18 November 2008

Quantum of Solace, Bros. K, and a little about writing

Neither Dave and are the biggest of Bond fans, but we saw the new movie last weekend with friends. I'd heard a lot about it beforehand, that it didn't seem like a Bond film, was extra violent, that there wasn't much emotion in it and that Bond seemed so cold.

In order, I'd say, true, sort-of true, completely false, and definitely true.

Honestly, I don't quite know what I think of the movie. In some ways, it reminded me of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. I think that's the only book I ever read at 100+ pages an hour (I read it for school, back when I kept track of how fast I was reading). It whizzed by, and it tore out my soul and shredded it as it went. There was something about that book, how it was written and paced and how the story went, that made me feel like I was there. I became each anguished character in turn, not only seeing and understanding their feelings but feeling them almost like they were my own. In some ways, it was bliss; only a truly gifted storyteller can get you so far inside a character's head that you have to look up and blink a couple of times when you put the book down before you fully absorb that the story isn't your reality. In others, it was torture; there aren't exactly many happy people in Bros. K, and not anyone to really root for, either.

Quantum of Solace was a little like that. It wasn't that Bond (once again, superbly played by Daniel Craig), wasn't emotional, it was that he was traumatized in the last movie and had to work it out in this one. He was cold, but it was because he held so much feeling, not so little. I left the theater with a bit of that sick feeling that intense self-doubt and revenge always give me, and yet I felt, with Bond, the relief that he'd worked it out (even though I hope to never need to work something out in his way). It was intense and very well done and a little sickening at the same time.

The day after I saw the movie, I began to wonder about the ethics of art, particularly as it pertains to my writing. I aspire to intertwine the emotions of my readers with those of my characters like this movie and like Bros. K. At the same time, I wonder if it's wrong to show certain things, or if there are certain emotions that my readers just don't need to feel along with my characters. Are certain things too evil or too dark to show? Where is the line between real and gratuitous when it comes to these sorts of things?

I don't have any answers for you, but I think the questions are important. I probably won't see Quantum of Solace again, but I'm glad I saw it once, if only for theses questions it raised.


heather said...

Great questions. I'm guessing we'll all be working through that our whole lives. Interesting, I'm about to post a podcast that's the first part of an interview with Dr. Reg Grant (professor, published author, actor, and apparently, tap-dancer), and we talk about art's pursuit of truth.
I've been wanting to see this movie. I wasn't a Bond fan until the last one (kind of like Batman--I wasn't a Batman fan until Batman Begins and Dark Knight). I didn't know his name is Daniel Craig. I call him the Layer Cake guy. (Another great film.)

Joelle said...

Ditto--great questions. I wonder how much is necessary, how much is too much especially with teaching. I firmly believe art, be it literature, music, or a painting, must speak to us from the depths of human experience. What is the balance? What is healthy? Don't know, but glad you're encouraging thought.

Christianne said...

I'm glad you're encouraging thought on this, too. And I don't really have any answers. I used to think I did. I used to be deeply opinionated about this stuff. But I've not thought about it much in a long, long time, and walking with you through this post was like meeting up with a long, lost friend.

What you described here is the way I felt when I read Asher Lev: sucked in, totally inside it, and completely shredded. I remember setting down the book afterward and not being able to move. I felt immobilized. Wait, I mean I was immobilized.

I love the Brothers K. Thanks for taking me back into it. I always think about that book when I read or hear the passage, "Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die . . . "

sojourner said...

You've made me want to see the movie! As a writer I do not think it is wrong to write about what comes from your heart and or imagination. The emotions that are brought by the reader brings the piece of art to life for them personally - separate from the artist. That is what connects the two. The greatest thing for me is when a reader brings something to a piece that is unique for them - something that comes from between the lines - something that touches the heart and imagination of the reader. If I can inspire a reader to create from a seed I have planted that means my piece of art has life and breath for other people. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Sarah said...

Heather--you know, I always liked Batman and Bond but I like the new ones a lot more. They aren't pleasant or even fun sometimes, but they are real, and well-done. Art pursuing truth, huh? And then I wonder about truth's relationship to things like mercy and goodness, justice and beauty...wow, more good questions.

Joelle--I imagine you have an interesting perspective, as far as the teaching goes, particularly because you have to ask, "What can they handle now? What can they see?" And maybe that's a key to all of this...what can people handle? If they see the new Bond and all they see is violence, not his journey, what then? Hmm...

Christianne--Asher Lev is totally another book that does the same thing. I left that book feeling so much conflict...he was right, he was wrong, he couldn't do anything else, he's responsible to his culture, etc. Wow...brings it all back. And I used to be more opinionated, too...now I wonder if it's less of a line and more of a gray area. Life is full of those...

