strange_complex: (Claudius god)
Seen this evening with [livejournal.com profile] big_daz at the Light.

This is definitely a very patriotic and royalist film, which is no surprise given that one of its producers was Sarah Ferguson. That's not necessarily a criticism, and it's certainly entirely in keeping with the position Queen Victoria already occupies in the nation psyche. But I'm just saying that anyone who wants to see a measured critique of either Victoria specifically or the institution of the monarchy more generally should probably give this film a miss.

Personally, I didn't mind it in the least. Partly, this is because I am a royalist anyway,1 and partly it's because, since Queen Victoria was a woman, the patriotic fervour also had a distinctly feminist slant. There was a lot of emphasis on her casting off the influences of the various power-hungry men who were seeking to control her, and establishing a style of rulership of her own which was ultimately better for the nation. But while at one level this could be read as "See, you greedy and corrupt politicians try to sully the golden purity of our wondrous monarchy, but its true nobility prevails!", a secondary reading more along the lines of "Take that, you patriarchal fools!" put in a very healthy appearance.

Furthermore, the score centred throughout around perhaps the most patriotic and royalist piece of music ever written: Handel's Zadok the Priest. Which I love, and which we sang in the Sacred Wing in December 2007, and which really made the passion rise and kept making me want to yell out "GOD SAVE THE KING! LONG LIVE THE KING!" (or queen, even) at the appropriate moments. Add to that the beautiful camerawork, with lots of very good use of imbalanced shots in particular (i.e. the main focus of the shot is off to the left or right of the screen, not in the centre - I don't know if there's a better technical term for that), and a script which was sparing and naturalistic, conveying a great sense of the volumes left unspoken (as you would expect from Julian Fellowes, who was also responsible for Gosford Park), and you're in business, really.

So it's not one for those seeking an intellectual challenge or rigorous debate, but if you're up for a bit of QWEEN VICTORRIA IS TEH ACES, it makes for a good night out. And if at least one member of the cast doesn't feature in the next Honours List, I will eat my hat.


1. Essentially because I think that the monarchy offers a valuable cultural focus which helps to bind us together as a community, and that an important part of the nature of that focus is a vivid and tangible link with our past - which, as a historian, I obviously consider to be a particularly important component of our cultural identity.

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strange_complex: (Handel)
Hee-hee-hee! I have been having a pretty crappy weekend, feeling very below par and not up to anything much of any description. I even had to bail out on [livejournal.com profile] smileygoth's leaving drinks last night, much to my sorrow. :-( But watching Handel's Last Chance this evening has cheered me up no end.

It's a hokey, schmaltzy, historically-dubious and unrealistically-plotted attempt at educational children's television, that I'm sure would cause any self-respecting pre-teen to cringe painfully. The setting is the first performance of Handel's Messiah in Dublin, for which the names of all the actual soloists - several of them imported over from England for the purpose - are perfectly well-documented. But never mind them! Instead, the plot revolves around a spirited ten-year-old rapscallion by the name of Jamie O'Flaherty, whose life intersects with Handel's in a series of unlikely episodes, while all the time Handel fumes and curses at the deplorable quality of the local choirs he's been asked to work with. Then, one fateful day, Handel chances to hear young Jamie singing to himself as he scrubs a step.1 Guess what happens next - go on, guess!

The whole story might have been more plausible if the boy they'd got to provide young Jamie's voice had genuinely been a good singer, instead of merely a competent one. But then again, when you put that beside the random mix of English, Irish and North American accents (apparently determined by who could be bothered to attempt plausibility and who couldn't), the modern French horns which appear in Handel's orchestra, the fact that the climactic opening performance of the Messiah seemed to end with the Hallelujah chorus, the complete inability of the actor playing Handel to even fake playing the harpsichord, the failure of the director to hide this, and the terrible scripting,2 such details quickly ceased to matter.

Could I not have guessed from the title alone how second-rate this was going to be, you ask? Why did I watch it, or even acquire it in the first place, knowing that this was what I would be getting?

