Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blood Diamond (2006) and Millennium Star

Blood Diamond is a 2006 political thriller film co-produced and directed by Edward Zwick and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou. The title refers to blood diamonds, which are diamonds mined in African war zones and sold to finance conflicts, and thereby profit warlords and diamond companies across the world.

Set during the Sierra Leone Civil War in 1992-2002, the film shows a country torn apart by the struggle between government soldiers and rebel forces. It also portrays many of the atrocities of that war, including the rebels' amputation of people's hands to discourage them from voting in upcoming elections.

The film's ending, in which a conference is held concerning blood diamonds, is in reference to an actual meeting that took place in Kimberley, South Africa in 2000 and led to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which seeks to certify the origin of rough diamonds in order to curb the trade in conflict diamonds. The film received mixed but generally favourable reviews.

Millennium Star
The story of the bird-egg sized pinkish rough diamond found by Djimon Hounsou in the movie may be inspired by one of De Beers' most celebrated and priceless diamonds, the flawless D-colour 200 carats (40 g) Millennium Star. It was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) and sold to De Beers during the height of the Civil War that took place in the early to mid-nineties. The extremely rare stone had the magic weight of 777 carats and it took three years for a team of world's leading experts at Steinmetz to cut from it the 203.04 carat pear shaped diamond.


Nicky Oppenheimer, DeBeers Chairman, was careful not to put a value on the Millennium Star, saying that any figure he would give would be purely academic. However, he did insure the Star for 100 million pounds, but this is believed to be a fraction of its true worth. The previous record price paid for any polished diamond was $16.5 million for a 100.10 carat stone, the Star of the Seasons, that was auctioned by Sotheby's in 1995, thus selling for about $165,000 per carat.

Diamond's are a girls best friends - but stones like this make human life cheap.

Human stories

Djimon Hounsou

It is the genuine and rough acting by Djimon Hounsou that makes the difference for Blood Diamond.

Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, gives this remarkable movie stardom. He is so Titanic, however, that I could not avoid comparing the other star, Jennifer Connelly, with Kate Winslet even I tried very hard not to.

Movie raising awareness of real issues
Rarely have I learned from a movie so much about current issues in our world today as from Blood Diamond.

After seeing it, I find that reading about the reality of blood diamonds from the wikipedia article and elsewhere I can actually understand and visualize the things described there. Blood Diamond film is quite an eye opener to the darker side of modern history of Sierra Leone and other West African states in turmoil.

Especially powerful is the description of the tragic world of child soldiers so intimately by focusing on the relationship between a father and his brain-washed son. I am just afraid that the scene from the rehabilitation centre where some of the boys were sitting without hand was taken in some real place with real war victims. At least the film looked like a documentary at that point.

Director Edward Zwick (ref)

Director Edward Zwick succeeded here in using the media of cinematography to pass a significant message. I am not surprised if this movie has influenced and still has impact on political decision makers dealing with modern diamond industry and conflict stones.

Edward M. Zwick (born October 8, 1952) is an American filmmaker and film producer noted for his epic films about social and racial issues. He has been described as a "throwback to an earlier era, an extremely cerebral director whose movies consistently feature fully rounded characters, difficult moral issues, and plots that thrive on the ambiguity of authority."


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Eschatology of the quartodeciman Paschal celebration

Here is a section of an expert wikipedia article on Quartodecimanism that deserves special attention.

The selected text refers to the unique contribution of German New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias (1900-1976) on Gospels and Early Church. The section contains deep insight into the relationship between the Jewish Pesach and early Christian Paschal celebration.

In his study, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, the Lutheran scriptural scholar Joachim Jeremias, made a compelling argument that the Quartodecimans preserved the original understanding and character of the Christian Easter/Passover celebration.

He states that in Jewish tradition four major themes are associated with Passover,
For Christians, the central events of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, i.e., his passion, death and resurrection, also are obviously associated with Passover.

Thus it was inevitable that the very earliest Christians also expected the imminent return of Christ to also occur during their Passover celebrations

Jeremias notes that the Quartodecimans began their Christian Passover celebrations by reading the appropriate readings from the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e., the twelve readings from the Hebrew Scriptures that still are read at the Easter Vigil in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Armenian traditions. 

At midnight, when Christ had not reappeared to inaugurate the great eschatological banquet, the Christians would celebrate the Paschal Eucharist in anticipation of that final act of the drama of the redemption of Christ. 

As this original eschatological fervor began to die down and as Christianity became an increasingly Gentile movement this original eschatological orientation of the Christian Passover celebration began to be lost and with the development of the practice of baptizing catechumens during the twelve readings in order for them to share the Eucharist for the first time with the Christian community at the conclusion of the Paschal Vigil, the baptismal themes came to dominate the celebrations of the Paschal Vigil, as they do again in those churches which have begun again to baptize its adult converts during the Easter Vigil. 

