouth as you tighten your grip on me and empty your load inside me, ramming up into my pussy and making sure I take it all.
As you calm, you look at me and smile again at my embarrassment. "Good girl," you say right into my ear. You sit back and stretch your neck a little, your cock still inside me. You pull out and watch your cum pour out of me and onto the back of my skirt.
"Good girl," you say again. You stand up and look at me as you put your boxers, jeans and belt back into place like nothing happened. You look at the shelves you built for me earlier, then back at me.
"Let me know if you need any more help," you say. You take your phone out of your pocket. "If not, I'll come back to check on you some time soon."
“To conclude, should we not turn around Brandom’s motif of the “spirit of trust,” i.e., is the deepest feature of a truly Hegelian approach not a spirit of distrust? That is to say, Hegel’s basic axiom is not the teleological premise that, no matter how terrible an event is, at the end it will turn out to be a subordinated moment that contributes to the overall harmony; his axiom is that no matter how well-planned and well-meant an idea or a project is, it will somehow go wrong: the Greek organic community of the polis turns to fratricidal war, the medieval fidelity based on honor turns into empty flattery, the revolutionary striving for universal freedom turns into terror, etc. Hegel’s point is not that these bad turns could have been avoided (say, if only the French revolutionaries had constrained themselves to realizing the concrete freedom of an organic social order of the estates, and not the abstract freedom and equality of all, the bloodshed could have been prevented)—we have to accept that there is no direct path to concrete freedom, the “reconciliation” resides just in the fact that we resign ourselves to the permanent threat of destruction, which is a positive condition of our freedom. For example, Hegel’s vision of the state is that of a hierarchic order of estates ethically held together by the permanent threat of war. So what if we consider progress which goes further, towards a post-Hegelian parliamentary liberal democracy? It would have been easy for Hegel to point out how the unheard-of carnage of the Great War emerged as the truth of the gradual peaceful progress of the nineteenth century. It is easy to imagine the glee with which Hegel would have analyzed the immanent logic of how a liberal society leads to Fascism, or how a radical emancipatory project ends up in Stalinism, or how the triumph of global capitalism in 1990 paved the way for the populist New Right. This is the task of us, Hegelians, today.”
Slavoj Žižek, “Hegel In the Future, Hegel On the Future”, in PROBLEMI INTERNATIONAL, vol.58, no. 11-12, 2020
Never Look Away
Biographical films are strange beasts in that they are, perhaps somewhat unfairly, expected to cleave closer to truth than ordinary dramas. Biographical films about artists, moreover, carry the extra burden of attempting to locate the genesis or turning point in an entire artistic style whilst only showing a small part of an artist’s life. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2018 film, Never Look Away, is loosely based on the life of German artist, Gerhard Richter, and by the time we get to the end of the 180-plus minute running time, we get the impression that Kurt Barnert (Tom Schilling) – Richter’s stand-in – has become a fully formed artist. How we get there isn’t entirely clear or convincing, but, strangely, it’s not entirely to the detriment of the film.
The film covers the Kurt’s years as a child living under one totalitarian system, that of the National Socialists’, as a young man living under another, that of the German Democratic Republic, and of his escape with his wife to West Germany where he finally achieves both his personal and critical artistic breakthrough. Complicating matters is that Barnet’s father-in-law, Professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), is the man responsible for the sterilization and euthanasia of one of Kurt’s aunts.
Never Look Away was inspired by the revelation in Jürgen Schreiber’s book, Ein Maler aus Deutschland, that Richter’s father-in-law, Heinrich Eufinger, a high-ranking SS-doctor, had actually been responsible for the forced sterilisation of women no longer deemed fit to procreate by the National Socialist regime. One of these women, it turns out, was Richter’s aunt, Marianne Schönfelder, the subject of one of his celebrated photorealistic, blurred paintings, Aunt Marianne (1965). Henckel von Donnersmarck punches up the drama somewhat, and Marianne, an aunt Richter barely knew, has become Elisabeth May, a vibrant young woman, much involved in young Kurt’s life and who is intent on developing his interest in art. It is also this aunt that delivers the invocation of the (English) film’s title, the command to “never look away,” a command that Kurt will carry with him.
The film opens in 1937 Dresden at an exhibition of “Degenerate Art” hosted by the Nazi party which includes works by luminaries such as Picasso, Mondrian, Kandinsky and others. The guide explains that the abstractions expressed by these artists can only either be the product of some hereditary disease or otherwise a pernicious attempt to undermine society. The natural conclusion is that creators of such works should, in the latter case, be open to criminal sanction, or that, tellingly, in the former, steps should be taken such that their peculiar “ocular afflictions” are not passed to future generations: the seeds of the Final Solution have already been sown.
The young Kurt Barnet (Cai Cohrs) is accompanied to the exhibition by his aunt, Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl), who quietly confides in Kurt that she rather likes the “degenerate” art that is on display. Elisabeth’s approval of these works isn’t driven by an ideological sensibility – although the Barnert family seem decidedly anti-Nazi – but rather that more clichéd, banal one in which “madness” informs artistic receptivity. Elisabeth suffers from schizophrenia, and the same affliction which can drive her to ecstasy when hearing a symphony of bus horns or when witnessing the pomp of a Nazi parade is what will ultimately see her treated so monstrously by Professor Seeband when she is finally institutionalised .
Kurt finds Elisabeth the morning after the Nazi parade, naked at the piano, and in the middle of a full-blown psychotic break and rambling about having discovered “the code of the universe.” It is as a result of this breakdown that Elisabeth is forcefully taken to a sanatorium. As she is removed by the nurses, we get an important shot from Kurt’s point-of-view, a shot that comes to represent the film’s most significant recurrent visual motifs. As Kurt lifts his hand up to cover his eyes from the awful scene of his beloved aunt being sedated and forced into an ambulance, the camera focuses on his hand. When his hand drops away, the scene behind it remains blurred. This visual motif will gain significance each time Henckel von Donnersmarck employs it, its significance becomes clearer to the audience such that by the time Kurt produces his first blurred painting, they know exactly how to read it. The key for how to read this motif, however, is present right there the first time we see it, in the very first shot of the film, in fact. The film opens with a blurred shot of the degenerate art exhibition, and the first thing we see in focus is the face of the Nazi tour guide when it comes into the shot before he delivers his polemic against degenerate art.