Well, the answer of course, is that I love low-budget TV. Chuckling over all of the above has been one of the high points of my weekend. And it was so charmingly well-meaning, I couldn't help but love it. Besides, it had its moments - chiefly nice locations (mainly in Bratislava) and a delightfully curmudgeonly old Handel, who at one point announced, "I'm a mean old ogre, and what is more, I enjoy being a mean old ogre!" And - albeit with a slight change of setting - they got in the anecdote about the singer who incurred Handel's wrath for his poor sight-reading. When Handel exploded with rage and demanded, "You shcauntrel, tit you not dell me dat you could sing at soite?", he replied, "Yes, sir, and so I can: but not at first sight." Can't beat that.

Other things I have watched while feeling pants include an episode of Angel (early season four, which I now see honks just as bad as the stuff later in that series with Jasmine), half of Three Coins in the Fountain on Film 4, (but not really enough to justify claiming I've 'seen' it properly and add it to the list for this year), and an excellent production of Handel's Giustino on DVD. (I actually acquired Handel's Last Chance as a cheap'n'cheerful last-minute addition to an online order which was really about buying this and two other Handel opera DVDs).

I've also slept a lot, listened to Handel's Rinaldo on CD, and got in some good reading - a bit more of my current book, Angus Heriot's The Castrati in Opera (which I'll post about in its own right when I've finished), and this extremely interesting article on the marriage of a castrato named Bartolomeo de Sorlisi to a Protestant girl named Dorothea Lichtwer in 17th-century Germany. I'm quite surprised Sorlisi's story isn't better-known, as the article shows very well how unusually well-documented it is, and how much light it casts on the status and condition of the castrati. But in fact, he doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. Let's hope that now a detailed English-language article has been published about him, someone will soon put that right - he certainly deserves it.

So, it's been a quiet one, but full of nice things nonetheless. Now, I am going to bed - and let's hope I've recovered my energies enough to face what's bound to be a pretty busy week.


1. You would have thought Handel might have been particularly astonished in this scene not so much by the boy's voice, but by the fact that he was actually singing an aria from the Messiah, despite the fact that it hasn't had a single public performance yet. But apparently not.

2. At one point, Handel advised Jamie, "That is the voice to which you must listen to most closely". I could have forgiven it if he'd been played with a heavy German accent and a tenuous grasp on the English language. But he wasn't at all. Except when the actor let his accent slip, he spoke in perfect Queen's English.

Five Messiahs

Saturday, 6 January 2007 14:34
strange_complex: (Handel)
I do have the grace to feel rather embarrassed about this. But, nonetheless, I have willingly - even eagerly - allowed it to happen. See, the fact is that I now own five recordings of Handel's Messiah.

Excessive, you say? Obsessive, even? But they are all different, I swear! After all, practically every performance of the piece given in Handel's lifetime was different from the others, as he re-wrote arias on the hoof to suit the singers he had available at the time. And that's before you even get into matters of interpretation and choice of performers.

So here is a list of my five recordings (in order of acquisition) and the reasons why I need to own them all:

1. Charles MacKerras 1967 )

2. Sir David Willcocks 1973 )

3. Taped copy from Grace )

4. Harry Christophers 1986 )

5. Nicholas McGegan 1991 )

So it seems that my search for the perfect Fantasy Messiah continues. I can't see that it'll ever be quite entirely satisfied - unless perhaps I create my own amalgam by burning tracks from different performances onto a CD of my own. Which would be weird, and I'm pretty sure I still don't have all the perfect raw materials anyway. So here's to further additions to my collection in the future!

Chez Handel

Saturday, 29 July 2006 19:32
strange_complex: (Handel)
On Wednesday, I visited the Handel House Museum with [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23, who had not seen it before, and specifically the current Castrati exhibition, which neither of us had seen before.