Major liturgical scholars such as Louis Bouyer and Alexander Schmemann concur with Jeremias' essential position and one has only to examine the Christian liturgical texts for Paschal Vigil to see evidence of this. E.g., the Eucharistic Preface for the Easter Vigil in the Roman, Lutheran and Anglican/Episcopalian traditions, which state:  ". . . on this night when Christ became our Passover sacrifice" 
or the Eastern Orthodox Troparion for Great and Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which warns the Christian community  "Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night and blessed are those servants he shall find awake . . ." 

In short, no one knows when Christ will appear at the end of time, but given other central events of redemption which occurred during Passover,[6] the earliest Christians assumed that Christ would probably appear during the Paschal Eucharist, just as he first appeared to his original disciples during their meal on the first Easter Sunday.[7]

The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, trans. Norman Perrin (1966; reprinted, 1977; 3d German ed.: 1960)
[paragraph formatting and emphasis added by me]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Apostle Paul on classical Romans (and us)

Roman noble woman
Tempera on wood.
Scuderie del Quirinale

First century AD Romans living at the time of emperors Caligula, Claudius and Nero were probably more ethical and healthy then many of us modern post-Christian westerners used to all kinds of  debauchery, cruelty and adultery Hollywood and Bollywood style.

It is true that apostle Paul gives a not-so-nice picture of his contemporaries in Italy in the Letter to the Romans dated some years later than the rule of Caligula 37-41 AD either Claudius (41-54 AD) or more likely Nero (54-68).

But note that here the focus of Saint Paul is on the heart, on religion and the pagan worship of the created instead of the God Creator. From this misplaced worship follows the debauchery and evil as God abandons such people in His just wrath - as if saying "this is not what I wanted when I created man and woman in my image".

Paul not only describes the human condition but the key content of his letter is the answer of God to this wretched situation Romans have led themselves, faith in Christ.

And today the city of Rome is something entirely different than it was in the time of Caligula.

... or is it?

Apostle Paul, servant of God
so, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you also who are at Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: "The just shall live by faith."

Fresco Hawwara, Egypt, ref
For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shown it unto them.

For from the creation of the world the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

For when they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God, nor were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and to birds and fourfooted beasts and creeping things.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves.

Oil on wood. Fayyoum, Egypt (ref)

They changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature.

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men, working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense for their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with
all unrighteousness,
full of envy,

Me as old Adam
They are whisperers,
haters of God,
inventors of evil things,
disobedient to parents,
without understanding,
covenant breakers,
without natural affections,

And knowing the judgment of God, that those who commit such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but have pleasure in those who do them.
Romans 1:15-23 KJ21

Bob Guccione's Caligula (1979)

The movie Caligula (1979) is an attempt to use cinematography to recreate life in the Roman world as it was before the arrival of the first messengers of Christ to the City.

Modern times in many ways resemble the Roman period and we are fascinated about the Romans we know so much about.  Yet, truly crossing from the Christian world back to pagan Rome is extremely difficult and requires very hard work.

I think that the powerful novel by Robert Graves I, Claudius (1934) and the 1976 BBC TV series made of it succeeded in recreating Rome. Similarly, the powerful 2005 TV series Rome created by Bruno Heller, John Milius and William J. MacDonald does a good job in this and is almost like a documentary. But here the work on historical sources, on characters and their motivations and behaviour shows.

Bob Guccione (1930 - October 10, 2010)
Bob Guccione was perhaps inspired by I, Claudius to make something about the Roman period. But his interest in making the movie Caligula were less in historical accuracy as in depicting a truly licentious person and his life style in Penthouse style. The movie was written by Gore Vidal and directed by Bob Guccione and Franco Rosselini. Malcolm McDowell acted as the emperor and other well-known actors John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren joined in.

It helps to understand the movie when we remember that Guccione was the founder of the Penthouse franchise in England 1965 and USA 1969 that was built as competition to Hugh Hefner's (1926) famous Playboy. His approach to the competition was to expose - to expose beautiful women more explicitly than the in Hefner's magazine; to expose sensational scandals and misdeeds by significant public figures of his times.

Caligula is an exposé of emperor Caligula's scandalous late years and first full-length movie containing explicit sex thus fits the Penthouse "revealing the secrets" style in both aspects. 

Caligula and us
There is a very deep ravine between the reality of classical Rome and its genuinely pagan world and modern Christian or post-Christian world. Making the jump from today's civilization, Western world and its morals or lack of ethics to the world before Jesus Christ came requires very hard work.

I think that Bob Guccione and his team did not work hard enough on the authentic Roman sources that describe Caligula and his times and give us a glimpses on how his contemporaries viewed him. What we know about Caligula's debauchery surely can inspire all kind of ideas about violence, adultery, orgies and deprived behaviour by murderous men and women. But this is not historical research but rather us reflecting our not so sublime feelings about total carnal freedom and the secret desires of our hearts to another time and place.