Both Kurt and Professor Seeband find success in the new East German regime: Kurt, by excelling in art school and making a name for himself as a muralist of socialist realism works; and the professor by successfully concealing his past as a Nazi and becoming an “active co-creator of the [the] Socialist Republic.” However, where the professor has slotted quite naturally into the new regime Kurt can’t quite resign himself to the abandonment of innovation and artistic freedom demanded of him in order to make socialist realism art. Once again we see the blurred visual motif at play: as Kurt’s art teacher implores his students to reject the “Ich, ich, ich” of the innovator while paradoxically beseeching them to “Be different, gentlemen. Be different,” artworks by Picasso, Francis Bacon and Max Ernst are continuously coming in and out of focus as they are passed through an episcope. As at the exhibition of degenerate art, the discussion of “ideology” only serves to obscure. It is also at art school where Kurt meets his future wife, another Elisabeth (Paula Beer) who he insists on calling Ellie, and who bears more than a passing resemblance to his now deceased aunt.
In the West, Kurt finds himself at the mercy of a different, but just as limiting, regime. Where in the East art was made to service the worker’s revolution, in the West, “money is all that counts,” and one doesn’t innovate to make good art but to find the idea that allows one to stand apart from the rest. Kurt’s teacher is Professor Antonius van Verten (Oliver Masucci), a stand-in for Joseph Beuys, who was in actuality for a time a contemporary of Richter. van Verten, dismissed as a maniac by his students, particularly because his idea – making art using only felt and grease – isn’t considered to be interesting, nevertheless locates true freedom in art and urges his students to develop their own subjective abilities without reference to external guidelines. van Verten is intrigued by Kurt but can tell immediately that the work he is creating isn’t reaching its full potential, because there is nothing about it that is true to Kurt. The professor confides to Kurt of his time in the war, of being shot down over Crimea with terrible head wounds that should have killed him. He recalls how Tatar nomads nursed his wounds with grease and wrapped him in felt. van Verten concludes that if he were to distil everything he had learnt in his life, if he had to make a claim about what he truly knew, it would be the feeling of felt and grease. Armed with this, Kurt abandons his first aborted attempts at art, and after a slow start, he paints his first photograph, a painting of Dr. Burghart Kroll (Rainer Bock), architect of the program that saw Kurt’s aunt sterilised and murdered by his father-in-law. A second painting follows, of his beloved aunt, Elisabeth. And in a moment of insight – and we see once again the shot of young Kurt’s hand dropping away from his eyes and the blurred shot of his aunt being taken away – Kurt deliberately brushes his photo-realistic painting over his painting creating a blur.
Here we come to the jarring contradiction at the heart of the film. The visual motif Henckel von Donnersmarck consistently deploys is of blurred, out of focus shots. In Never Look Away these shots, when out of focus, paradoxically, represent a deeper access to truth. However, the culmination of Kurt’s idea is a composite painting which layers a picture of his aunt, a passport photo of Professor Seeband and the photograph of Kroll – it’s the sort of composite painting that Richter never made. When Professor Seeband sees this painting in Kurt’s studio, he loses his composure for the first time. However, if we consider what exactly spooked Professor Seeband, it’s not that Kurt’s painting, by virtue of being blurred, revealed a deeper truth that otherwise would have remained hidden, but that the painting clearly – with respect to what it represented, not how it represented it – revealed his involvement with Elisabeth’s death. Furthermore, it is inconceivable that Kurt – who knows his father-in-law enjoyed preening around in his SS uniform, who knows he is a world-class gynaecologist who happened to work in a hospital at around the time Elisabeth was treated, who knows his father-in-law deceived Kurt and his wife into having an abortion that he then himself went ahead and performed – fails to see any sort of connection between his painting and his father-in-law’s past.
Another contradiction is in the nature of reality in Never Look Away. The film is a drama grounded in conventional cinematic realism so that when Elisabeth has her psychotic breakdown and begins to ramble on about the code of the universe we aren’t expected to think for a second that there is a code to the universe. This isn’t to say that the film is spiritually devoid. The moment of artistic transcendence for both Kurt and certainly for Professor van Verten is spiritual, but it is also decidedly not supernatural. Henckel von Donnersmarck undercuts the materialist nature of his film with the inclusion of two sequences. The first comes towards the end of the war when a slightly older Kurt witnesses the bombing of Dresden. As Kurt looks into the Dresden night, shots alternate not only between the planes dropping their bombs and carnage taking place in Dresden, but also of the Russian front, where we witness his brothers die, and of his sister being led into a chamber as the Nazi party prepares to liquidate her. The editing of the shots, in particular with respect to Kurt’s searching eyes, give the sequence distinct impression that Kurt can somehow see or is aware of these other events taking place. Even more troubling is the second sequence. When Elisabeth is first brought to the office of Professor Seeband, she makes her way first to a clock, then comments on a picture drawn by the professor’s daughter, Elly, and then, finally, on learning that she is going to be sterilised, she cowers in a corner of his office. Some twenty years later Kurt has been invited to Professor Seeband’s office in order to paint his portrait. While waiting for the professor, Kurt’s eyes linger on the clock first, then on Elly’s drawing, before widening with fear and turning to the same corner where his aunt had cowered. What are we to make of his preternatural sight?
