Sunday, July 8, 2012

Love, friendship and separation - Different languages, universal themes

Some themes are universal, the themes of love, friendship and separation for example. I have been spending evenings in my apartment room seeing some exemplary cinema. I realized when I saw the brilliant collection of foreign language movies in the Stuttgart library that, this is one world - a world that is neither hollywood nor bollywood - that I had never experienced.  I took the plunge...

Mommo (Turkish)  -

A brother and sister, at a tender age come to terms with the harsh reality of their mother's death and their father's remarriage. They live with their grandfather and suffer the torment of their father cold-shouldering them and favoring their half-brother. Mommo is heartrending, beautiful and disturbing at the same time. 

They say, the purest form of love is unselfish where two people trust each other completely. Ahmet's love for Ayse in this Turkish movie is a fine example. He does everything in his capacity to make her feel happy and cared for. The poverty of the village, the bleak future staring at them and the unceasing slander machinery of the neighborhood seem to have little effect on the boy. His answers to many of his sister's innocent questions exhibit a maturity and sense of responsibility beyond his age.

Many times during the course of this one and half hour movie, I felt a lump in my throat. 

La lengua de las mariposas (Spanish)

This story takes place just before the onset of the civil war in Spain. Moncho is apprehensive about his first day at school but in no time begins a beautiful friendship with his teacher, Don Gregario. The two make for an unlikely couple. The boy’s intelligence and curiosity and the old man’s love for nature gel together and make for delightful viewing.

Moncho’s brother Andrés is smitten by a mysterious woman while his own father has an illicit daughter in the village. These sidetracks offer rich glimpses into the Spanish society of the age. 

Of special mention is the part in the movie when the teacher quotes the Spanish poet Antonio Machado from one of his sonnets, “A deserted bed, a cloudy mirror, and an empty heart” when the boy asks his teacher about his wife.

Äideistä parhain (Finnish)

Eero crosses over to Sweden against his will along with numerous other children during world war II. Separated from his mother and having lost his father to the brutalities of the war, he walks into a home only to be received by a frigid Swede in Signe Jönsson. The boy tries in vain to escape to Finland risking his life in the process. Fortunately, Hjalmar, Signe’s husband befriends him. 

With time, Eero understands why Signe often loses her temper. The portrayal of the relationship between the child and the transformed Signe is movie making at its best. Soon a time comes when the boy has to return to his biological mother, who, by then is grappling with guilt. 

This story, at its core is about separation. The two world wars did unimaginable damage to the fabric of the European society but they also shed light on what can only be termed the tenderness of the human spirit. Classic moviemaking!

Turkish, Finnish or Spanish, the language might be different, but certain themes are universal. Movies like these also impart cultural lessons and for that single reason alone, are worth taking an interest in!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Reading experience unparalleled!

I am a die-hard fan of good libraries...the first reasonably good library I encountered was in my first year of college. The Madras Institute of Technology library in Chennai might not be the biggest and it is certainly not the most well maintained, yet, it had a special charm for me. I borrowed books almost every week but almost always, returned them untouched...the library was my abode during short breaks and the aircraft model opposite the entrance always reminded me of black and white images. 

Then, there was the British Council Library near the TVS bus stop on Mount road. There were days when I had spent more time there than at my college campus. If I got a 4 hour break between classes, I would catch a MTC bus, go to the library, browse through the collection and come back in time for the class....those days!! 

In Bangalore, I began to frequent Mylib. Located in the southern part of the city, it is a compact, well equipped library that lives up to its "neighborhood library" tag. Run by two wonderful and passionate people, am sure, it will branch out and expand soon..! You can read my post on it here.  Even at work, my love for libraries remained undiminished. The SRR campus library of Intel and the Koramangala library of Bosch, well, to me, they are special places!

Books & Media collection

Now, coming to the point of this post, I recently became a member of the Stuttgart city library. At a yearly membership fee of 15 EUR, one can borrow as many as 15 items at a time (books or media) and return them a month later. It has nearly 20 branches distributed throughout the city. Whilst I have been frequenting the branches at Feuerbach and zufenhausen, the latter mostly, today, I decided to visit the main branch at Mailänder Platz. 

Reading area for children
It is a massive structure, spread over 8 floors and boasting of jaw-dropping infrastructure! I have never in all my life seen such a rich collection on so many wide variety of subjects. Art, Culture, travel, business, management, information technology, literature, books for young children, music, dance, languages and media in almost every European language the collection is simply mind blowing! 

View from the one of the gallery halls
Infrastructure is ultra modern and tasteful. There is an entire floor of media and books dedicated to children on the second floor. It is a treat to the eyes to see such interiors....if only, we do even 10% this back in India!! A cafe at the 8th floor serves drinks, salad and pastries. Of special highlight are the gallery halls, located centrally in every floor starting from the 4th. 

I picked up 2 finnish, 1 french, 1 spanish and 1 turkish movie, a novel by JM Coetzee and an essay collection by Emerson....pure indulgence!