I think the best bit was the three large portraits of Farinelli, Senesino and Guadagni, all lined up in rich, colourful and self-assured glory in Handel's rehearsal room. But I also enjoyed the general sense which the exhibition conveyed of the extraordinary range of castrati singers Handel had worked with, as well as being in a place where lots of people were getting to listen to Alessandro Moreschi singing for the first time (on a CD in the main exhibition room). [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 was underwhelmed: "He sounds drunk," she said. But at least she had the chance to listen to him and forge a reaction. Meanwhile, those who were more taken by him had the opportunity to buy the OPAL CD of his surviving recordings and Nicholas Clapton's book in the gift shop.

There was a worst bit, too, though: the very tedious woman on duty in Handel's bedroom, who just could not shut up and let us take in the atmosphere of the house in peace. I mean, I get that she knew lots of stuff about Handel and wanted to share it with us. But I already knew practically everything she said anyway, and she just didn't pick up on hints such as giving very short answers and not making any eye contact which were supposed to convey to her that I just wanted her to leave me alone and let me experience the sense of Handel's presence in my own way. Interestingly, when I began mentioning this on the phone to my Mum, who had visited the exhibition in the spring, she immediately said, "Oh, I know exactly the woman you mean: she really was irritating, wasn't she?" It made me realise that my experience probably wasn't unique, and think that perhaps I should write an email to the people who run the house, just politely pointing out that although some visitors might welcome a very chatty and enthusiastic guide, others prefer to be left to themselves. I'm sure that woman wouldn't want to think that she is actually having a negative impact on some people's experience of the house, and a polite word or two about how to tell the difference between people who want to talk and people who just want to look might help to prevent that in future.

Wednesday was also one of the hottest days of the week, which perhaps wasn't the most sensible time to go down to a big, dusty, busy city. In fact, we went shopping in the afternoon around Oxford Circus, and I wasn't at all surprised to hear on the news that the following day many of the shops we had visited had had to close due to power-cuts caused by too high a demand on air-conditioning systems. Still, we managed, and although we didn't really buy anything in the end, we had a very nice lunch (mmm, grilled halloumi!) and some much-needed iced coffees before getting on the train.

That was probably the last visit I'll make to London before I go off up to Leeds: but definitely a good one.

Things unblogged

Friday, 19 May 2006 11:33
strange_complex: (Darth blogging)
Gosh. I would appear to have some free time. Nominally, I'm at Warwick doing essay returns. But since I only have 11 people to see today, as opposed to the fearsome 35 I got through yesterday, there are a lot of gaps in the day when I can do other things. And I've actually run out of minor administrative tasks to perform, so that means I can write on LJ - yay!

What I'm going to do here is give quick accounts of some of the things I would have blogged over the last couple of months, if I'd had the time to do so. They probably won't get the same level of detail as they'd have had if I'd written them up at the time. But at least this way they won't be completely forgotten.

18th March - celebratory meal at Gee's )

30th March - Robin Blaze at the Wigmore Hall )

1st April - 'Springtime Baroque' concert at the Sheldonian )

24th April - QI recording )

8th May - Rik Mayall in 'The New Statesman' )

Well, that was a great relief! I feel a lot less weighed down by a back-log now, and more able to get on with posting about things day to day. There are still some Big Posts I need to make about things like my new job, and my book and so on. But this has definitely been a good start.
strange_complex: (Handel)
Given that I have complete and up-to-date copies of my book on:
  • My hard-drive
  • A CD
  • My Yahoo email account
  • The Warwick University server
... it would be overkill to put it on the shiny new data-stick my Dad gave me and email it to my work and Excite email accounts as well. Right? Right???

In other news, the materials for the course I'm going to be doing with [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 next term on The Operas of Handel arrived today. I'm very excited! It tells us what operas we'll be covering each week, and there's a recommended reading list as well.