Intentionally or not, Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film, with its contradictions and what can only be described as deviations from narrative coherence, somehow works because they echo something of Richter’s pronouncements about his own work. Try to find something about why Richter blurs his photo-realistic paintings... His statements are sometimes contradictory, oftentimes confusing, and never entirely clear; this is not because Richter doesn’t know what he’s talking about but rather because he is either suspicious of or not entirely interested in that sort of precision. After all, this is the man who once said, “To talk about painting is not only difficult but perhaps pointless, too.” At the heart of Never Look Away is a major fabrication, in which the nature of Richter’s relationship to his aunt was entirely embellished. Henckel von Donnersmarck made this change because reality, as it stood, simply didn’t make for a good film. These changes, like the blurring of Richter’s paintings, inexorably lead us to some sort of truth. Perhaps this is why Richter can denounce the film saying it both distorts his biography but still remains too true for him to watch.
Yua Yaiba is underrated
What I mean is while she definitely has her fans she herself is either thought of as underwritten/ignored (or "evil" in a take I VERY MUCH don't agree with) when at least to me she has a very underrated arc I think gets overlooked because of how subtle it is (which imo fits her character).
Let's talk about where she starts in the show; she's initially cold in contrast to Fuwa's hotheadedness and her alleged opinion of Humagears is that they're only tools and nothing more. This made me think her arc would be about her accepting Humagear sentience,but that wasn't quite it.
One of Yua's first display of character development came after the incident where Metsubojinrai stole Zaia's mechs where she excitedly ponders the growth potential of humagears before retreating into her facade after Izu questions her over her apparently sabotage of Hiden enterprises.
This leads into her loyalty to Gai and why she continued to be his right hand enforcer despite his apparent evilness and her reoccurring doubt.
Before I put all that under a microscope I want to bring up the potential symbolism of her forms.
In general superpowers/costumes/motifs can be used as symbolism the characters that own them, toku is no different in this sense and while the meaning of a toku character's motif can vary in meaningo I think Zero-one has pretty strong symbolism in it's choices.
Aruto's choice of animal motifs are either the "king" of their domain (signifying his presidency) or are the ever evolving collection of Grasshoppers (signifying his flat arc and how no matter the challenge he'll adapt and overcome),Fuwa gets agressive animals (befitting his initial rage) while his final form is a "menagerie" to symbolize his new freedom and ability to be whatever he wants.
Yaiba has animals that are fast (because she's direct and effective),but they're animals that could also be associated with independence (hornets are a bit of a stretch but think of them as "anti-bees").
In reality Yua's concept of independence was a delusion and didn't mesh with her absolute loyalty to Gai,which is why it's all to fitting when she abandons her KR Valkyrie identity for the Jackal.
She completely gives in to the identity of being Gai's loyal attack dog which mirrors Fuwa and Naki's wolf motif,all three being Canines due to their (forced) loyalty to Gai.
Torwards the beginning of the third arc Yua discards Fighting Jackal and tag teams Gai with Fuwa before signing her resignation with a fist to her former boss's face. This may all seem like an abrupt direction for her character, especially because we seemingly didn't get into Yua's motivations or any follow up on her opinions about Humagears beyond allegedly having hang ups about being seen/used as a tool,but in reality we have everything we need to understand her situation.
The overall theme of Zero-one is free will and what it trully means. From my understanding robots in fiction began as a metaphor for the abuse of factory workers and as a result is a blunt criticism of capitalism (and still continues to be). A major part of capitalism's "effectiveness" is the removal of a citizens identity/personhood in favor of them being a loyal work machine to helpless to stray from it's grasp.
Gai is a capitalist supervillain on par with Lex Luthor who in true supervillain fashion abused Yua by threatening to cause her pain/control her with the chip implanted in her brain, ensuring she'd be loyal out of fear and to afraid to fight back. Abuse of this nature (threats/actions to keep someone in line) are an all to common tactic by bosses to enforce the previously mentioned capitalistic ideals,ideals Yua felt she needed to adhere to in order to keep herself safe (a rough real world equivalent would be someone being threatened with termination or the like and not speaking up because they need their job to live).
And additional layer to this is how abuse of this nature can lead to being complicit in the simultaneous abuse of a fellow employee (which in this case would be Fuwa).
To sum it up Yua was an abuse victim who felt like she couldn't do the right thing out fear of what Gai (her abuser) would do to her as a parallel to any worker afraid to speak against their boss in fear of losing their job and therefore their ability to live; her hatred/rejection of being called a tool being a manifestation of not wanting to confront the ugly truth of the role Gai has forced upon her,which if she where to would mean acknowledging his view of her and humagears are the same,which conflicts with her perceived independence.
And in the end she would confront that ugly truth and choose her autonomy and compassion over Gai/Zaia and became "worthy" of her animal motif (s) after achieving true independence (which is probably why she never uses Jackal again),and after having put all that together in my head this moment;
Is that much sweeter.
And yeah her trajectory hasn't been perfect (like how she didn't do to much during the beginning of the second arc) and I think she could still use some more fleshing out (Let's go V-cinema) I think she's a solid character and I hope that even with the perceivable flaws with her handling she leads to even more (and evenbetter) female riders.
If you read this far than you, don't be afraid to leave your thoughts and I encourage you to share/reblog this (no pressure).
Treasure Planet Analysis
I recently watched this video talking about some of the visual storytelling evident in this movie, and thought I’d rewatch it a little more closely, and add some of my own thoughts!!
So firstly, there are two really prominent examples of this type of storytelling with Jim (who’s going to be the main subject of this post; he is the protagonist after all, huh?). The first is his wardrobe itself, starting out made of entirely dark colours, and the second being the shadow between his eyes which is animated at key points during the movie.
At the outset of Treasure Planet, the shadow is shown constantly, for the first fifteen minutes at least before the slightest change. This symbolizes the shadow of pain that was left when Jim’s father abandoned him (oh, and spoilers for the movie in this, obviously).