In Guccione's Caligula we are reflecting ourselves and our deep evil desires using ancient Romans as the mirror rather than exposing accurately what those Romans really were and how they felt about morality and humanity.

Caligula quotes
Emperor Claudius (37-41)
British Museums treasures - a reference coin 
Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum 
produced by Natalia Bauer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Suetonius gives in Twelve Caesars the famous sentence
Oderint dum metuan. 
I scorn their hatred, if they do but fear me.

As far as I know, the often quoted esoteric sentence in the movie Caligula is not history but modern fiction by Gore Vidal:

"I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am... a God. I shall wait for the unanimous decision of the senate, Claudius." (Caligula movie 1979)

It is, nevertheless, in line with what Philo wrote about Caligula in On the Embassy to Gaius:
"But the madness and frenzy to which he gave way were so preposterous, and so utterly insane, that he went even beyond the demigods, and mounted up to and invaded the veneration and worship paid to those who are looked upon as greater than they, as the supreme deities of the world, Mercury, and Apollo, and Mars."

Philo lets us understand that normal Romans considered Caligula nothing but a deprived mad, he was not considered a normal healthy human being by the classical authors. Emperor Caligula was not Rome as little as Marquise de Sade was Rococo France.

But in the eighth month a severe disease attacked Gaius who had changed the manner of his living which was a little while before, while Tiberius was alive, very simple and on that account more wholesome than one of great sumptuousness and luxury; for he began to indulge in abundance of strong wine and eating of rich dishes, and in the abundant license of insatiable desires and great insolence, and in the unseasonable use of hot baths, and emetics, and then again in winebibbing and drunkenness, and returning gluttony, and in lust after boys and women, and in everything else which tends to destroy both soul and body, and all the bonds which unite and strengthen the two; for the rewards of temperance are health and strength, and the wages of intemperance are weakness and disease which bring a man near to death.
Philo. On the Embassy to Gaius, II, sec. 14. 
Translated by C. D. Yonge.

God - the first and last Tailor

For interesting facts about fig leaves in art 
see Edmondons blog

Fig leaves
Things went wrong in the Garden of Eden as the Bible tells us.

The happily naked Adam and Eve living in the most wonderful garden realized after tasting the fruit of Knowledge that they actually have no clothes. This mattered to them and for the first time they felt ashamed.

In order to fix the uncomfortable problem they took some fig leaves - yes, there were figs in Paradise and we still have them! - to make some sort of a belt to cover their genitals. Not very practical, I assume, as fig leaves are rather stiff and large. "Fig leaves" is an expression in English indicating something that does not really do the job... symbolically speaking.

"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves things to gird about" Gen 3:7

Divinely made leather clothes

The man and woman had already disobeyed Him but God showed love and mercy and helped them out of the awkward situation - He slaughtered some of the animals He had created, skinned them and made Adam and Eve leather clothes.

"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them." Gen 3:21

[IMHO this Bible verse justifies in principle the use of animal skins for clothing and also the use of furs where they are needed. The campaign by animal activists against fur industry is right in one thing, however, the serious mistreatment of animals who will provide the beautiful skin for human clothing.]

Raiments white as the light
God of Israel takes care of His own.

We will all die naked and the funeral clothing will rather soon get rotten like our earthly body.

The Bible says that this is not the final situation but those belonging to the Lamb of God will get new clothes made by the Divine tailor, very bright. They will never get rotten.

Something like this:

Church of the Transfiguration, Ontario, Canada

"And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up onto a high mountain apart. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light."
Matthew 17:1-2

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

God and pubic hair

Modern times are choke-full with scientific, medical, psychological, sociological information about human beings. With the exponential growth of information about humans there is also a multitude of fundamentally differing understandings who we are. The views vary from various traditional religious to science-fiction futuristic, from materialistic to spirit bodies in the global setting of cultures and nations.

Evolutionism is characterized by theories and views that try to explain the origins of man from the functional point of view, what mechanism in the survival of the fittest world caused this or that feature in our genetic heritage. The current function of a feature is in this point of view also the key to the explanation and a plausible causal chain of actions must be established in carefully designed environments to produce racial differences, variations in body structure and so on.

Pubic hair is very difficult to explain from a strictly evolutionist point of view where natural selection is the only allowed guiding principle.

Age of Innocence
Because the Garden of Eden story uses mythological language it is able to convey a very rich package of messages to very different times and societies. Literal sources, art and other documents from theological treaties to folklore contain a rich repertoire of how people in the past have understood the powerful story in Genesis 2 and 3.

The Garden of Eden is described as the habitat of man and woman and it has powerful messages about the relation between God and Man, Adam. To this relationship is added the relation between Man and other creatures in the Garden and then, most importantly, the relation between Man and Woman, Adam and Eve.