Sojourner--if you want to see this movie, you have to see the previous one first. It totally follows and this one won't make sense if you don't see it. I think you have some wisdom here...if we share something true, from ourselves, there's something in me that, along with you, says it's good. But what if I'm sharing the cesspool that I know is inside, without hope or promise? What then? Hmmm...I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Sarah- you go into these deep reflections that brings a outsider inside your head. That is interesting. Maybe we all do that to some degree, but I would estimate that most people watch movies for entertainment, not self-reflection.

I say self reflections because along with questioning the movie, you are taking an introspective look as well.

You leaving that movie with those questions totally makes me think of things that i do myself. Right now i am at a weird point in my life. I am questioning all sorts of things within myself. I feel myself getting really depressed in doing so. There are lots of questions, and I am demanding answers, and I am not producing them.

Believe it or not your blog made me think about how cold i am on the inside right now. That was my introspection of your movie review. It is nothing new (my thoughts on coldness), I think i will write a blog about that.

L.L. Barkat said...

The line... is thin. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to walk it.

I loved your discussion of this movie. I mean, wow, Brothers Karamazov? I bow in admiration. :)

heather said...

Chris and I saw the movie on Saturday finally. I wish I had watched Casino Royale again or at least read the synopsis before we saw it. I'd forgotten so much of CR, I was confused during Quantum, trying to piece (or peace--ha) things together.
But I like the interactions with M--issues of trust and vengeance and duty and what it means to be human (it's a cold bastard who doesn't want revenge, or whatever she said versus Bond's statement that the dead don't care about revenge). It's about discovering truth and understanding what makes a person who they are. And Bond getting answers in the end and being able to let things go and forgive himself (as M told him in the beginning).

Sarah said...

LL--I'm with you on the walking it part...if only I could FIND it ;) And note, I read Bros K for school...tried to read it again later and couldn't get back into it. Maybe I'll try again, though.

Heather--I love your thought threads. And I should have mentioned about CR--I kept leaning over to Dave and asking him if I should know who these people were or what was going on ;)

Jannie said...

I am a girl into guys, well, I mean ONE guy. But hey I've seen the movie Kissing Jessica Stein and can certainly identify with being curious about "the other side",) and I love Bond movies partly for how perfectly gorgeous the women are. Filmed with the ultimate lighting, backdrops, clothing, hair make-up etc.

Sheer gorgeous visual feast.

To me Sean Connery is The Real Bond and I cannot watch another.

Jen said...

Hey, Sarah. Thanks for this post (and your whole blog—I love reading it!).

In answer to your question about the portrayal of evil in art, I think you might find insight from Cardinal John Henry Newman's pastoral comments (circa 1908) on walking that line between good imagination and gratuitous exploration of evil. I stumbled across a relevant sermon of his in the fall and found it very challenging, convicting, and helpful in providing distinctions and clarity.

And,happily, it is online for free! See "Sermon 18: Ignorance of Evil" from Parochial and Plain Sermons, volume 8.

Like you, I appreciated many aspects of Quantum of Solace, including, especially, the journey and resolution Bond experiences. On the other hand, some things, for example, the rape images, I found completely gratuitous and harmful to my soul. Do we really need to see how he bound her or what position he had her in when he victimized her? I don't think it does me any good to have those images now burned in my soul. I can't imagine it edifies anyone else either. I also do not appreciate the copious amounts of voyeurism replete in this and pretty much every other film now made. I used to really like seeing all the hot sexy people in amazing clothes and provocative scenes in Bond films and film in general, but lately, I've seen this as a perversion within myself and repented of it. (I wish the movie industry and the American public would repent of it, too. But that's not going to happen any time soon!)

I general, I am not prudish about art and believe that portraying ugliness and sin can be an appropriate, even necessary, way for the artist to explore the truth of the human condition. For example, I love Bros. K! But there does seem to be a very real line that, as artists, we would be wrong to cross. God help us!

Sarah said...

Thanks, Jen. My brain isn't forming my thoughts coherently yet this morning, so I hope this all makes sense ;)

Overall, I think you're right. Since I wrote this, I've developed a similar sense--that sometimes we just don't need to see it all and it is, in fact, harmful for our souls if we do.

I still want reserve the idea, though, that there might be a place where something like that is necessary or is beneficial. I'm not sure if that's because I hate closing doors completely or if it's legitimate, but it's my intuition.

My problem is that I can't entirely explain that intuition. It FEELS right, but I can't back it up with much, so I guess I'm waiting...waiting to see if my mind can catch up to my intuition (which sometimes happens) or if I can't back it up because it's totally bogus.

Oh, and I can't get the link to open, so I'll try to find the sermon somewhere else and read it later.