This means that I can now see that, thanks to superhuman CD-copying efforts over the past couple of months, I have indeed successfully acquired copies of most of the major works we'll be studying. In fact, over a 10-week course, there's only 3 weeks for which I don't have at least some of the appropriate listening material. So that's good - I can listen to the relevant operas in preparation, and read the right bits of the books, and turn up with a big, swotty 'I did my homework' grin on my face. :)

And homework is right, because we also have to do worksheets each week, to 'consolidate' what we've learned in class. We can even do an essay if we want! (Although I'm not sure I'll actually go that far - I may have finished my book by then, but I have a paper queuing up to be written, too.)

But yay! I am going to be a student again! How amusing.
strange_complex: (Alessandro Moreschi)
Well, I didn't expect to be woken by the soaring, silvery tones of Alessandro Moreschi this morning. But I was, thanks to a feature on the 'Handel and the Castrati' exhibition which opens tomorrow at Handel's house in London. My normal alarm time of 7:45 woke me perfectly in time to hear Nicholas Clapton, the curator of the exhibition, being interviewed about it by Rebecca Jones. And when she asked him how we can know what the castrati sounded like, I silently cheered, knowing full well what had to come next.

Clapton does need a clip round the ear for saying very emphatically, "We are fortunate to have one recording of one castrato..." in response to this. As the man who, literally, wrote the book on Moreschi*, he knows a lot better than this, and obviously meant "We are fortunate to have one [set of] recording[s]..." But why couldn't he have said that? I weep for the thousands of people who now freshly believe, as I did for so long, that this means exactly and precisely one song.

Still, the recording they chose to illustrate the point was well-selected: the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria: and some of the best, most heart-rendingly beautiful snippets from it, too. To be sure, it was the old OPAL remastering of it, not the infinitely superior Truesound one*. But, nonetheless, definitely Moreschi at his stomach-punching best.

The feature can still be heard, of course, via Listen Again: select the relevant bit, which is actually listed at 7:40, or else go to it directly (you'll need RealOne Player).

As if that wasn't enough to make me sit up in bed, it was followed five minutes later with the news that a a new contraceptive pill is being put through clinical trials which it's hoped will greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer and thrombosis associated with current pills, and completely stop periods! It could have all sorts of other nasty side-effects, of course, but that's what clinical trials are there to find out. If it makes it to being released on the market, I'm there!

And then, when I got up and checked my post, I discovered that my sample of 'Pure Purple' perfume had arrived! Hooray! They didn't send the girl from the ad, but they did send a nice postcard of her, so I can't complain.

All in all, then, this has to count already as a pretty good day!

--------------
* Both book and recording have been on my mental 'To Blog' list for months. I have a lot to say about both, and I will get round to it. But my own book comes first!
strange_complex: (Handel)
The actual reason I went up to Birmingham at the weekend was to attend a performance of Handel's oratorio, Samson at the Symphony Hall. In fact, it was a very Handel-intensive weekend. The time that wasn't spent at the concert was mainly spent copying endless CDs of Handel operas, borrowed from my Mum's friend Jean, in preparation for a course on them which I shall be attending next term in Oxford with [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23. And, since this very same Jean was actually in the concert, singing as she does in the soprano section of the City of Birmingham Bach choir, she was also able to sneak us in to spend Saturday afternoon watching the final rehearsal: orchestra, soloists and all.

The work itself )

The performance overall )

The soloists )

On the whole, then, I'd say three-and-a-half tumbling temples out of five tumbling temples. Not the perfect performance, but I'm glad I went, and I'd certainly make the effort to catch it again.

strange_complex: (Handel)
[livejournal.com profile] my_mundane_life has found an easier way to do the Johari Window meme that's going round. Just go here if you'd like to help me make mine by selecting 6 adjectives which you think best describe me - and you can set up your own when you're done, too.

At the moment, I am listening to Handel's very own actual, real-life harpsichord1. I bought the CD yesterday at the Bate Collection, which houses the instrument, and which I visited with [livejournal.com profile] megamole. I'm not normally overly inclined to sit around listening to harpsichord suites, but the special identity of the instrument this time overrides my normal preferences. And it can't harm to have some about the place: you know, for those times when you come over all harpsichordy.