The habitat of Adam and Eve is described as something truly wonderful. Very pointedly the story tells, that this was an era of sexual activity and innocence - they were man and wife, naked and did not feel the shame that we often feel when without clothes in the wrong place in the wrong time.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. [first anesthesia!]
And the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:21-25 KJ21

Age of Shame
The breaking of God's single command - do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge - led to the loss of the Age of Innocence and the Paradise was gone even they were still in there.

Their "eyes opened" to see something they had not seen before and they noticed that they are naked, without clothes.

Adam and Eve made their first clothing of fig leaves but still, when Lord was strolling in the Garden refreshed by late afternoon wind, they hid from him into the bushes.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and ate, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he ate.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves things to gird about.
And they heard the voice of the LORD God, walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the LORD God called unto Adam and said unto him, "Where art thou?"
And he said, "I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."
And He said, "Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?"
Genesis 3:6-11 KJ21

Pubic hair

Two red dots and a black triangle  is an immediately recognisable and very powerful sexual signal hitting the backbone of men.The removal of female pubic hair required in some cultures and done for aesthetic or other reasons in others thus has many symbolic and sexual meanings in the complex relationship between men and women.

Many lucky children live naturally in the Age of Innocence, naked without shame (not all children are so lucky). God has so made us that only after several years period of innocence the bodies of boys and girls start to go through physical changes during which the genital areas are modestly covered by pubic hair.

The hair growing on human skin varies in different locations on the body. Hair is not like eye brows or the hair on our legs and arms. Pubic hair is different in quality and design, one of the wonders of Nature.

Of course, the Biblical myth is not a scientific explanation to the growth of pubic hair. It does not even try to be such as it comes to us from ancient Near East.

But in a very powerful and beautiful way the story of the Garden of Eden introduces some very central concepts of humanity, that make the world go around today - man and woman, sexuality, innocence and shame.

This fundamental view can be applied to the growth of human children, development psychology, Freudian theory and many other things in scientifically oriented research or in art and so on.

Evolutionism would reduce all this richness and colours, lights and shades, the wonderful garden with fruits and birds, into mere fight for survival. It may be that someone figures out why cruel nature shows modesty by covering the genitals with special kind of pubic hair. Personally, I think that scientific exploration should be broader, made free of the shackles of by natural selection only, and find new more convincing theories about the sexuality in the nature, including modesty!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Orgasm - divine union

Batsheba. Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1889 (ref
The wife of Uria is one of the four women mentioned 
by Matthew in the family-tree of Jesus

When Jesus Christ was asked about divorce that is allowed by the Law of Moses he referred to the story of Creation in a particularly deep and significant way - intercourse (coitus) makes man and woman one flesh.

And He rose from thence, and went into the region of Judea by the farther side of the Jordan.
And the people resorted unto Him again; and as He was wont, He taught them again.
And the Pharisees came to Him and asked Him, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?" -- testing Him.
And He answered and said unto them, "What did Moses command you?"
And they said, "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away."
And Jesus answered and said unto them, "Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, 'God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.' So then they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Mark 10:1-9 KJ21

The verses in the Bible Jesus is referring contain the "being one" - as image of God, male plus female and the act of making love :

"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." Gen 1:27

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh." Gen 2:24

Please, note that it is not the Amen of the priest ("you may kiss the bride") or of the rabbi or the signature of the imam that signifies this becoming one, but the physical act of intercourse itself.

For this reason St Paul warns about prostitution, as the same physical act is present

What? Know ye not that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? "For two," saith He, "shall be one flesh." 1 Cor 16:6

Jesus also teaches us that there is no sex after the resurrection "for they are like angels". 

"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven." Matthew 22:30

This may make afterlife somewhat less interesting to some people but notice that there is no sex in the other place, either.


The Wave

God has created a wonderful world of things that bring man and woman, or any male and female in nature, together. The list of attractions is long and the web of social factors even longer and there is no end to the music, literature, poetry, visual arts, movies and ... describing the love games that lead two individuals to become one.

At the heart of the intercourse there is an irresistible process of increasing pleasure that is aimed for the male towards the point of orgasm, explosive ejaculation of his semen into the womb of the woman. If this does not happen, no matter how intensive the arousal, the song is that of Rolling Stones "I cannot get satisfaction". Something did not happen.

[For a spectacular medical MRI image of intercourse from theVisualMD,com click here.]

The female genitals are built especially for the somewhat curved male penis and lubricated during the act so that the man can keep pushing it deeper and deeper inside her. The friction on the tip of his penis inside the vagina causes in normal cases very powerful feelings of pleasure and stimulation that drive the process.

There is a kind of locking in the heart of the intercourse that is almost impossible to interrupt and the obvious goal is the fertilization of the female egg that is waiting for it in the uterus.The process is designed to guarantee the entry of the seed into the womb and one look at the world population charts demonstrates how extremely efficient system this is.

Female orgasm

Strictly speaking, female orgasm is not required for the reproduction system to work.

It is not always even recognized that the woman would have some needs other than the honour of being penetrated by the supreme man in search of his sexual satisfaction. In Sub-Saharan Africa the removal of clitoris or the entire external system with the labia surely prevents female orgasm and is believed to make the marriage more happy.

