Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the comparison dilemma

i recently saw two trailers of the 'hollywood adaptation' of Steig Larsson's brilliant millennium trilogy... there's much hype about the soon-to-be-released movie and i guess its more than justified.

the books are superb... the storyline is so unbelievably twisted... its tough to sum up the books in fact... at most you'll be left with mere descriptions - umm, lets see... its about... corporate capitalism, women haters, serial murder, investigative journalism... yada, yada, yada... and the world it creates - the people, the relationships, the emotions... (know what i mean?)... it's detailed to the blink of an eyelash and fast-paced in a manner that won't allow you to let out a breath until you're done reading the last page of last book, only because you know its the last.

the swedish movies were stunners with grade-a acting... noomi rapace was as solid as a rock... lisbeth salander is such a tough character to portray.... she rarely emotes... and she's ruthless, forceful and shockingly brilliant in her thoughts... and for rapace to convey the depth and sense of lisbeth through her acting was simply brilliant... she was understated, sure. but she wasn't a goth-zombie staring pupils-dilated into space either... .she packed so much attitude!!! absolutely kicked-ass!! i won't say the rest of the cast packed an equal punch, but the leads were stunning....

now, the 'hollywood' adaptation... first off, its a 'hollywood adaptation' and not the other way round, which is what hollywood's used to, i guess... so that's reason enough to get curious... i mean, why go pick a novel, a swedish one at that, which many might simply dismiss as 'airplane novel' or worse still, 'pop fiction', which has already been adapted as a movie in swedish with rave reviews... so what's the big deal...

next up... the big names... so yea, its david fincher of seven, zodiac and the much recent the social network fame... if that isn't enough, you have daniel craig (very hot!!!).. and rooney mara playing lisbeth... hmm...

so its inevitable i guess that when the hollywood adaptation is out, it at one level will be compared to the book.. but that comparison with the book will occur by means of a detour through the swedish movie.... people aren't going to watch it and simply say, 'hey this scene from the book was not there'... they'll be saying.. 'this scene which was there in the swedish movie was not there in this'.. and vice-versa....

articles online have already started taking notes on what all the swedish film missed out on which the hollywood one will capture.. and what changes from the novel this one will make.. oh and all the e-battles have already begun about 'watch the movie and then make your comparisons'... or 'don't go flaunting your world cinema knowledge here, buddy'... 'you judge a movie based on the music you hear in the one minute trailer?' etc. etc. etc..

so... yea... i guess i look forward to it... but i'm waiting and watching for rooney mara.... i have a premonition she's not going to pull through lisbeth's role... from whatever the trailers indicated, its the direction, cinematography.. and check out the camera angles on  her... she looks like she's from outer-space!! seriously! dot pupils.. blank face....

so guess i'll be making those comparisons as well... at least as far as lisbeth is concerned...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

all things inheritage

i came across a wonderful post by a friend with regard to museums, heritage and the question of repatriation here -

those interested should most certainly go through it. its one of the most careful and complex analysis of these issues i've read...

and here's my response to it; it would be on the blog as a comment to the post as well.

hey.. it really is wonderful to see this piece. it's brought together so many complex debates around repatriation, heritage and museumization that are of such contemporary relevance. if you'll permit, i have a few bones of contention to offer.

firstly, let me get this one little itch out of the way - to my mind, the British Museum [unlike many others of similar legacy] is singularly unique and notorious both with regard to international museum laws and acts, and in relation to this, its claims to retain many collections. this is unlike many other nation-states and their museums [national museums or otherwise] which especially in the case of the Elgin marbles have been greatly forthcoming in their support towards its repatriation. while you are right in that the de-contextualized and travelling histories of cultural objects such as the marbles do offer multiple meanings, histories and contexts, i wonder if it is possible at all to attain a 'complete history' of the marbles, regardless of their location. i would think that it is in this desire for 'complete'ness in the context of discourses of museumization and heritage that one often overlooks the fact that these discourses are intrinsically tied to the question of nation, in its constitution of a public. [let us not forget that the Louvre was a private collection thrown open to the public following the French Revolution in its attempt at 'making-bourgeois' of its public].

the discourse of heritage is very much part of the project of modernity, although it often is posited as contradictory. the question of cultural heritage repatriation arises, as you pointed out, in most post-colonial and post-imperial contexts precisely because these 'universal' museums emerged under contexts of imperialism and colonialism. and let us not forget also, that the discourse of modernity is very much nationalist; nationalist of the kind that claims universal validity. in fact, the claim for 'universality' has conventionally been the rubric within which colonialism, imperialism, and discourses such as orientalism functioned.

can one put aside 'particular' claims to heritage in favour of the condition of modern nation states? this then shifts the debate to one of 'better preservation', which, needless to state, is grossly flawed. [i refer here to your example of Egypt]. and it is not a matter of reversing a dark imperial or colonial past and their wrong doings, but of recognizing multiple and particular claims of heritage. [and yes, as much as I'm against 'nationalist' claims, these nation-states, in the context of the 'universal' claims made under imperialism and colonialism do become 'particular']. the travesty of heritage discourses is that the universal rubric of heritage tends to overlook the particular demands of heritage; in short, it claims itself to be the sole bearer of heritage, denying others a similar claim. and when the British Museum today claims universality of cultural heritage, it is doing so from a nation-state perspective, not some imperial or universal one.

if the question of museums and heritage is not seen within the paradigm of nation-states, and in the context of repatriation within postcolonial and postimperial conditions, it would be very easy to make a claim for universal heritage.

anyway, let me wrap up by sharing my experiences of when i visited the British Museum. it shattered me to the very core to see how it obstinately denied its imperial and colonial past under the shroud of universal cultural heritage. i'm no big fan of nationalist demands for repatriation. but i'm equally if not more sickened by the violence of denial of histories of imperialism and colonialism, of which the British Museum stands in glorious testimony to.

this is an issue that cannot be 'resolved' through accommodations or name-changing, or even repatriation; but how long can we deny the legitimacy of particular demands, especially if the 'particularity' of those positions emerged precisely through the setting up of a 'universal'.