In fact, since my stereo is in the other room from my computer, and I'm listening to it through an open door, I can have fun imagining that Handel himself is sitting in the next room, running through a few of his latest compositions before he lets them loose on an eager, waiting public.

No, actually, I wouldn't want that to be true at all, because Handel was fucking scary. A poster-board in the Bate Collection related a great story about an incident when some joker had de-tuned all the instruments to be used in a performance of one of his works before the Prince of Wales. When the players began, Handel was so enraged by the cacophony which issued forth that he stormed through the orchestra, knocking a double-bass out of the way as he went, grabbed a kettle-drum, and hurled it at the first violinist; losing his wig in the process. Then he stormed back to the front of the stage, where he was so apoplectic with rage he could barely speak, but stood there huffing, stamping his feet and glaring at the audience instead. Only the Prince of Wales himself could calm him down.

So: a great composer, but I wouldn't want him in my house!

The Bate Collection also featured a plaster cast of Haydn's very own actual, real-life skull. There was a portrait of him displayed next to it, presumably so that you could compare the two and see the resemblance. Or something. I am still quite weirded out by that, actually.

-----------
1. Probably.
strange_complex: (Default)
I shall have to resort to numbered paragraphs.

1. I spent the weekend in a cottage near Ledbury, enjoying the 10th Annual Winsley Road Posse Christmas Meal. The choice of Ledbury was pretty random, really, based on reasonably equal travelling distances for all of us, and a nice-looking cottage within taxiable range of a railway station. But it was a good choice. The cottage exceeded all our expectations, while the lady we were letting it from had even left us a real live Xmas tree, a plate of mince pies and a lovely fire smouldering in the grate when I arrived. It was fabulous to catch up with everyone again, and enjoy the cottage, the grounds and the crisp but sunny weather together. We were all a bit bemused to find ourselves smoothly and professionally cooking a fabulous meal, eating it on an antique oak dining table and passing round port afterwards: all something of a contrast with meal number 1. Anyone would think we were grown-ups now, or something! But it was great, and so great in fact that we unanimously decided the book the cottage up again for the equivalent weekend next year before we left.

2. Last night was another jovial Christmas gathering, this time with the [livejournal.com profile] oxgoths in the Chequers. Presents aplenty were distributed amongst the assembled company, chocolates munched and silly hats worn. We even attempted to play Christmas carols in chorus, with Spiky Neil conducting us and each person blowing on a differently-pitched whistle. Just one of those evenings that makes you feel really glad to have the friends you have.

3. And, finally, isn't Radio 3's Christmas Bachathon a stroke of genius? I don't tend to listen to Radio 3 all that much, but now that it's offering 100% Guaranteed Bach every time I switch it on, things have become quite different. I even threw over the Today programme this morning, setting my alarm to wake me up with one of his cantatas instead. Chatting to friends, I think a lot of people are doing the same sort of thing, and I don't doubt it's doing their audience figures a world of favours. Now, how about a Handel New Year, eh?

4. Ah, it's time for Futurama! Bye. :)
strange_complex: (Handel)
Don't you just hate it when, 20 minutes before you're about to go out, you drop the lovely dinner you've just made for yourself all over the floor, breaking a pasta-bowl which you really like and getting spaghetti bolognese up the front of the rather nice skirt you were planning to wear in the process? I do.

By the time this happened I had 10 minutes left for eating my dinner and 10 for finishing getting dressed and doing my make-up, so I had no spare time even for buying something on the way out, still less cooking anything else. I did the only thing I could do in the circumstances: scraped up those parts of the bolognese which were on top of other parts of bolognese rather than directly on the floor, and ate it anyway.

Then, it was off out to the Sheldonian, encountering [livejournal.com profile] edling and [livejournal.com profile] mr_flay en route and meeting [livejournal.com profile] violetdisregard and [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 outside the White Horse opposite the venue. Despite the unfortunate dinner incident, I was fantastically excited: the windows of the Sheldonian glowed invitingly, the slight chill in the air lent an appropriately festive feel to the proceedings, and, well: the Messiah!!!!