We may be quite sure, however, that marriages - and also extra-marital affairs - where the man is considerate about the woman's emotional and sexual needs, brings additional sweetness and feelings of love and belonging to the sexual act. But female orgasm is an extra bonus in good relationship and the fertilization of the egg can be achieved by only the man experiencing the ultimate pleasure of sexual orgasm.

Orgasm in Nature

Wallpapers wallcoo.net

In the animal world the locking of male and female during intercourse can be quite concrete, as in the case of dogs where the male member is physically stuck inside the female for almost ten minutes after the intercourse. Other male dogs that were fighting so fiercely for the right to fertilize that bitch understand and wait patiently without bothering the locked couple.

Orgasm is highly effective and God has given it to all mammals and also to birds, as we can see in their courting and love making. But do breeding fish have orgasm in sex? They must have something going in them that guides the laying of the eggs and the spreading of the fish sperm over it in water, a deep need and a navigation system and timers and so on.

Same wonders of creation can be seen in insect world where an army of ants takes care of the fertilization of the queen in an ant hill and where female trilobites swimming in Cambrian seas carry the eggs. What feelings go with the sex act we do not really know but they certainly work.

Again, the wonderful system of breeding, pollination, works in complex ways between entirely different species, insects and plants, both benefiting from the cooperation.  We would not expect flowers to feel anything during pollination when honey bees are aroused and attracted to them by scent and colour and who knows what to satisfy their need, perhaps even lust, for nectar.

But really, what do we know about the emotions of plants?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Perfume - a message to Patrick Süskind

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) is the most expensive German movie till today with a 50 million dollar budget. Directed by Tom Tykwer it was an enormous risk but turned out as a great financial success in Europe. The producers did not quite know how to market it in the USA and it failed there for this reason only. For this is a captivating and very well made movie.

Presence of the Devil

Devilish crowd control (ref)

Perfume movie is among the finest appearances of the Devil, the Ruler of this world, that I have seen.

Especially powerful is the power of the Dark Lord over the crowd and even the rather mockingly presented priest in the public execution scene. Also remarkable in this context is the sometimes Christ-like appearance of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille so aptly acted by Benjamin John "Ben" Whishaw (born 1980).

The movie Perfume is essentially evil.

And so are we.

The movie is a good commentary on the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John as it is built on the two things characterizing Devil  - he is a liar and a murderer.

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it."
John 8:44 KJ21

The entire movie is a total lie and scene after scene, so skilfully filmed in historically exceptionally accurate environments, is total bullshit. No such things have ever happened in human history. For this reason, the movie is very truthful about the human condition - we love to live in darkness, lies, orgies, carnal lusts, public dismembering and all kind of evil deeds of the darkness.

Getting the scent of a woman from her skin with this technique 
would actually not require murdering her (ref)

The movie is about murder. Also in its depiction of a serial killer, the public interest in such a character, the acts of killing perfectly beautiful virgins, sacrificing them for the cause, the movie full of lies is very truthful.

Good is destroyed by evil. Nothing new is created, as the Devil is not capable of creating new things. He can only corrupt God's good works and is very effective in that.

God loves good scents - here they are turned into the cause of the murderous obsession of a serial killer.

God has created the wonderful young virgin, of whom Virgin Mary is the most famous, and here they are utterly destroyed.

Father (Alan Rickman) loves his lovely daughter Laura (Rachel Clare Hurd-Wood) above all. In real life, he would probably have killed Jean-Baptiste with his sword instead of being charmed by the scent created partly from her daughter's skin to call the obsessive killer "his son". 

Devil has no mercy.

Jean-Baptiste reaches the perfect Perfume, but instead of becoming happy and satisfied, he uses it to destroy himself and the low life of Paris night devour him alive.

God has mercy and forgives even the worst sins because of Jesus Christ.

Also in this the movie so full of lies and distortions is very truthful. For in the real world people prefer the merciless Devil and his exciting evil over the boring, merciful God.

The Dirt

To say that the sceneries are meticulously created
would be a blatant understatement!

The honest and truthful settings and sceneries in the movie Perfume are pure art. To reach this level of historical accuracy in every detail must have required massive research and preparations.

But especially outstanding in the movie Perfume is the depiction of dirt suggesting stench. This in contrast to the hospital sterile historical cities in many other movies.

