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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday 22 October, '09: Hiroshima mon amour

Watch Hiroshima mon amour (1959) with a carefully chosen companion - someone who appreciates the craft of fine movie-making, striking screenplay spoken liquidly in French (with English subtitles), a bittersweet love story and the gaunt simplicity of black and white film.

This unusual movie is no 'dime store romance' to use the words of the main character, a Frenchwoman who finds herself in post-war Hiroshima to make a movie about peace. She is expressively portrayed by the beautiful Emanuelle Riva. Riva was a stage actress at the time and was chosen by the director, Alaim Resnais, almost by accident, to star in the movie. Eijii Okada takes the role of her Japanese lover whom she meets by chance in Hiroshima, a city which has already been restored just 15 years after the atomic explosion. By 1959 the city has become a tourist showpiece fitted with flashing neon lights, a musem which artistically commemorates the atomic explosion, and many other tourist attractions which are beginning to trivialise the catastrophe and all its moral implications.

But could Hiroshima and its inhabitants have forgotten so quickly?
Can anyone dismiss a trauma with the rapid passing of a few years?

This is the question that is played out in this intense love affair. The emotions awakened by her love affair with her Japanese lover in Hiroshima evoke in the Frenchwoman a painful memory, a traumatic story of the war that she has never retold to anyone before. In a series of flashbacks she relates the story of her girlhood love for a young Bavarian soldier during the Nazi Occupation of France. When her lover is shot on the eve of the Liberation, her relationship with him is exposed and she is dragged to the city square to have her head shaven and to be shunned in disgrace.

This is a magnificent movie but it is a not just another Franco-Japanese version of Casablanca. It struck a chord deep within my own heart as I viewed it alone last weekend. Surely it concludes with the most romantic lines on celluloid spoken by two fine actors (screenplay by Marguerite Duras):
" You are Hir-o-shima!"
"And you are Nevers, France!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

20 October '09: I never tire of the jacarandas in bloom in My world

I never cease to be captivated by the jacarandas in full bloom. The familiar streets are seen through a haze of purple lace; the pavements are pooled with great circles of mauve blossoms which go 'Pop' when stepped upon. In my front garden Tristram stands in the shade of a huge jacaranda with a twisted and rugged trunk of grey bark.

The view east up Marais street. While taking these shots, a passerby comments,"I'm from Durban and I always tell the folks up there to come to Pretoria in October if they are planning a wedding to have their photos under the jacarandas." "Wonderful, aren't they?" I agree, "I live here and I never tire of them. Every year I am out here taking still more pictures."
We strolled up William Drive in appreciative silence. The man paused again and glanced at me, "Do you know that heaven will be even more beautiful than this? I am a Muslim and in the Koran I have read that the next world will be far more magnficent than earth. Imagine the trees!" "Yes, I'm a Christian," I smiled, "and the Bible talks about eye not having seen what God has prepared for us." He nodded wordless and walked on..
Such is My World at present. What does yours look like this Tuesday noon in October? I'm off to the My World webpage to find out before my first student for the afternoon arrives.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday, 9 October '09: Seeking solitude while 'Out stealing horses'

Dominant themes in Per Petterson's striking novel are solitude and memories. Trond, a recent widower, retreats to a small cottage in the isolated forests of Norway (but within driving distance from Oslo) after the death of his wife. With his dog, Lyra, for a companion, engaged in hard physical work and in simple, uncluttered surroundings, he delves back into the past remembering the events of the summer of 1948 which he spent in similar surroundings and in close relationship with his father. Those memories spark off his reconstruction of what he had heard of the events during the Nazi occupation of Norway - events which eventually drew his father away from his wife and family and left Trond to face young adulthood and the rest of his life, fatherless. However, the most successful scene in the novel, in my view, is Trond's recollection of an outing with his mother - a single time when she rose above her hopeless situation as an abandoned wife and in which mother and son walked side by side in joyful companionship.

My two dear Norwegian friends have so often described the little wooden cottages with no running water and outside toilets in the Norwegian countryside which families hold dear as getaways both in winter and summer. I feel that I can see the wood stove, the scrubbed floorboards, the gaslamp, a brightly coloured woolen blanket tossed on the bunk and the stout door barricading the snow and cold outside. At present as the year hurtles to its closure, I wish I could escape to solitude in a hut in the snowy woods of Norway - just for a day or two!

Oh, and the enigmatric title? That refers both to boyish pranks and the code name given to 'outlawed' activities of the Norwegian resistance during WWII.