This is my first post for the Classic Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

Christa Wolf, one of East Germany’s most recognized authors, made her breakthrough with Divided Heaven (Der geteilte Himmel; Jaettu taivas) in 1963. It was filmed the next year by Konrad Wolf. It’s a love story with social criticism. Rita is a young and innocent girl living in the countryside, Manfred is a highly educated chemist. They fall in love at a dance and everything seems to be just perfect when Manfred takes Rita to the city and they set up house (sort of) at Manfred’s parents’ house. For a while it seems that the couple could live happily ever after in the privacy of their loft room. Before Rita starts her studies to be a teacher, she takes a summer job at a rail car factory. There she befriends some co-workers and gets a glimpse of the system. The system here meaning of course the socialist society and machinery.

Manfred also confronts the system and is disappointed when he’s efforts in chemistry are not recognized. So he decides to defect to West Berlin. Rita follows Manfred and is surprised how easy it is to cross the border. (The story takes place just before the Berlin Wall is built). But Rita will not stay, she describes it like “being worse than a foreign land because everybody speaks a language you understand”. For Manfred, West Berlin is a dream come true: “Don’t you agree the West is at our feet right now?”

So it is not the Berlin Wall that separates these two. It’s their ideals. Manfred finds East Germany stifling and still very much haunted by the trauma of war. In West Berlin he has a chance to work and pursue a career.For Rita, East Germany is all she knows. She sees the problems with socialist society but also sees the good things in her life and home. She has friends who are incorruptible (like her co-worker Mr. Meternagel), who really believe in doing the right thing and serving his country.

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Divided Heaven was probably the first East German novel I’ve ever read. Even though, I’ve had Christa Wolf on my TBR list for ages. I don’t know if I’m that impressed. Wolf’s style is a bit plain. I do still think that it was worth reading just to get some insight into the life of East Germany in the sixties. The film was more to my liking, more stylized and still relevant.

Summer is here and so is Classic Film Book challenge! This summer I will try once again read Mai Zetterling’s memoirs. And maybe Åke Lindman’s biography. And Christa Wolf’s novel Divided Heaven. We’ll see if I finish six books within the time limit. The challenge runs until September 15th.

Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge

Everyone who has ever studied media culture or film theory has at least heard of Laura Mulvey‘s essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). The essay is definitely one of the major texts in feminist film theory and it is often quoted. Mulvey’s claim is basicly this: mainstream Hollywood film always positions the actress as the object of a male gaze and desire. Mulvey uses psychoanalytic theory in constructing her own theory of traditional film narrative as a manifestation of patriarchal system. One can ask is psychoanalytical theory still relevant to analyse film. I’m not really one to say. Mulvey’s point of view is interesting though.

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) is Laura Mulvey’s and Peter Wollen’s second collaboration in filmmaking. It is an avant-garde classic and ever since I read Mulvey’s essay I’ve wanted to see this film. However, I was a bit hesitant to watch it since I don’t always appreciate avant-garde… Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The film is very political yet artistic. I quite liked the 360 degree panning shots that break the traditional narrative. The film score (by Mike Ratledge) is almost hypnotic. The film consists of chapters, most of them show protagonist Louise who struggles with society’s expectations of her as a woman and a mother. Mulvey and Wollen definitely have a  unique point of view that comes across in the film.

British Film Institute has yet again done a marvellous job by releasing this film on DVD and Blu-ray. Extras include Mulvey’s and Wollen’s first film Penthesileia and audio commentary with Mulvey.

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Rock Hudson His Story (Rock Hudsonin tarina) was published in 1986 about a year after the star’s death. Rock Hudson valued his privacy but just before his death he wanted to share his story with the world. Journalist and writer Sara Davidson was able to interview Rock himself among his closest friends and family. Hudson was the first celebrity to contract AIDS and die because of it. This is understandably an important theme in the book. In the 80s not much was known of AIDS, it was considered a death sentence and people were scared of transmission (mostly for no reason). Hudson was also one of the most celebrated film stars and actors who was also gay. All this doesn’t shock today’s reader at all but thirty years ago it was shocking news worldwide. I actually remember hearing about Rock Hudson’s death in the news when I was a little girl. I didn’t understand what the words gay or AIDS meant. I was only sad to hear that this gorgeous man who I’d already seen in films had died.

Davidson’s book is an easy read. Luckily Davidson was able to interview so many Hudson’s friends and colleagues. They all knew a different side of Hudson. And we readers get to see a glimpse of all those sides as well. Being an international film star, every girl’s dream and at the same time gay in Hollywood in the the 50s and 60s wasn’t easy. Although many in show business knew about Hudson’s secret, it never got out until the very end. As an actor Hudson was a professional and made many friends. One of his favourite co-stars was Doris Day and he considered their films together among the best in his career. I wish there had been more stories about Hudson’s films. For example his wonderful film Come September (with Gina Lollobrigida) is only briefly mentioned. I wish there had been some stories from the set. It would have also been interesting to know more about his films with Douglas Sirk. There are some photos attached in the book but there could always be more from family albums.

It is truly sad that Hudson had to live his life in the closet and suffer from a disease which today is not anymore a death sentence. I’m glad though I finally read this book. Hudson’s work has stood the test of time. Now I only wish I had Written on the WInd on dvd, I haven’t seen it in ages….

hudson

This week’s challenge: Which classic film do you consider to be stupid, boring or just a waste of space?

Citizen Kane. I don’t necessarily think that CK is stupid or boring or insignificant in any way. The first and only time I saw this film, I was about 15 years old and I suppose at that time I wasn’t able to appreciate Orson Welles’ innovative style or technique. I guess I should give CK another chance, some day…

Photo from Wikipedia