Our measure was to make the film look as though we were simply there. Not to put something on a platter, but rather to treat everything as though it was truly there. Which turned out to be an unimaginably complicated process. Every last thing had to be made, every building decorated. We wanted to create the feeling that we'd got inside a time machine, and just happened to have a camera team with us and we could have filmed any part of the 18th century. So that the viewer has the feeling of normality. The normality of the architecture, the normality of the dirt. The historical reality.
In the titles a "Dirt Surface Crew" comes up.It sounds like the name of a rock band. That was a vital unit for the set design. Not only did they have the insane job of covering all the walls and surfaces - some of which were parts of real cities - in a layer of filth, they also had to wash it all off as soon as the shooting was over. And it generally takes a lot more time to clean something than to make it dirty. And of course the cities were very anxious that we should avoid turning their museum-like streets into a permanent inferno. From an interview of director Tom Tykwer

Das Parfum

The movie is based on the novel Das Parfum (1986) that was a phenomenal success and stayed for nine years in the best-seller list. However, beyond selling the rights to his book, Süskind did not participate in any way in the making of the movie.

... is a 1985 literary historical cross-genre novel (originally published in German as Das Parfum) by German writer Patrick Süskind. The novel explores the sense of smell and its relationship with the emotional meaning that scents may carry. Above all this is a story of identity, communication and the morality of the human spirit.

The story focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfume apprentice in 18th century France who, born with no body scent himself, begins to stalk and murder virgins in search of the "perfect scent", which he finds in a young woman named Laura, whom his acute sense of smell finds in a secluded private garden in Grasse.

Patrick Süskind - the reclusive theologian
The exceptionally powerful presence of Evil in this movie made me curious about you. For being able to depict Devil so accurately one must necessarily know him personally. Despite of your family name, you are apparently not a sweet kid but this is not the point: the touch of evil is particularly well known to saints.

So I was curious how you can write on such a theological and spiritual depth about the true human condition and present us with the twisted reality of lies in which the world prefers to live in?

Well - these are two clues that I found that go some way to explain the scary depths and overall complexity of your book and the exceptionally realistic presence of the Devil in the production.

1. You have illustrious Christian ancestors in your family, the famous Biblisist Bengel and the reformer Brenz. Theology goes in your heritage and flows in your veins.

2. You have very close knowledge about some of the worst horrors committed by humans, the Nazi era, as your father, journalist Wilhelm Emanuel Süskind worked on the famous Aus dem Wörterbuch des Unmenschen. It is unlikely that you did not read his book or understand the banality of evil, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it.

Patrick Süskind ...was born in Ambach am Starnberger See, near Munich in Germany. His father was writer and journalist Wilhelm Emanuel Süskind, who worked for the well-established Süddeutsche Zeitung and is famous as the co-author of the well-known "Aus dem Wörterbuch des Unmenschen" ("From the Dictionary of an Inhuman"), a critical collection of essays on the language of the Nazi era.

Patrick Süskind went to school in Holzhausen, a little Bavarian village. His mother worked as a sports trainer; his older brother Martin E. Süskind is also a journalist. Süskind has many relatives from the aristocracy in Württemberg, making him one of the descendants of the exegete Johann Albrecht Bengel and of the reformer Johannes Brenz. After his Abitur and his Zivildienst, he studied Medieval and Modern History at the University of Munich and in Aix-en-Provence from 1968-1974. Süskind also attended lessons in English, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Politics, Art and Theology but, apparently, never graduated.

Financially supported by his parents, he moved to Paris where he wrote "mainly short, unpublished fiction and longer screenplays which were not made into films" as he once said self-deprecatingly.

Süskind lives reclusively in Munich, in Seeheim (Lake Starnberg) and in France (probably Paris and Montolieu). The public knows little about Süskind currently. He has withdrawn from the literary scene in Germany and never grants interviews or allows photos.

Patrick, come to Jesus!
With such a close encounter with personal evil, my advice to Patrick is: come to Jesus.

The imaginary Jean-Baptiste created by you was saved from having his body smashed over a sturdy St. Andrew's cross. His end was nevertheless aweful on the stinky stones of Paris.

The real John Baptist had his head severed by an iron sword. Yet, because of Jesus his end was to get to smell the flowers of Paradise.

The Lamb of God, Crucified Jesus Christ, is the only one who can deal with the Devil you seem to know so well.

Jesus is the only one the Devil is seriously afraid of.

Wer Sünde tut, der ist vom Teufel; denn der Teufel sündigt von Anfang.
Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes, daß er die Werke des Teufels zerstöre.
1 John 3:8

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Doctor Atomic - Robert J. Oppenheimer

Robert J. Oppenheimer (1904-1967)
The right man for the wrong job (ref)

O mizu o kudasai. Kodomotachi.

At its second repeat, I recognised what it said. The first thing I learned in Japanese, what my father taught me at a restaurant and which he deemed important to know, "O mizu o kudasai" is simply a polite request for water ---- "Water, please."

Kodomo means child. Tachi is the plural of whatever it's attached to. Thus, kodomotachi means children.

After intense mental engagement with the opera, its glorious cast of hundreds, soaring arias, atonal recitatives, debates of scientific advancement and political power, science vs ethics, and outstanding symphonic music, I was suddenly caught by the reality of the Japanese broadcast.

"Water, please. The children."

