Monthly Archives: June 2012

Createe and Creator in Prometheus (2012)

David – A Createe of Humans

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created him; male and female” (Genesis 1:27). Not so, according to Prometheus directed by Ridley Scott. In the beginning, a humanoid – one of our alien ancestors – drank a unknown substance, disintegrated, poured to the great fall and flowed to the ocean – the origin of life.

The secondary question under this origin of life is, no doubt, the human nature to rebel; or, to put it more precisely, the defiance tendency in a createe against a creator. Why did David put the organic substance in the drinks to poison Holloway? Surely, it can’t be a little mischief arising from an error in the circuits of android? The motive, we can only guess, from his remarks that children can only kill parents to gain freedom.

As an android, a createe from human hands, he already acquired the desire for freedom – something that can’t be granted by parental obedience but must be fought by defiance and rebellion. We, the creator of android but a createe of unknown God, strive for the same freedom. Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit behind God’s back is petty in comparison with Ahab’s unholy war against the invincible Moby Dick – a symbolic representation of a fallible human against the infallible Fate or God. Alternatively this defiance is best captured by Nietzsche ‘s remark: ‘God is dead’.

Less dramatically – yet more enigmatically –  David’s act of poisoning seems trivial and unexplained but is it not a simple act, though mischievous in nature, of rebellion against a creator, i.e. us?

Nevertheless, David, though inherited the defiance from human, will never understand why humans or specifically Elizabeth Shaw want desperately to know the origin of life. With the cross on her neck, she believed life has a divine origin. It is a faith – an irrational belief in impossible thing – that the rational android can not get. Are the white humanoid the creators? How did they create humans? Why did they want to destroy us?

These questions are meant to be asked, but hopefully to be answered by a sequel. The odyssey continues.

Prometheus is directed by Ridley Scott, written by Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof, starring Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender.

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The Bounty (懸紅) (2012)

Fiona Sit (right) and Chapman To (left) in The Bounty

Bounty hunter, wanted criminal, a small wooden inn in an isolated place and gangsters in a small community are reminiscent  of the lawless Texas in the good  and old American western cowboy movies in the late  1950s, prominently represented by Shane (1953). Yet that’s the setting of The Bounty (懸紅) directed by 馮志強, starring Chapman To (杜汶澤) , Fiona Sit (薛凱琪 ) and Alex Man (萬梓良).

In The Bounty, the ex – police Cho (Chapman To), relying on bounty for living, searched for a wanted criminal that last appeared in a small inn (Lazy Inn) , situated in an isolated island. He found the bizarre innkeeper (Alex Man) and her eccentric daughter (Fiona Sit) during his investigation that sparked off a chain of events, proving to be a challenge for Cho.

The overall red – bricks wall, wooden floor and furnitures, and even the old-fashioned trunk are quite refreshing and complimentary with the brown and tarnished cowboy shirts and jackets of Chapman To; the jockey – styled outfit from Fiona Sit.

The Bounty is clearly intended with black humour that unfortunately just doesn’t work and is bored at times. Fiona Sit’s pretty dolly face can’t help Chapman To much to start off his usual dark jokes. Alex Man, a very experienced actor indeed, balanced well between humour as the strange innkeeper and the weak fallible father as times required.

Nevertheless a surprising lot of casts, each playing a small cameo scene, did throw some eye – opening entertainment that added much liveliness to the movie.

On the bottom line, The Bounty is a refreshing comedy in summer and shows promises for 馮志強 to break from being a mere screenplay writer to a comedy director.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Bounty directed by 馮志強, starring Chapman To (杜汶澤) , Fiona Sit (薛凱琪 ) and Alex Man (萬梓良).

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Psychology in Master of Play (心戰)

Master of Play

In Master of Play, Ivan, in a rage, killed Eric, Michelle, Martin and Edwin in the Jekyll Bar; they died in flesh and blood but incorporates into the dark side of his psychological mind – representing his evil, lust, violence and pride, respectively. As he sank into decadence, broke away with his fiancé, slapped his sister and eventually killed Jerry, he struggled continually with them.

This bears semblance to the 6 realms (六道) in Buddhism where people in the earthly world will fall into one of the realms:  god, human, jealous god, animal, hungry ghost and hell (or 天道、人間道、修羅道、畜生道、餓鬼道、地獄道 respectively). The popular belief is about afterlife but a Buddhist friend of mine told me each realm rather represents a psychological stage of human mind. The deed committed at one psychological realm produces the ‘seed’ or the consequence.

As Ivan got enraged by Jerry’s remark, he fell to ‘jealous god’ realm (修羅道) and killed him. His lust or rather the ‘animal’ and ‘hungry ghost’ realms (畜生道 and 餓鬼道) caused him not only to seduce his own assistant but to engage in one – night stands. Finally his schemes of murders and cover – ups are unmistakably ‘hell’ (地獄道). Each psychological mind produces the corresponding deeds and the final ‘seeds’.

Or insanity and the corollary hallucination have totally engulfed his mind to produce the four personae who vanish as soon as he regain his consciousness. Voices within his head, coupled with strong imagination for visual images (as a professional magician), plus emotional stress (breakup with his fiancé), have unlocked his floodgate and flows a distinct set of psychological logics from the 4 strange people.