Me and my Fantasy Messiah )

The soloists )

The choir )

Overall direction )

On the whole? Five Hallelujah!s out of ten Hallelujah!s. Could do better, but I'm glad I went.
strange_complex: (Invader Zim globe)
Last night, I went out to Intrusion wearing chunky boots and clothes decorated with unnecessary pieces of metalwork, and danced like a fiend amidst flashing lights and smoke machines to loud and rebellious electronically-amplified music.

Tonight, I'm going out to see The Messiah in a theatre designed by Sir Christopher Wren, wearing a Chinese top and an Indian skirt, in the company of several of the same people who were out at Intrusion last night. And still with the chipped black varnish on my finger-nails.

Though I am sufficiently culturally aware to see that these are two very different events, there is no sense of contradiction or even abnormality here. Both are equally valid and rewarding activities in my eyes, both draw on strongly-felt interests and both are relatively common occurrences for me. I'm so glad I have such a wealth of human expression and achievement available for me to play with.

Intrusion )

Corrective eyewear and Christmas shopping )

Iestyn Davies )

Oh, and I have now bought my ticket for B-Movie, so that's my definite plan for New Year's Eve now. Looking forward to seeing those of you who are going!

Ten-minute update

Wednesday, 9 November 2005 10:18
strange_complex: (Computer baby)
I'm rather behind with documenting things I've done recently, and a combination of tiredness and busy-ness makes this unlikely to change soon. So, in the 10 minutes before I have to go and give a lecture, I present a really rushed outline of what I've been up to in the past few days:

Friday: went to Brum to see Andreas Scholl with La Mia Mama. The concert was entitled 'Senesino, Handel's Muse', and consisted entirely of arias originally written for the castrato Senesino (with a few instrumental interludes to give Scholl's voice a rest). Since Senesino was a contralto rather than a soprano, these can now be sung by Scholl, and he did so brilliantly. My stance on Scholl is that although I recognise his technical brilliance, my personal taste is such that I'm not actually that bowled over by the tones of his voice, especially when it is in the centre of its range (both in terms of pitch and volume). There's a slight rough, rushing sound around the edges which I'd prefer to do without. However, when called upon to swell and fade a long note, hit unusually high notes or perform complicated ornaments, the rushing sound vanishes, and he suddenly becomes some kind of vocal deity, causing jaws to fall in astonishment. Overall, I prefer the very pure sound of Robin Blaze's voice. But I admit that Scholl does beat Blaze when the stakes get really high, and he will always be more suited to operatic work for that reason.

Afterwards, we queued like a pair of fangirls for autographs, and I also bought the CD which Scholl has already produced of the evening's programme. Then went home and bought 'The Last Castrato', a collection of recordings made in the early 20th century by a man named Alessandro Moreschi. This was in response to the pre-concert talk, which had been all about castrati, and had revealed to me that there exists not one tiny snippet of this guy singing, as I'd thought, but in fact a whole plethora of the stuff. It also made me realise that, although not necessarily to modern tastes, he was a better singer than I'd previously believed. It'll take a while to arrive, since it's coming from America, but I can't wait to become more familiar with this voice.

Saturday: woke up in Brum having spent night with parents. Sat over coffee watching Dad replace the batteries in his 30-year-old Grundig 'Yacht Boy' radio, and explain how everyone in the country had been sent little stickers saying '3' and '4' like the ones on it when the change was made from the Third Programme and the Home Service to Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Then proceeded up to Manchester for [livejournal.com profile] angeoverhere's 30th birthday, where I caught up with some of my Bristol buddies and met some new faces from B'ham, Leeds and Manchester itself. We hung out for the afternoon in a gay bar called Taurus, and then headed for a Syrian restaurant in the evening, while Manchester made a fine attempt at exploding in celebration of Bonfire Night. Slept pretty well, and then had lunch together the next day, before heading back down to Oxford on the Sunday to finish off a lecture in a panic and deliver it on the Monday. It went fine, though. They always do.