I grew up in Japan. I should know what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

My eyes welled up with tears. The opera had touched me in a way I had never expected.
-- Anne Ku


The intense crescendo of Doctor Atomic towards the Trinity test in Los Alamos does not end in the expected spectacular BIG BANG but in a simple quiet human request for some water to the children - in Japanese.

The surprisingly quiet ending of the opera is devastatingly touching and one of the details that lifts Doctor Atomic to the category of an artistic masterpiece.

Trinity was the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device. This test was conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, at the new White Sands Proving Ground, which incorporated the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range. (The site is now the White Sands Missile Range.)
The date of the test is usually considered to be the beginning of the Atomic Age.

Trinity was a test of an implosion-design plutonium device. The weapon's informal nickname was "The Gadget". Using the same conceptual design, the Fat Man device was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The Trinity detonation produced the explosive power of about 20 kilotons of TNT.

I have seen the Netherlands Opera 2008 production of John Adams' Doctor Atomic in Mezzo TV. It is highly authentic because the stage director was the writer of the libretto, Peter Sellars. The libretto is quite unusual, as it is compiled from words actually said at Los Alamos. Writing arias about something like "wind is southwestern and 10 miles in hour" does not sound very poetic but the approach to text turns out to be another strike of genius in this opera.

As is the case with most modern music, not a single melody was humming in my head after seeing the opera. But it does not matter - the music, the sounds and the words form an integral whole in which everything feels to be in just the right place. Separate the music and the libretto and everything breaks apart. Keep them together and the impact on the audience is truly explosive. (Perhaps to emphasize the quiet ending the production does not include the enthusiastic response of the full packed audience to the performance with thundering applauds.)

Doctor Atomic name intentionally hints to Doctor Faust - Goethe's description of a human facing something greater than life, ambivalent, tempting, and potentially utterly destructive. The opera is an intensive study of the inner soul of Robert J. Oppenheimer and others working at the Manhattan project on Trinity.

Chosen people of God in action
Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904, to Julius Oppenheimer, a wealthy Jewish textile importer who had immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1888, and Ella Friedman, a painter. In 1912 the family moved to an apartment on the eleventh floor of 155 Riverside Drive, near West 88th Street, Manhattan, an area known for luxurious mansions and town houses. Their art collection included works by Pablo Picasso and Édouard Vuillard, and at least three original paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Robert had a younger brother, Frank, who also became a physicist.

After hearing details of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Oppenheimer was overwhelmed by guilt and never really recovered from these events - neither did the world.

Later he often cited a verse from the Bhagavad Gita  
Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Gerard Finlay acting as Oppenheimer gives an unforgettable performance at the end of Act 1 singing a prayer to Trinity with text from Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV.

The Holy Sonnets, also called the Divine Meditations and the Divine Sonnets, are a series of nineteen poems by the English poet John Donne. Never published during his lifetime but widely circulated in manuscript, they have become some of Donne's most popular poems and are widely anthologized.

They were composed in 1609 and 1610, in a period of great personal distress for Donne, with physical, emotional, and financial hardship, as well as religious turmoil: originally a Roman Catholic, Donne did not officially join the Anglican Church until 1615. The Holy Sonnets reflect these anxieties

The aria greatly deepens the image of Oppenheimer and the message of Doctor Atomic and is one of the causes that elevates the opera to world class art, an updated Faust.

Batter my heart, three person'd God 
Batter my heart, three person’d God; For you
As yet but knock, breathe, knock, breathe, knock, breathe
Shine, and seek to mend;
Batter my heart, three person’d God;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, break, blow, break, blow
burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy,
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Marilyn Monroe - her secret

Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962)

You clicked on this page. What is Marilyn's secret that makes you do so today?

If you Ask Men there probably is a broad consensus that there is no one else quite like her.

But where is the difference?

For there are plenty of other beautiful women out there in show business who impress men in powerful ways. There is something about Marilyn ... We men notice the difference but it is difficult to put in words. The matter becomes obvious immediately when someone attempts to "do Marilyn" by imitating her looks, voice, smile, walk or behaviour. Most men recognize the false Marilyn in sub-second, sigh quietly and loose interest in the copy-cat. Men keep dreaming about the real Marilyn and would willingly sell their cars to give her jewels, as Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friends (youTube).

Perhaps the most iconic image of Marilyn Monroe
From the movie poster for 1958 Seven Year Itch

For example, there have been numerous repeats of the iconic photo of Marilyn standing over the subway grate with her skirt billowing. The original photos were taken by Sam Shaw to promote the movie Seven Year Itch. None of the copycat attempts by other beautiful women have really worked despite of the fact that the fundamental idea - show some leg - is so simple. Because men still remember the original authentic Marilyn.

June 19, 2011 By Alan Duke, CNN
Marilyn Monroe wore the famed "Subway" dress in "The Seven-Year Itch."

Marilyn Monroe's white "subway" dress sold for more than $5.6 million in a Beverly Hills, California auction Saturday night in which bidders paid another $2.7 million for three other Monroe movie outfits.