The first minor change in this shadow is the moment when Jim’s passion is ignited in something for the first time in a long time; the prospect of travelling to Treasure Planet, which Jim hopes will allow him to prove he’s worth something to his mother (a doubt that’s created by him entirely), and have a real shot at something other than resigning himself to a rebel. This spark of hope lightens the shadow for the end of that scene. This might also be a good time to mention that the shadow could be symbolic for self doubt as well. This one may be not as clear to see because of the difference in lighting, but you’ll notice if you rewatch the movie carefully.
Jim then opens up a bit, starting to let go of his past hurt as he warms up to Silver, him acting as the new father figure in Jim’s life. This is shown not through the shadow, as Jim still hasn’t fully let go of his past, or fully bonded with Silver at this time, but through the change of his clothes into a much lighter, more natural tone.
Directly following the above scene id the first time the shadow makes its’ disappearance from Jim’s face; the moment when Silver takes Jim with him on a boat ride, a parallel to the way Jim’s father left him behind. Silver, however, waits for Jim to jump in, and proceeds to bond with him by teaching him sailing (is it called sailing?).
The black coat and shadow return, however, as Jim’s guilt casts it upon him at being blamed for a crew member’s death after being accused of failing to properly fasten his line. The coat here serves to act as an emotional barrier that Jim has used since the outset of the movie as he’s moved to sit alone on the edge of the ship.
The shadow disappears later in this scene, however, as Silver encourages him, and eases his guilt. He tells Jim that he believes there is greatness in him, and hopes that one day he can “catch some of the light that’s comin’ off [Jim] that day.” the day in question being when Jim finally achieves the greatness Silver knows him to be capable of. This introduces the light and greatness motif, which continues throughout the rest of this film, showing they go hand in hand, and once Jim is able to finally step fully into the light, he’ll be able to be free of his past, and reach his full potential.
The coat remains, however, until the next morning, when, with some encouragement, he leaves it behind. This may seem just a little gag to show Jim with morph, and it could be, but it could also demonstrate that change isn't instant, depending on how deeply you want to read in to individual scenes.
The shadow comes back once again when Jim’s trust in Silver is broken, and when he’s hurt by the older man, in this scene, it’s in the form of his lamenting to his pirates that he never cared for Jim, and was merely trying to keep him off their backs. This brings back the feeling of betrayal Jim felt when his father left, as the man he cared for and trusted portrayed the fact Jim meant nothing to him. Again, brief scene, and this was the best shot I could get.
The coat notably does not make a reappearance after this scene, nor for the rest of the movie, showing that despite the hurt Jim experiences here, he has grown as a character, and is more confident in himself than he was at the start. This change remains, and is not undone, even by Silver’s selfish actions.
The shadow finally leaves a few moments later, when Jim is entrusted the map by the captain. This gives him purpose, and a goal, which allows him to move past his hurt and do what’s right, which he knows will ultimately help others. This also shows his character has grown, as he moves past his pain to take on the responsibility without hesitation.
The shadow’s returns for the remainder of the film are nearly exclusively when he is reunited with Silver, or at the very least related to him in some way. All of this ties back to the light motif I mentioned earlier, as when Jim is given encouragement by his friends (captain, doctor, Ben, etc.), he is able to step up confidently, and take on responsibilities, reaching more to his full potential. This is contrasted by Silver’s presence, the man destroying that self esteem and bringing feelings from Jim’s past up despite personal growth.
Later in the film when Jim leaves his hideout on Treasure Planet with Ben, he quite literally steps into the light to help the others (in this scene, namely to retrieve the map from the Legacy to stop Silver from reaching the treasure and harming his friends). This shows that Jim’s selfless nature will eventually be his greatest strength (and already prominently is), and will be the thing to lead him to ‘greatness’.
When the shadow is missing, in scenes such as this, Jim’s face also seems to be overall more relaxed; brow less furrowed as he lets go of the past, and stops the aspects of the shadow (such as self-doubt) that he had been casting himself.
Jim’s gun flying away during the fight scene on the ship is also symbolic of his growth; his freedom moving just beyond his grasp (as he’s dragged down by memories through Silver), but him finding a way to keep fighting and continue triumphing anyway (as shown through the inconsistent shadow).
Silver’s influence on Jim (at the moment negative, as it is directly tied to the visual element of the inclusion of the shadow), is shown vividly through the scene where Silver’s pirates restrain Jim and take the map to Treasure Planet. The shadow only appears when Jim glares at Silver, but lightens when he’s focusing on doing what’s right (fighting the pirates) rather than his hurt.
Jim assertively telling Silver that if he wants the map, he has to take him along also serves his character growth really well. He's standing firm in his own decisions, despite losing the approval of his father figure, finally becoming his own person outside of others’ expectations or notions of him, and making these decisions based on what’s right, rather than simply rebellion.
The light from the doorway to the treasure gently lightens the shadow, symbolizing Jim's belief that his pain will be dissipated by gaining the treasure, and that he will gain his mother’s pride (which was already present) as well. This is a falsehood that Silver must face as well, both accepting that the treasure was meaningless overall, and would not give them what they wanted.
This recognition is clear to the audience well before it is to the characters, which is achieved subconsciously through the scene where, while all of the pirates are gazing towards the treasure, Jim looks back at Ben and morph, his friends meaning more than the treasure he’d searched for.
The next piece of symbolism is my personal favourite from the film; Jim falling while they are with the treasure. He works to pull himself back up, but needs that final pull from someone who cares about him (Silver). This symbolizes Jim trying to move past his father’s abandonment, and step into the person he’s grown to become. But he can't do it on his own, to fully make the leap, he needs the support of a father like figure, who in this case, is Silver, choosing Jim’s life over the treasure.
