Tag Archives: academy awards

A Man Called Ove: Celebrating the Use of Space in Swedish Cinema

What are we beyond our memories? It was just after having a petty argument with the florist, an ignorant teen as she was that Ove first exposes the dimensions of his existence. Grieved by the death of the only love of his life, Sonja, we see him dissipating his space by magnifying his trivialities. A man that knew no work than the one that involved car engines, we see a reflection of unfaithful involvement with life in his disturbed yet deliberate movement. Who is this man; one may ask. There are blatant contradictions in his existence. Who is this being who dejects life and then lives only to uphold every law of it? We get our answers, unwoven thread by thread, in Hannes Holme’s A Man Called Ove.

The most fascinating element of this film is the use of space. We not only see the characters associating meanings to a particular space but also get metaphorically represented by it. For instance, the movie hardly shows us panoramic view of the entire space. Mostly, we are kept in the ‘guarded’ and ‘restricted’ space of Ove’s residential colony, his home and during the latter part of the film, his car. The only instances of open space with elements of movement and divergence come in the flashback scenes from Ove’s childhood and adulthood when there were present, reasons for him to escape linearity. This contradiction in the use of space in the representation of past and present tells us about the importance of life in the eyes of this weary old man called Ove. After the death of his wife Sonja, his life has lost any motivation to move beyond the linearity and hence the only space he restricts himself to is the restricted and regimented space of his residence. Moreover, it is only during his budding friendship with Parvaneh that we see the open space of a restaurant or the city road being brought back to his life (Interestingly he relates such openness with the time he used to have with his wife).

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It is hard to deny the metaphorical use of space in the narrative of the film. The one that strikes the most is the train station. It is this space where we see intertwining of Ove’s past, present and a probable future. It is this space that stands for the very nature life; which is nothing but a mosaic of losses and love, of things being built and destroyed. So much so that the moving train almost felt like the ruthless movement of life itself. We are introduced to this space time and again to emphasise on the philosophy that life cannot be contextualised unitarily. It is the semiotic nature of everything that life offers us that makes it beyond every degree human comprehension. One baring example of this can be the scene from Ove’s mother’s funeral.

Lastly, I’ll take this discussion on memories to the use of strong representational symbols. And the one that struck me the most was the cat. Like every morning of life, this cat kept on showing up on Ove’s door, every time more undesirable than before, even after his constant shooing off. As the movie progresses, we can see the changing relationship of the cat with the protagonist that ran parallel to the change in perspective on life that he had. It is when Parvaneh tells him that it is you that have to take care of this cat that I see a bell being rang in Ove’s head telling him that his life shall be engineered by his own volition.

Even though there existed a beautiful sub-narrative that talked about inclusivity and diversity (the fact that Ove became friends with an Iranian refugee and a gay man) it is the natural display of empathy that inspired the screenplay. The very idea that we can delve into each others’ hearts while not being patronising at all speaks volumes about the most important common denominator that we share – humanity.

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Twitter: The Id of the Worrrrrld of Tomorrooooow!

“I got summer hating on me ’cause I’m hotter than the sun/got spring hating on me ’cause I ain’t never sprung/winter hating on me ’cause I’m colder than y’all/and I would never, I would never, I would never fall/I’m being hated by the seasons/so fuck y’all , hating for no reason.”

 – “Mr. Carter” by Lil Wayne (featuring Jay-Z) off of Tha Carter III (2008)

I don’t Tweet. I’ve tried a couple of times, but even for an aspiring obsessive-compulsive self-trained as a child to hunt for every worthless item within the fantasy worlds of obtuse Japanese RPGs, trying to catch up on the witticisms of those I followed after a lapse of checking my account for even a couple of days repeatedly dissuaded me. What I truly enjoy is reading about Twitter. It’s the sort of thing that makes the would-be intellectual confident they’ve earned their professorial beard and pessimistic ennui. It is the distillation of first-world humanity’s collective id, our frustrated inner child, the hole we leave in the wall right after we stub our toe, the reason we want that pack of dogs Michael Vick abused to be retrained so, if just for a day, they can eat Adrian Peterson, and then be retrained back. It’s also why we know that won’t happen, or, at least if it does, one of the dogs will maul another one of the dogs or something before they get retrained back to being nice dogs. Can you Manchurian Candidate dogs like that? I’m not sure. I’ve always been a cat person.

I’ve recently gone through a long piece about Vanessa Place, a person (a “conceptual poet”) doing a thing (okay, I’ve had my fun), specifically, tweeting the entirety of Gone with the Wind piece-by-piece, and the controversy this has garnered. Posted alongside racist caricatures and depictions of blacks from throughout history, the project is an apparent effort to draw litigation from the estate of Margaret Mitchell, calling attention to Gone with the Wind‘s racism in the process. On the other side are the sorts who mistake ever recalling any racism in history, even for the purposes of seeing that said racism is known of and acknowledged, as itself a horribly racist thing to do, because who the hell ever learned from history?

