Showing 1 - 6 of 6 annotations contributed by Spiegel, Maura
Summary:The story follows the final twelve or so hours in the life of a 62 year old widow, emblematically named Dante Remus Lazarescu, (Ioan Fiscuteanu). Suffering with stomach distress and a terrible headache (eventually diagnosed as a subdural hematoma and late stage liver cancer), he spends his last night being shuttled by ambulance, or rather by an ill-equipped van serving as ambulance, from hospital to hospital, unable to secure the emergency surgery that would save him. The hand-held camera and long uncut takes -some are six or more minutes- give the movie the feel of unfolding in real time. In places, it has the look of a documentary, and it has been compared to Frederick Wiseman's Hospital (1970).
An animated documentary is the unlikely category assigned by producer/director/writer Ari Folman to this distinguished film. In broad strokes the film is a memory-recovery narrative, the director’s pursuit to fill in the "black holes" in his recollection of the days, during the 1982 Lebanon War, surrounding the massacres at the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Sabra and Shatila by Christian supporters of the assassinated Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayal. While the film finds its climax in the Palestinian genocide, along the way it examines the experience of ordinary Israeli soldiers in richly provocative storytelling –as these accounts are textured by a twenty-year time lapse, which offers perspective, insight, telling gaps, and small revelations, as, for example, when we learn that one character abandoned his ambitions to be a scientist after the war, left Israel to grow wealthy selling falafel in The Netherlands.
Folman recounts the soldiers’ narratives of disorientation, terror and loss by representing not only their experiences, but their dreams, hallucinations, distorted memories –all of which are rendered with exquisite power, mostly in vividly nightmarish cut-out animation. Added to these narratives are interviews with a psychologist, a trauma expert, a reporter who was on the scene at the refugee camps and others –adding texture and commentary to an already multi-layered story.
This films provides a fresh engagement with issues of memory and trauma, and explores the dynamics between the trauma of a nation –not only a war but the deep unexamined scar of “indirect responsibility” for a genocide— and the trauma of an individual soldier. Representing the soldier’s war as a lonely, companionless and even passive experience, the film works to undermine a host of cinematic conventions. The viewer becomes alert to the paradox that the animation has the estranging effect of making what it recounts more “real” through its access to characters’ interior states.
Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction
Summary:This impactful memoir recounts the events of the summer of 1996 when Greenberg's fifteen-year old daughter Sally "was struck mad," as he puts it (3). Greenberg's portrayal of Sally's behavior as her illness erupts -seemingly from nowhere-- is staggeringly vivid and trustworthy, as is his description of the series of reactions that belong to him, the father who cannot protect, cannot even reach his daughter, although she sits beside him.
Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video
Genre: TV Program
Summary:This three-part BBC television miniseries centers on the large weekend reunion of a prosperous Anglo-Jewish family at a luxurious West End hotel. Various family members discover one another and uncover family stories and secrets that reorient them in their lives. Writer-Director Stephen Poliakoff does not adhere to a conventional story structure, and this wandering tale is full of unexpected and rewarding narrative dips and turns.
This is the story of an adult brother and sister whose lives are indelibly marked by the deaths of their parents, killed in a car accident when the children were young. Set in the small town in upstate NewYork where they grew up, the film centers on a visit by Terry (Mark Ruffalo) to his older sister Sammy (Laura Linney). Portraying the vicissitudes of their relationship, the film traces the effects of loss on these two compelling individuals.
The film opens uncoyly with the scene of the parents' fatal car accident. Beneath the credits we watch the church-funeral, the two small children clutching hands while a Minister addresses the assembled.
When the story picks up, we are introduced to the lives of the now adult siblings. Sammy is still living in their parents' home, working in a local bank branch office and raising her son Rudy, a somber eight-year old who is becoming curious about his estranged father. Rudy, at eight, is the age Terry was when their parents died. Sammy is a reliable, loving mom, but otherwise her life appears constricted.