The shadow, which was likely present throughout and after this scene (there were few clear frames of his face, but let’s assume it was) darkens again at Jim’s realization that Silver may leave him, which comes when the captain comments about him being put to trial. This brings up strongly his final moments with his father; this may not seem like much now, as it is a very brief scene, but it strengthens the conclusion of his time with Silver, which we’ll get to in a minute.
The shadow then disappears once and for all as Jim relies on his strengths, both internal (selflessness), and external (knowledge of mechanics), to build a solar surfer to allow him to save his friends and their ship from being destroyed. This shows him finally reaching that confidence in himself and his abilities that Jim has sought after his entire journey, and, as a result of this, he is not negatively influenced when he interacts with Silver in the form of the pirate helping him with the construction of the solar surfer. He has, at this point, nearly completed his arc, and moved past his insecurities.
Jim then falls again, in a similar way to the previous time near the treasure, however this time, he is able to keep a level head, and manages to save himself. This symbolizes more than anything his character growth, able to rely on himself to help others. He’s finally achieved that light and greatness Silver told him was inside all along. This ability to stop his fall, and confidence as a whole, is due in no small part to Silver helping him earlier in the film. He needed someone who believed in him to push him to become the fullest version of himself, and recognize the greatness he was capable of.
The solar surfer was introduced at the onset of the film, when we were reintroduced to Jim as a teenager. The source of rebellion at the start is now a means he uses to help others, and once he’s safely back on the ship, he lets it go. He’s no longer using it as a means of escapism; his friends now mean more than that did, and he literally lets his past go for them without regret, as his developed character no long has to rely on those methods of rebelling.
This time, when Jim sees Silver preparing to leave, he’s confident enough in himself, and the connection they shared to let him go without memories of the past tearing him down, and visually, without the shadow returning. He lets Silver go, because his self worth no longer lies on the approval of a mentor, but rather on who he is.
Silver also notably turns to wave to Jim as he sails off, for the first time making himself, and this event, entirely separate from his father in Jim’s mind, showing the contrast between the means of support in these figures.
The light and greatness motif comes back in their goodbye, when Silver tells Jim he’s “glowing like a solar fire.”, showing the growth he’s seen in Jim, and, unlike the first time he said something similar to this, Jim genuinely believes him. Not just in a temporary comfort naive way; Jim believe that Silver is speaking the truth, and that confidence pushes him to take a shot at a future he never believed he could have.
This motif makes one final appearance at the conclusion of the film, when he is shown wearing all white, yet another lighter change in his wardrobe in this film. This demonstrates his freedom from any burdens of the past as he finally accepts and learns to love who he truly is, and take daring shots to reach his potential, the one his mother had seen in him since ten beginning. His character arc is now complete, and he can live happily ever after.
Whew! Just in time for Mother’s Day! (NOT) This month I decided to review the heartwarming Pixar classic Brave. This 2012 mother-daughter film kind of gets overshadowed by a certain Ice queen and her sister who took the world by storm the next year in 2013 but we won’t speak of that today.
Anyways, again we are introduced to a world in which magical beings and spells exist, unbeknownst to many. First though, we meet Merida, a “wee” princess with a passion for archery. We open on the young princess’s birthday (sensing a theme here, Pixar), when her “da” surprises Merida, with a bow of her very own, much to the chagrin of the queen. Here we see some of the differences between her mother and father, an odd pairing of serious and not-so-serious. Elinor, the queen conducts herself with measure and restraint, as she believes a royal should while King Fergus, a beaming burly father is more lighthearted and insists that even a princess should know how to defend herself.
When one stray arrow leads Merida into the woods, she happens upon a trail of will-o’-the-wisps, small glowing spirits apparently rumored to lead to one’s destiny, fate being an important motif in the movie. After being called back by her parents, Merida shares this experience with her mother who surprisingly feeds into the idea unlike the king who views the subject with amusement. The scene is then interrupted by the movie’s first surprise bear attack. Mor’du, a monstrous black bear (black in color not species) charges into the clearing to put an end to the family’s celebration. The queen quickly sweeps up Merida and rides to safety, leaving Fergus and his men to battle the aggressive beast.
The scene changes and 10 years later, Merida’s frank commentary brings us up to speed on her father's legendary fight with Mor'du, which leaves him with a wooden leg and an even more vehement intensity in fighting. We learn the family has extended itself by three mischievous triplet boys, “wee devils” Merida calls them. Envious of their propensity for getting away with things, Merida bemoans the fact that she, as the princess, is constantly constrained by her overwhelming responsibilities and obligations. Cue the monotonous montage of princess lessons. Merida’s lessons, taught by her mother, function to prohibit the things a princess “does net” do (i.e. doodling, chortling, stuffing down food), all of which seem to come naturally to Merida. “Above all, a princess strives for perfection”, is actually one of Queen Elinor’s lines. Yikes.
But Merida’s life isn’t all princess lessons. She describes her occasional off-day, as a day when she can change her fate. Royal stallion, Angus, and singer Julie Fowlis’s “Touch The Sky” carry Merida and the viewer through a day of firing arrows, scaling cliffs, and enjoying her freedom.
Later when Merida returns home it’s business as usual at the dinner table as Fergus bores the young princes, Harris, Hubert, and Hamish with his Mor'du story and Queen Elinor takes in the mail, only looking up long enough to chide Merida for placing her “weapon” on the table, the bow being a clear point of contention between her desire for her daughter to be a traditional princess and Fergus’s insistence on fighting culture. Elinor then reads that the other clans have accepted their proposal and after an attempt from Fergus, explains to Merida that upon her birthday, clans will offer up suitors to compete in the highland games for her hand in marriage. When Merida blows up at the news, the queen implores her to reconsider, reminding her of a fated prince who broke off from his brethren, only to have the whole kingdom topple as a result. After reaching no avail, both Elinor and Merida retreat and contest with frustration about the other’s unwillingness to listen.