I find Gone with the Wind tepid. It’s boring, it’s racist in the special kind of way that only a 1930s love note to the institution of slavery that still wanted to sell tickets to well-to-do bourgeois in the North could have been, and it centers around film history’s coldest, most-inaccessible, most-put-out-about-not-being-an-ingenue villain, Scarlett O’Hara. While this reading may not be common, what is less common is the identification of the book and movie as being short only one Shirley Temple and one Bill Robinson of being “period pieces” of the “super-duper racist” period. Place’s Twitter account is plainly a series of excerpts deliberately paired with provocative and racist imagery to communicate that Gone with the Wind is racist. But unlike Birth of a Nation, the cinematic and technological achievements of its film adaptation were never ultimately looked at in the pall of the racist shadow cast by the film’s content. This in no small part due to Hollywood resting their heads comfortably up their own asses for the better part of a century, satisfied to coast by as “progressive” for having once given an Oscar to a black chick who played–if you’ve never seen Gone with the Wind, I shit you not–a slave called “Mammy.” And then they took 24 years to give an acting award to another black person. And after that, they took 19 more fucking years to do it again!


“Did you hear it? He talked about how people in Hollywood are ahead of the curve on social matters. He even took credit for the civil rights movement!”

As the internet finishes its assimilation of the first world and increasingly spreads through to the second and third worlds, Twitter may become not only the first world’s id, but humanity’s id. If Twitter as a social medium did serve some function during the Arab Spring, then the resultant political environments should only reinforce this notion of the role of Twitter as humanity’s id: your id can win a war for you, but it can not rule your country for you.

This brings us back around to Vanessa Place: Is she just a distraction? She’s not a distraction, mind you, but her role as a marginal artist doing an ongoing art project that’s marginally clever makes the controversy surrounding it ripe for amplification.

Did anything, for example, really change when Google began indexing blogs along with the “news?” Rather than being directed to specific articles at the sites of newspapers and cable news outlets, you are directed through an endless stream of backdoors to approved thoughts and information disseminated by those same major news outlets. I feel like I never fucking leave the Washington Post’s stupid blog section, and I don’t even go there without being linked first. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, every mass media outlet that was initially poised to look like so much discarded lettuce on the meat patty of the Internet has morphed into much of the patty’s bone meal substance and the nutrition-less bun containing it.

The layman who hoped to one day elevate to the sort that could gripe for money about their pet peeves by first elevating themselves into “bloggers” have become the minor leagues from which the mass media calls up its newest recruits to be drafted into the ranks of bloggers the mainstream outlets have begun to employ, working from home with no editors, no oversight except toward the avoidance of ruffled feathers, and no apparent spell-check software. Whereas the “blogosphere” was supposed to be the dream of an independent and democratic platform for expression and thought, it has become the night club from which the major label poaches the rock band willing to sell out in order to help marginalize the ones not willing to sell out, and they do so now at an ever-increasing clip so as to drown out any chorus of opposition otherwise.

Where the mainstream media spins the stories of government, these bloggers in their employ spin for them the stories of society, telling you how you should be thinking about how someone else acted, or how someone else thought, but most importantly, never telling you how you could act, never telling you what you might be able to do to take the power into your own hands. Where they talk about or live-tweet protests, even ones they cover in person, they throw up the old walls of casting those concerned as the societal “other” within whatever context the “other” is represented, to ensure you do not feel solidarity with anyone working toward having a potential effect on their surrounding environment. By seizing control of the blogosphere (gesundheit!), not through brute force but through establishment of the idea of legitimate blogs as opposed to independent blogs, they can direct the social conversation in addition to the civic conversation, choosing writers who they find inoffensive or whose views tow some narrative they benefit from popularizing to whatever degree they intend to.

It is in this way that Twitter is the id of the internet, but cannot, at least in the present world in which information and social attitudes filter from the mainstream media-down, aspire to be an outlet for the superego. On Twitter, the desires of the super-ego are argued endlessly via the id, necessitated by the false scarcity of space in which to deliver a thought that will largely be seen isolated from like ones and without context. Ultimately, this is what the whole Vanessa Place argument is about: suppression of the ego, her artistic criticism of Gone with the Wind and its lauded role in our society, by the superego, demanding that challenges to the offensive not offend by showing you what the offensive is, via the medium of the id, the knee-jerk reactions and intellectual shock and awe. The id is struggling to take control of the ego and superego, and as in life, it is failing.

It is a false debate at hand. It is a conversation doomed to go nowhere, purveyed by bloggers trawling Twitter for non-information to distract from foreign bombings of hospitals and domestic police murders of blacks, of the inherent criminality of the current structure of the financial system and the mass spying into all of our personal lives. They profit as entities from information control, not from information dissemination. The conversation over Vanessa Place’s Twitter account is but one of thousands cherry-picked by bloggers themselves cherry-picked for their easy offense, an army of writers meant to shape the modern discourse, not serve it. And it is exactly what Time Warner, and News Corporation, and Comcast, and Jeff Bezos, and Tribune Publishing, and all the other mass media companies with everything to lose from truly democratic dissemination of information, want.