It was the first in a series of auctions to sell the massive Hollywood history collection that singer, dancer and actress Debbie Reynolds accumulated over the past 50 years.

Collector Keya Morgan said Saturday's bids were "totally crazy, especially in this recession."

Bidding for the iconic ivory pleated dress Monroe wore in "The Seven Year Itch" was "totally magical," Morgan said.

My week with Marilyn (2011) was a serious attempt by director Simon Curtis to portray actress Michelle Williams as the real Marilyn. Much research was done in preparation. But it did not work at all. Michelle is not Marilyn despite of the similar dresses, make-up and hairstyle given to her. Already in the third week the movie had slipped down to seventh place in the charts and  will soon be forgotten.

In contrast to also this failure to imitate Marilyn, the dumb blonde in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and The Seven Year Itch (1955) continues to attract new generations of viewers, male and female, after more than half a century has already passed. Some Like It Hot (1958) may be Marilyn's best movie not least because of the wonderful inspiration she got from the two masters of comedy with big hearts, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

Mister President
Christie's Auction House asking price for the Happy Birthday dress 
in 1999 lot55 was whopping 1,267,500 $

The seducing message of Marilyn's utterly sexy singing voice in Happy Birthday "Mister President" would put the classical Greek Seirenes in shame. Her call was totally irresistible to the Kennedy brothers despite of the direct warnings of one of the scariest characters in modern US history,  J. Edgar Hoover.

The youTube clip of the 1962 song has had almost nine million hits by today 2012.

And God created woman
We can not deny it. There is something in Marilyn that attracts men.

What makes her so different of all the other beautiful women in show-business? It is not just the powerful American media and marketing hype nor the basic male lust attracted by a powerful female sex symbol.

We really have no problem understanding the total seduction of seventeen thousand horny GI's in Korea during her performance in February 1954 (youTube). But trust me, maybe some but certainly not all of these men were just aroused by her sexy dance, wonderful black dress, blond hair and lovely voice. There is more in her and many of the troops were married men, fathers and perhaps even grandfathers.

Without her bodily charms Marilyn would not be Marilyn. But that is not the whole story.

Venus de Milo
Photo Lizzy Kalliga

An unknown Greek artist once created the ideal woman properly called by the goddess of love, Venus or Aphrodite. Millions admire the statue in Louvre, Paris. In my opinion, the figure of Marilyn Monroe stands favourably in comparison with that classic masterpiece. But there are many other stunning women, as well, who nevertheless do not have the magic effect of Marilyn has on men.

Brigitte Bardot 

We might get some insight into her secret charm by comparing Marilyn to her French contemporary Brigitte Bardot. Both are world famed beauties but there is a fundamental difference between the two.

Let me explain.

Brigitte Bardot makes the impression of a perfect cat woman who is very comfortable in her skin and fully in control of her life and relationships. In comparison, Marilyn reflects the once poor desolate Norma Jeane Baker who never really recovered from her childhood and always had that baby face men so love in women.

Norma Jeane Baker

Brigitte is commanding, powerful, sure of herself and in this way somewhat scary for men. Marilyn knew better...

I need you
"I need you. I was made for you. I am your perfect companion. Make me happy."

The call of an apparently dump (easy), sad (why did you choose that nerd Arthur Miller? I am much more fun), tragic (let me save you from this bad world) and utterly sweet (oh Marilyn, when do you strip that jumper) is a combination of looks, behaviour, voice, face, eyes, walk... everything.

Very few women have her looks and a cold successful in command beauty like Brigitte Bardot cannot compete with this fragile being that just waits for the saviour with strong hands and pure innocent heart.

Eve created as more than a helper for Adam
And the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him."

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet for him.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.

And the rib which the LORD God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:18-25 KJ21

The Secret of Marilyn Monroe
In my opinion the secret of the extraordinary power of Marilyn over the hearts and minds of men is her understanding of the Biblical story that tells that God created woman for man.

And the need of us men to be the protectors, saviours, heroes, knights, fathers, guides and heads of family rescuing the suffering poor girl from the predators.

Of course, the Biblical message that women were created for men goes against every cell in the feminist who has been fighting so hard for the equality of woman to be understood as a stand-alone product.

In some way Brigitte Bardot is such a modern woman doing what she pleases with men.

Instead, Marilyn acted to perfection the female role of being a rather dump blond created for men.

She was not dump at all but highly intelligent and knew how to put on that magic Marilyn when cameras began to roll.

The role of a helpless dame in distress of life needing someone to rescue her did not make her happy, however, for she never found that Adam for whom she was created to become one flesh.

She only met men from simple workers to Mafia and highest political circles in the USA, who all took advantage of her. (Except for Arthur; I think there is more to this relationship than just selfishness.)

But also her tragic death at the young age of 36 without a husband, without children left her story unfinished in such a way that the legend of Marilyn could be born and she has become one of the powerful symbols of modern times.