The day of their arrival, the audience is introduced to a whole cast of hilariously outlandish characters and the over competitive, slightly petty nature of the relationships between clans Dunbroch, Dingwall, MacGuffin, and MacIntosh as clan leaders attempt to engage and aggravate each other at every turn. Things look dismal to Merida until she hears the proclaimed rule that every clan leader’s firstborn may compete in the game that she herself will choose. She over eagerly chooses archery and in a stunning turn, competes for her own hand in marriage out showing all of the competitor’s attempts. Later, behind closed doors, conflict ensues between mother and daughter when Merida angrily tells Elinor, “I’d rather die than be like you!”, tearing a rift between the two’s likeliness in the tapestry the queen has been sewing. Elinor then loses her temper and throws Merida’s bow in the fireplace, an unforgivable act which drives Merida out in tears.
Frustrated and upset, Merida rides into the woods on Angus before the unnerved horse throws her off into a circle of large runed megaliths. As she takes in the scenery, Merida again sees a wisp beckoning her further into the forest and this time she follows. When the trail leads her to a presumed wood carver’s cottage, Merida is quick to realize that the woodcarver doubles as a witch and bargains for a spell to change her mum. After a bit of convincing, the witch conjures up a small cake, remarking that Merida is the second to ask for this spell; the other was a prince, before vanishing along with her carvings and cottage.
Back at the castle, the clans are in turmoil as they argue over the suitor dispute. Merida returns to find her mother and offers her the cake as a peace offering. Rather than changing her mind, however, the cake has a nauseating effect and Elinor becomes ill before falling to the floor of her chambers and reappearing into view as a large, black bear! Merida is shocked and curses the witch for giving her a “gammy spell”. Elinor, while a bear, is still visibly herself and attempts to cloth herself in curtains and affix her royal crown on her furry head. Her delirious antics insight a large search of the castle headed by King Fergus who believes the sounds to be Mor'du. With the help of her brothers, Merida manages to sneak her mother out to the forest, leaving the three boys alone in the kitchen with the half eaten cake. After some disagreement, the Merida and Elinor resign themselves to following the trail of wisps that return to the witch’s cottage, only to find it deserted apart from some cryptic instructions in a cauldron to “mend the bond torn by pride” in order to reverse the spell, which will become permanent when the sun sets on the third day. Discouraged and wet from rain, Merida builds shelter for herself and her mother. Not speaking, the two drift off into a cold, lonely sleep in which Merida dreams of being a child comforted by Elinor during a storm. Back at the castle, no one has noticed the queen or Merida’s absence.
After a well meant attempt at a civil breakfast, Merida leads Elinor to a stream where she catches and cooks for her a fish. Several more requests lead to the insistence that her mother catch her own fish and the queen reluctantly sets down her crown to partake. While it doesn’t come at all natural to Elinor, her daughter’s lighthearted encouragement and her own hunger eventually win out to catch fish after fish. The pair ends up in a water war, splashing each other, and playing in a way that starkly contrasts their recently tense relationship. In the midst of this bonding time, complimented by Fowlis’s bright vocals in “Into the Open Air”, Merida suddenly notices a change in Elinor’s behavior and sees that her mother has become a bear on the inside, shown in her now feral, black eyes. This effect quickly fades as the queen’s expressive eyes reappear but Merida realizes that the effects of the spell are becoming permanent. The two follow another trail of wisps which leads them to the ruins of the castle where Merida discovers the fate of the fabled prince who used the same spell to receive the strength of ten men and carve out his own destiny by taking over the land on his own. He is revealed to be the same bear that attacked them years ago, Mor'du. Narrowly escaping from him in his lair, Merida and Elinor come to realize they must return to the castle to “mend the bond” in the queen’s tapestry to break the spell.
Upon arriving, they find the clans on the verge of war and, borrowing a move from her mother, Merida walks calmly between them before giving in to her frustration and shouting for silence. She then begins to tell them that she has resigned to honor the promise of betrothal but is stopped when Elinor, hiding in the shadows, motions for her to break the tradition and write her own story. The clan leaders’ sons wholeheartedly agree, much to the surprise of the clan leaders who then break out in celebration. As Merida is attempting to stitch the tapestry, Fergus goes to tell the queen that their suitor problem is solved. When he finds the queen’s dress and claw marks, he grievously presumes that his wife has been killed by Mor'du. Meanwhile, in the tapestry room, Merida scrambles to find the sewing materials and then to quiet her mother who has become feral again. Too late, Fergus hears the noise and bursts in to save Merida from what he believes is the monster that killed Elinor. Returning to her body once more, the queen sees herself attacking Merida and Fergus and retreats to the woods, hotly pursued by the vengeful king and the clans. Locked in her room, Merida receives help from three strikingly familiar bear cubs and escapes. With the boys, she races out on Angus to stop the mob from hurting her mother while hastily sewing up the tapestry. In the circle of megaliths, Elinor finds herself trapped and overpowered by the force of the clans. As King Fergus prepares to make the final blow, Merida arrives and draws a sword against her father. Before she can convince him that the bear is his wife, Mor'du appears, locked in combat, and lunges at Merida. Seeing this, Elinor breaks through her restraints and engages the larger, vicious bear. With just seconds till sunset, the bear queen knocks down one of the megaliths onto Mor'du and we see his spirit float off as a wisp. Merida throws the tapestry over her mother, just as the sun disappears, and so do the queen’s eyes. She cries and holds her, understanding that she has lost Elinor forever. But the fates are in her favor and the mended bond breaks the spell, turning the queen human again under the astonished eyes of the clans. The family reunites in happiness as the three cubs revert back to the unabashedly nude triplets. From here, Merida speculates on fate as something that lies within all of us and ends with the memorable remark that “You just have to be brave enough to see it.”