Have also started to watch Imperium: Augustus recently, having finally worked out how to switch the Dutch subtitles off. It's very, erm... special, and will be blogged in detail later. And had a quick look on Monday at The Masque of the Red Death, realised the costumes aren't quite as amazing as I'd remembered, but have still had some decent ideas for the ball.

Well, it's lucky I'm such a quick typist (although I'm sure this is full of mistakes). Now for that lecture!

Edit: some small editing after the event to fill in details, clarify points and correct errors.

strange_complex: (Default)
... that's according to The Passion of The Christ at least, which I have just seen with James, Hugh and Zahra.

I've heard stories about churches buying tickets for this en masse in the belief that it will convert people, but having seen it I really can't see why. As a committed non-believer (nay, heathen), it just came across to me as a story about stupid people getting whipped up into stupid actions by religious extremism, with stupid and contemptible results. Not understandably misguided and tragic: just stupid. And I'm afraid I include Jesus in the category of 'stupid people' there.

The Passion is definitely capable of being put across in a more compelling way than this. Bach's Passions (the St. John and the St. Matthew), and the relevant parts of Handel's 'Messiah' (which I'm listening to right now because a biblical quotation at the start of the film brought it instantly to mind[1]) make this very clear. OK, so they could never convert me either - but at least they have an emotional impact on me. Bach and Handel make the story seem like an regrettable human tragedy, but somehow Gibson's failed to engage me emotionally in any way.

I think the problem could be phrased as being that the film was 'plot-driven' rather than 'character-driven': in other words, we just got a sequence of canonical events from the gospels, rather than any recognisably human scenes which might help us to relate to the characters or make sense of the transitions from one event to another. There was one scene which almost managed this, which was when Jesus fell down while carrying his cross to Golgotha, and Mary ran towards him to comfort him, which was interspersed with a flash-back of her running to pick him up when he fell and grazed his knees as a child. That gave us a chance to feel human pity for the motif of a mother losing a son she had raised. But other than that it left me cold (except for the occasional 'yuck' at the abundant violence).

I asked James, who is training to be a priest, whether it engaged him on an emotional level. He basically said that it had stirred the same sorts of emotions in him as a regular meditation on the stations of the cross would have done, but that these were emotions which he'd brought with him into the film from his church experience, rather than emotions which the film had stirred in itself. Yet obviously it has stirred great emotional responses in some viewers, because there are stories in the recent edition of The Cherwell about people confessing to long-undetected crimes after having seen it. I wish I could understand how it managed to do this: possibly those people also had to bring pre-existing emotions into the film, which were then sparked off onto a new level by it?

I wasn't too happy with the Latin either. I'd need to see it all written down to decide what I thought of it properly, but many of the sentence structures sounded very English, I spotted at least one example of someone not using the vocative when they should have done, the soldiers who are scourging Jesus inexpicably start counting from eight after they have turned him over to start whipping his front[2], and all the Romans used pronunciation which was a cross between medieval Latin and modern Italian. Plus, why were the Romans speaking to people like the Jewish high priest in Hebrew? At least, I presume it was Hebrew, although I can't distinguish Hebrew from Aramaic: but it certainly wasn't Latin or the actually-more-likely Greek. That doesn't fit with my knowledge of Roman provincial administration, although I'll admit that Judaea wasn't entirely a typical province, and I don't know much about its specifics.

And on top of all that, they also rather gave the game away for the sequel by showing him sitting up in his tomb at the end! So much for Passion II: The Resurrection.

Ah well, at least I've seen it now... I expect to enjoy 'Troy' a lot more when it comes out next month.

----------
[1] Isiah 53.5: 'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement
for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed'.

[2] And no, they're not carrying on from where they'd got to on the previous side, because they'd reached about twenty-something on his back.

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