His seeming sanity in the everyday life, however, betrayed he is simply insane. Although an insane person can indeed act sanely – like the man in Poe’s Tell – Tale Heart (a story about a man keep emphasizing his sanity while narrating his murder of an old man for nothing more than his intense irritation against his blue eyes) – he shows the intelligence of a psychopath.

Psychopathy, strictly speaking, is not mental disorders as it’s not included in the DSM IV – a manual of disorders – but the top characteristics for identifying psychopath from the Bob Hare Checklist includes superficial charm, pathological lying, lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity and juvenile delinquency.

As a professional magician, Ivan never failed to win charm and more importantly the profession itself is pathological lying. As a child, he already participated kidnapping and has done patricide, fulfilling more than enough the juvenile delinquency. Nevertheless, he did feel remorse and guilt for having kidnapped a girl or really? Is it simply a lie he tried to convince himself? (Read how Toto Constant, who mass – murdered pro – democracy activists, gang – raped women and mutilated dead bodies in Haiti, feigned remorse and emotion in his interview with Jon Ronson in The Psychopath Test)

All in all, are we going anywhere? Is he undergoing a psychological struggle or sinking into the quagmire of insanity or being just a downright psychopath? These questions rise from the fact that  the line between sanity and insanity; reality and imagination often blurs.

A Thangka (唐卡) on the 6 realms
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A Talk on The Saint and The Lottery

Afternoon coffee with 50 Great Short Stories – a recommended anthology of short stories for leisure reading or daily dose of creativity

Short story is like a shot of vodka red bull that injects a short – lived yet intense dose of idea into the brain. Works like Dream of Red Chamber (紅樓夢or War and Peace give such a panoramic picture of life that span a thousand or so pages. Short story as it is nicely put ‘is uniquely capable of conveying, for in its very shortness lies its greatest strength’*.

The Saint by V. S. Pritchett and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, each with its different style and highly condensed plot, throw light on an aspect of religion.

The Saint tells of a story that religion is either reserved for the ignoramuses or a manipulative tool for the hypocrite; in fact they sometime go hand in hand. The unnamed narrator’s family has converted to the Church of the Last Purification that taught a rather tautological doctrine: any bad thing can not exist in reality, since God could not have made them to harm his creatures.

The narrator naturally followed his family to believe in it (the evils of family influence) until the coming of the Mr. Timberlake – a figure of almost sainthood in the church for reportedly performing miracles, including raising the dead – came to his home and upon the request of narrator’s uncle had a chat with him in a boating.

During the boating, Mr. Timberlake got caught by the tree branch, because of his foolish refusal to avoid it  (believing God would not have put the tree to harm him) and fell down from the water. Yet he remained in such calmness that he must have regarded any harm as merely illusory and erroneous, since God would not have made anything to harm his creatures.

Sixteen years later the narrator discovered Mr. Timberlake has died out of a heart attack. The doctor found it a miracle he has lived so long as the slightest shock would have caused him death.

His religious belief was, after all, a mere baby’s security blanket where he can desperately hold on to  avoid any shock. Any shock is unreal and non – existent; God would not have created any of it.

This is scary. Supposedly he is a miracle performer, leader of the church and a saint to the believers but even him has a hidden agenda of his own. It seems a cliché to quote religion as ‘opium of the people’ and yet that’s what this story has shown.

Another short story, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, stung me with shock at the ending. The story opens with a seeming cheerful rural community in a distant part of America organising a lottery – a tradition for a good harvest (“Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” as the old proverb said) . Children gathered stones, while Mr. Summers, the volunteer, carried the black box that was locked up the previous night to ensure no one has touched it.

After waiting everyone to arrive, Mr. Summers announced the rules: He’ll read the names; each family head draws a paper and keeps it folded until everyone has had a turn. It proceeded smoothly and Bill Hutchinson ‘got it’. Tessie, his wife, shouted ‘It wasn’t fair.’

In due course, another round started with only the Hutchinsons: Bill, Tessie, three children (Bill Jr, Nancy and Dave). ‘I tell you it wasn’t fair’, Tessie insisted. To no avail, each picked a paper and kept it folded until everyone has had turn.

The papers of Bill, Bill Jr, Nancy and Dave were blank. Tessie got the one with a black spot on it. In a business – like manner, Mr. Summer said ‘All right, folks. Let’s finish quickly’

Adults and children alike, including Bill and the three children, began to pick stones and threw at Tessie Hutchinson. ‘It isn’t fair, it isn’t right’, she screamed.

The suspense holds to the last. The unthankful ‘prize’ of the lottery is to get stoned to death. This all starts from a tradition with a vague promise for good harvest and one that few remembered its origin. While some traditions are relatively harmless and even entertaining (like the Cargo cult or the treat or trick in Halloween), others can be deadly. It get worse when some overzealous believers blindly follow it, just like the community in The Lottery.

The stoning carries such a clear religious overtone that it seems religious tradition, in particular, has its part of destruction. From the Crusades in the Middle Ages to the present fundamentalists’ opposition against gay marriage, blindly following a doctrine or tradition, devoid of the changing circumstance, can be deadly.

The Saint and The Lottery with two highly condensed plots show two elements of religion. One one hand, it often falls into the hands of hypocritical people as a tool to manipulate the ignorant people and on the other, it has the power to push people into the dead corner. Either way, be an atheist.

* From Milton Crane in the foreword for 50 Great Short Stories

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