While this movie touches on personal expression and freedom, it is really about the restrictions that we ourselves create within our relationships. The moral is to be brave to overcome such obstacles, as Merida and Elinor both did in humbling themselves to understand the other’s point of view, and recognize the love that’s more important to you.
Mozart and The Portraiture of Women in Enlightened Opera
By Mariana Luppe
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) was an Austrian composer who proceeded to be incredibly prominent in the Classical Period of music, and conceivably one of the greatest musicians of all time. From the age of 5 he demonstrated an impressive natural talent for music, which was quickly explored by his father Leopold Mozart (1719 - 1787). Leopold was a composer himself, and pushed his son’s genius into stardom by touring around European royal courts and elite societies; where he was put in touch with the likes of important musicians, scholars and political figures. The journey presented him with an ample perspective of the novelties in both the music and the intellectual-philosophical scene in the 18th century; a period known as The Age of Enlightenment. It challenged paradigms of several different areas of society and defied the authorities of monarchy and Church, unleashing a transformation wave that praised values such as reason, liberty, and progress. Because of this drastic shift of contagious ideas, the movement was not exclusively reserved to men. Women also profited from the notions of freedom, and participated subtly in the changing society. Mozart harnessed the themes of rationality and realism in all extents in order to represent human life, and women were not exempted from his scrutiny. In this essay I address the influence of the Age of Enlightenment on Mozart’s music and the progressiveness of his work, especially in his depiction and the role of women in opera. To do so I will look at the people and institutions in his life and make them dialogue with the final product that his œuvre came to be; whilst analysing the role that women play in his operas, and the way in which they are represented.
In his voyages around Europe he met with notable and powerful people who were in the thick of enlightened thought discussion. Aristocrats, diplomats, nobility, kings and rulers, and important musicians; all invited little Wolfgang to perform and indulge in their social circles. He became a celebrity from a young age and was taught about the enlightened arts and politics; concepts that sunk into his personality and music. Mozart resigned from his post as concertmaster under the Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, who had employed him since the age of 15 to write prescribed church and chamber music. Aside from the poor remuneration, the conditioning of his writing to the subservice of a church authority became unthinkable, much to his enlightened nature. He moved to Vienna, at the time the European capital of music, and distanced himself from religious themes in order to write freely, experiment with new techniques, and approach cruder motifs in his opera compositions such as love, real people, and their relationships. He also initiated into the Freemasonry as an apprentice in the Viennese Masonic lodge to soon become master Mason. This philosophical fraternity had numerous different branches, and Mozart’s was the rationalist, enlightened-inspired faction identified as the Illuminati (“The Enlightened”). It gathered musicians, merchants, judges, princes, writers, philosophers, painters, etc; who propagated their principles of humanism and classlessness across the institutions they participated in.
An excellent example of Mozart’s boldness in confronting musical and societal standards is the 1782 production of “The Abduction from the Seraglio”. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, an admirer of the arts and of Mozart in particular, first commissioned an opera from him in the German language to be presented in the National Theatre. As the title suggests, the work delivered was a 3-act musical story set in a brothel, from where the main character tries to rescue his love interest. Such plot had previously been too vulgar to be staged before a noble audience; but because of Mozart’s acclaim and engaging score, it was well received in Vienna. Such was the success that, in 1786, the Emperor commissioned another opera from him for National Theatre. The story was Beaumarchais’ play “The Marriage of Figaro”; a tale of love and folly that depicted the mingling of classes and twisted the idealistic view of the nobility. The libretto exhibits the limitations of rank, privilege, and wealth; approbating the humble characters while condemning the arrogant ones in its plot. For these reasons, the play had been banned from theatres by Joseph II, in fear it would cause social agitation. Yet, maybe because of his admiration of Mozart, or his Enlightened proneness in politics, he allowed the opera production to carry on to be a success.
At that time, the late 1780s, Mozart was working side-by-side with a peculiar Italian librettist called Lorenzo da Ponte, who had been a language and literature professor as well as a Roman Catholic priest in Venice. Born Jewish, he was only converted to Catholicism when his dad married a Catholic woman. The couple’s children were then raised by a bishop benefactor, who gave them an education and provided them with a career in the Church. Almost appropriately to Mozart’s palate, Da Ponte was banished from the Church and from Venice for 15 years for leading a dissolute life. He took mistresses, had children, lived part-time in a brothel where he organised entertainment for the clientele, and was secretly a member of the Freemasonry. His lifestyle contributed as an inspirational source for the librettos he wrote for Mozart. Together, they created operas that handled with stories of love, class hustling, self-indulgence, and regret. Those operas are “The Marriage of Figaro”, as mentioned above, “Don Giovanni”, and “Così fan tutte”.
In “Don Giovanni”, we see the legend of Don Juan, a libertine seducer who gets caught up with his own malice and is hunt down by the people he harmed in the making of his affairs. The characters, nobility and rabble, interact with the same intensity and responsibility regardless of their rank. This is even more evident in the relationship between the two protagonists, Don Giovanni and Leporello, his sidekick. In spite of the classic lord-and-servant hierarchical dynamic, like those seen in Don Quixote and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, their roles are equally powerful and important to the plot, as well as to one another. The storyline and conflict is conducted through the main female characters; three women who were tricked by Don Giovanni and lead the persecution party after him. Don Giovanni breaks into into Donna Anna’s bedroom and slithers into her bed in the middle of the night. In the dark, she assumes that it is her fiancé, Don Otavio, and allows him to seduce her. Once she realises it is a stranger, she cries out for help and the screams wake her father up, who comes to the rescue with a sword. Il Commendatore, her father, engages in a duel with Don Giovanni, who kills him and flees. The next one of his victims we meet is Donna Elvira. She is desperately in love with Don Giovanni, but in rage because of his deceit and betrayal. She embarks in a quest to expose his lies and impede future exploits, despite not being able to stop loving him, conveying her as all the more human. Lastly we meet Zerlina, a peasant girl who almost gives in to Don Giovanni’s seductive propositions on her wedding day to Masetto. Zerlina is cunning in resisting his advances and making Masetto forgive her in two very cheeky, yet passionate arias. After several attempts of apprehending Don Giovanni, he gets away triumphantly. At this point his confidence is so high, that he jokingly invites Il Commentatore for dinner at his house. Trouble comes for him when Donna Anna's deceased father actually turns up, and forces him to regret his deeds and apologise. When he refuses to, Il Commendatore drags him back to the world of the dead, and all characters rejoice.