We find Terry, the younger brother who is now twenty-five years old, saying goodbye to a much younger girlfriend; he is leaving to borrow some money from his sister, whom he hasn't seen in two years. Terry, endearing but irresponsible, is leading a marginal existence, broke and unemployed, no fixed address.
A long restaurant reunion scene between the siblings reveals the texture of their relationship. We see that Sammy adores and worries about Terry; he is the light of her life. Terry conveys restless discomfort with his sister's expectations, experiencing her concern for him as a burden. He reveals that he has been out of touch because he was in prison for a while, and that he needs to borrow money to pay for a girl's abortion.
After learning that his girlfriend has attempted suicide, Terry sends her the money and decides to stay with Sammy for a while. In small increments, Terry and his nephew Rudy warm up to one another. Meanwhile Sammy's life takes an unexpected turn as she begins an affair with her controlling, married boss (Matthew Broderick); this begins just after an old flame of hers resurfaces with a marriage proposal. Neither relationship provides her much nourishment. Without easy answers, the film helps us connect the dots between Sammy's unsatisfying relationships with men and her adaptation to loss and to becoming the caretaking elder sibling.
Terry's visit goes wrong when, after a series of small irresponsible dealings with Rudy, Terry takes it upon himself to introduce the child to his estranged father, resulting in an ugly scene. Sammy, distraught, asks her brother to leave, as he "doesn't know how to be around an eight year old." The film ends with their farewell as they wait for Terry's bus out of town. Terry doesn't know where he is heading or when he'll be back. The scene presents a remarkable exchange of feelings as Terry comforts Sammy, telling her it's always good to know that she "is back here rooting" for him, and assuring her that "everything will be all right -comparatively." Sammy cannot draw him into her world or her life, and every parting with him feels permanent. They find their childhood connection in this scene--and the camera follows each of them for several beats after they separate, Terry on the bus and then Sammy driving to work. We feel them slowly absorbing the violence of severing--going back into themselves. Have they affirmed that in fact they can count on one another or reminded themselves (and us) that nothing can be counted on?
A surprise element in the movie is the character of Father Ron, a Minister played by writer-director Kenneth Lonergan. Sammy turns to the minister for guidance, seeking advice about her brother. In two surprising scenes, Father Ron injects into the narrative a sweetly earnest note regarding faith and finding meaning in our lives.
Primary Category: Literature / Fiction
The voice of a young girl leads us through this spare and tautly told story of a closely-knit family upon whom tragedy falls like a plague. Before death and mental illness take up residence there, we meet the Bronstein’s, two parents and four children, in their comfortable, well-run home outside of Boston. Hermann delicately renders the portents of change and pain that haunt all loving families. The novel opens with the nine year-old Ruby Bronstein’s discovering, while walking along the beach with her three older brothers on a winter afternoon, an old rusty pistol poking out of the sand.
The family story deepens as the teenage Ruby recounts a sojourn with her parents to Terezin, the Nazi concentration camp where her father was interned as a child. Hermann’s restraint and precision in this sequence make this potentially familiar journey entirely new. With her young eye trained on her father’s every muscle-twinge of reaction to what he sees, she crisply conveys the unknowability of even an adored father –let alone the events that took place within these walls. Her father’s inaccessible childhood memories are not miraculously jarred by this return to the scene of trauma – but he learns shortly thereafter of a brain tumor that soon will end his life.
One tragedy follows another, the emergence of mental illness in one brother, the death of another. The narrative traces Ruby’s efforts to carry on in the face of these devastating losses. Here is where the novel explodes in cold fire, in its quiet accounting of a young person’s grief as it is lived in its ordinary, daily course. Loss begins to deform her social life, giving her the feeling that she is a freak. The scale of things is too disproportionate; she dresses for the prom while her brother lies dying in the intensive care unit. Carrying the stigma of disaster, she hides news of family developments for which she has no vocabulary. What good would talking do anyhow, she asks –until she finds the listener she needs.