Don Giovanni feels like an honest lesson about the dangers of overindulgence and vice, presented to the audience in an entertaining, congenial way. It deals with morality in a different outlook than that of plain Christian ordinance. Instead, it shows humanised characters in relatable situations, which makes the whole message all the more real to the viewer. Love, guilt, anger, and lust, are themes exhibited in the opera which everyone can relate to, and because of that, can understand the motives of each one of the characters. One might argue that it is a cheeky ode to human life, and woven into is Da Ponte's remorse about his life in Venice, as well as Mozart’s about his own faults, especially his behaviour towards important women in his life. For example, he somewhat blamed himself for his mother’s death, for he had made her travel Europe unwillingly alongside him to help him find employment; a voyage which made her fatally ill. She died by his side in Paris when he was 22 years old. Furthermore, his sister was also a female figure of great importance in his life. Narnnel was four years older than him and manifested the same musical talents as him when young. She travelled alongside her brother in his voyages through Europe, and together they were presented as a performing duo of prodigee children. While growing up, she served as his main inspiration for developing his music skills. He mirrored her playing of the harpsichord and pianoforte, wrote her several compositions, praised and encouraged hew own compositions, and continuously gave her copies of his work for her opinion. The two were extremely close as children, even inventing their own secret language. However, when she reached adulthood and marriageable age, she was forbidden by her father, and by general social norm, to carry on as a composer or performer because of her sex. As she was slowly pushed back so that Wolfgang could be centre-stage, she distanced herself both physically and personally from them. Her last visit to her brother was in 1783, when he married Constanze Weber; and their correspondence ceased completely in 1788, upon the death of their father. The deterioration of the relationship between Wolfgang and his sister saddened both of them, and might have rendered him remorseful for eclipsing her genius. Lastly, his wife Constanze; whom he reveals in his letters to love a great deal, but did spend long periods of time away from her because of his work, and speculatively conducted his own share of extra-marital affairs. On top of that, they also spend time apart because Constanze travelled to spas to relieve the pains of her complicated pregnancies and miscarriages, which would just add up to Mozart’s guilt. With this in mind, the strong depiction of women in his operas could be liable to, apart his Enlightened spirit, his feeling that he had been putting himself and his priorities above those of the women he loved. That drove him, deliberately or not, to do justice to his female characters.
In general, the operas in Mozart’s mature life have female characters that showcase wit and sense of action at the same level the men do. The female arias are exceedingly more profound in sentiment and desire. Musically, they are often more detailed and touching than the male ones. The roles that they perform are repeatedly central to the plot and never lack in complexity, as to not make use of them as a simple love interests or a jealousy-driven irrational villains. This is also visible in the next, and last, Mozart-Da Ponte opera, “Così fan tutte”. In this opera we watch Ferrando and Guglielmo, carry out a typical Enlightenment-esque experiment of disguising themselves and trying to seduce their fiancées, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, to prove that they will remain faithful to them no matter what. Don Alfonso then wages them a bet, stating that their fiancées are as fickle as all other women and will succumb to the charms of any man. Così fan tutte laughingly toys with the relationship routine between men and women, with a sharply satirical tone on the different attitudes men and women are led to assume when it comes to love and liability. The audience is presented to both sides of the affair. On the women's side, they ardently struggle in an inner war of desire versus duty, singing arias full of passion to express their emotional clash. Meanwhile, the men do not seem to develop much from two naughty boys who act and sing very narrow-mindedly, depicted at times as heartless pranksters. The banter ends up in a lot of tears, and in the end, they regret the pain caused to their fiancées. Even though Don Alfonso won his bet, everything is forgiven and the weddings carry on. Again, it is a realistic take on subjects of people’s daily lives, evinced to the viewer in an amusing form; much to why it is still performed today. It is as though Mozart is telling us repeatedly that humans are free to do as they like, but they are also responsible for the accountability of their actions. In one passage in particular, Act II Scene 13, Don Alfonso says “Everyone blames women, but I forgive them if they change their love a thousand times a day. Some call it a sin, others a habit; but I say it is a necessity of their heart. The lover who finds that he has been deceived should blame not others, but his own mistake”.
Mozart lived and breathed Enlightenment. It permeated deep within his art and personal life. He probed into themes never before considered suitable for musical theatre with respectable audiences; and brought them to light with the utmost musical dextrexity. It is remarkable how he managed to subtly harmonise provocative topics and stances of characters in a engaging way people could reflect themselves upon. He normalised social outrage and made mundane both men and women of all ranks; right in the preludes of the French Revolution; the very turning event that would radically challenge social distinction and put at risk the lives of the very people who helped Mozart make his name. This inclination, however, does not come from a revolutionary nature. Far from that, he utilised from that midst to grow, and held fair respect for the likes of Joseph II and the Church. The propensity of his work to objecting standards was inherent in his Enlightened mindset. When considering his heuristic upbringing, as well as the intense circumstances he was put through in which the women in his life had the greatest presence; a more temporal viewpoint of femininity seems only natural. Mozart was never afraid of employing sentiment in his music, making use of it especially through his female characters. His operas are undoubtedly full of passion and never disappoint in telling adventures of love and regret in human perspectives; where the women are responsible for playing the vital role of conveying the emotions necessary for making Mozart's operas as moving and timeless as they are.