Devil’s Advocate or How to Lose Your Soul

“Vanity, definitely my favourite sin!”

This is one of my all time favourite movie quotes. It’s so full of truth, wisdom and cynicism at the same time that I want to cry and then laugh and then cry again. The movie this quote comes from, as most of you know, is Devil’s Advocate (1997), starring the titans Al Paccino and Keanu Reeves accompanied by the gorgeous Charlize Theron.

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The film tells the story of Kevin Lomax, a young and ambitious attorney from Gainsville, Florida, who’s never lost a case. One day, he receives a job offer from the world’s most powerful law firm, based in New York and owned by the mysterious and charming John Milton. Kevin grabs the opportunity and together with his wife Mary Ann, leaves for the Big Apple to pursue his dream. However, success has its high price and in Kevin’s case, this is his soul, which he sells piece by piece for money and power. The movie is so powerful not just because of the great story it tells but also because of the magnificent performances Al Paccino, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron and the rest of the cast give. They’ve put their souls in the project which makes it so real and influencial.

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For me, Devil’s Advocate is an allegory of the biblical story of Adam and Eve and how they’ve been tempted by the serpent to taste the forbidden fruit. In the movie, the serpent (John Milton) persuades Eve (Mary Ann) to tempt Adam (Kevin) to taste the fruit of success, no matter the price. Mary Ann does that, she is a big influence over her husband in the beginning of the story, becasue she stimulates his ego. She erases all moral boundaries he has and throws him in a world, where she believes they both should belong. Kevin himself has issues with his vanity, never accepting he ever might lose a case, which makes him an easy target for the devilish tricks of John Milton. However, as everything should be free will, John gives Kevin the opportunity to take all decisions himself. He always shows him two paths- the right and the wrong, manipulating him to take the wrong but never closing the door of the right.

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Devil’s Advocate is an incredible movie, which shows us how we’re losing our souls every day. It teaches us to let go of vanity, which is the core of all sins and makes us think over the matter of success. What is it? How do we define it? What price have we paid for it? The world we live in is our own doing and what happens to us is too. Devil’s Advocate makes us take a deep, real look inside ourselves and ask, “Can I bare to look at myself in the mirror, and if I do, will I see a monster?

L. V. K.

Artists vs. Celebrities: Is Celebrity Killing The Art

Today’s post is a little bit different from what I normally blog about. But since I love all forms of art- cinema, theatre, music, literature, painting etc., and definitely consider myself an art person, I decided to share my opinion about modern cinematic art and its impact on society. My focus is on Hollywood because unfortunately this is the only entertainment and show business industry we have access to on a global level. The thing that actually provoked me was a biography book I came across recently. It is the first biography of actor Christian Bale, published independently by his former assistant. I found out about the existence of this book through Facebook, because its official page appeared as a suggestion on my timeline. I checked it out and decided to read some reviews on Goodreads to see what it was about as I don’t like biographies and have read just a couple in my life, but I do like Christian Bale so I thought I might give it a go, if it was good and if it’s focus was on his career. Apparently, what it turned out to be was an angry former assistant taking revenge by revealing very personal aspects of a very secretive person’s life. I was disgusted by what I read and decided I will NOT read such thing.

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Christian Bale is one of my favourite actors and I respect him a lot for his talent and for his personality. I don’t know him of course, but I like his approach to the public- very respectful and a little bit reserved. What I like about him is that his personal life is very private and normal and I wish it always to remain so. I don’t want to know whether he talks to his siblings or not, what he’s like at home, when he goes to romantic dinners with his wife etc., that’s his business. I only want to see him in good, quality movies like “The Machinist”, “Batman Begins” & the two “Dark Knight” films, “The Fighter”, “American Hustle”, “American Psycho”, “The Prestige” and so on (the list is quite long). And I want his performances to keep getting better and better with each movie he makes. I love his acting style and his dedication to his roles and respect him for that. There are not many actors out there, who are ready to do the things he’s done. That’s why I think his former assistant’s biography is absolutely tasteless, disgusting and unethical. It’s robbing Christian Bale of his privacy and is exposing very personal aspects of his life to the public, which should never have happened. Actors’ job is to entertain the public and be ready to cross borders in the name of art but they are not obliged to feed the public’s curiosity. I’m absolutely against actors revealing their personal life, because that is killing the art.

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Unfortunately, most of the so called celebrities are much different than the Christian Bale model I just described. Nowadays, talentless people rely on scandals to become famous. Drugs, alcohol, love relationships, marriages, divorces, affairs etc. are the things some celebrities use to get the public attention. And sadly, most of them succeed in that. What is sadder though, is that a lot of people really care about those celebrities’ lives and not about their art. Of course, there are many types of entertainment and a lot of people enjoy reading gossip magazines for example., but I think the celebrities filling those magazines should not be put under the same category with real actors/artists/musicians who are famous for their talent and what they create and give to the world and not for their personal life. I think when an actor’s life is too exposed to the public eye, they somehow lose their magic and struggle to get into their characters and be convincing. This is because there should be mysticism around actors as this way they can easily become someone else; the public should never be allowed to see the real person behind the mask. That’s why I think celebrity is killing the art and that’s why I think actors such as Christian Bale and the late River Phoenix are brilliant because one will never know who the actor behind the character really is.

L. V. K.

The Machinist 2004- Guilt Cuts Sharper Than Knife

Most of you must have heard about Christian Bale’s highly praised performance in The Machinist, for which he dropped his weight to 55kg (he’s 1.80m!), looking like he’s just stepped out of a concentration camp. The movie is as impressive as Bale’s performance, and does not leave you indifferent to the story. It is one of those psychological thrillers, which keep you in tension until the very end. If you enjoy films like Shutter Island and Fight Club, you’ll deffinitely love this one too.

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The Machinist tells the story of Trevor Reznik, a young man who’s been suffering from insomnia for one year. As a result, he’s always tired, moody, unfocused and is so skinny that he resembles a corpse. One day at work, Trevor is distracted by his new colleague and makes a mistake, which leads to the mutilation of a co-worker he’s operating a machine with at that time. The incident throws Trevor in a world of chaos, self-haunting and guilt. He’s often experiencing deja vu which brings back painful memories. Strange occurances straight after the incident make Trevor grow suspicious of everyone around him, except for two women he maintains relationships with.

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I love independent movies, because the fact they have low budgets makes them focus on the acting rather than on special effects, rich decors, make-up and costumes and so on. The focus is simply on the art, which makes you get deeper into the story and feel the characters closer and more realistic. I feel some good actors love independent movies for exactly the same reason. Christian Bale is an example of such actor who’s doing what he’s doing in the name of art and who’s ready to dive into great depths both physically and psychologically. Another example is River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho. In order to prepare for his role of a drug-addicted street hustler, he became one, hanging out with real hustlers, using hard drugs and basically staying in character during the whole filming period and after. His dedication resulted in him giving the best performance in his career but this also costed him his life three years later.

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Method actors are extremly dedicated and devoted to roles they believe in. Sometimes a method actor could become so deeply attached to a role that they are never able to fully step out of it. This is a devotion in the name of art and such actors deserve respect and admiration. Such actors are no stars or celebrities, they are simply artists.

L. V. K.

Memoirs Of A Geisha- A Beautiful Story About The Last Geishas

“She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.memoirs-of-a-geisha-504736e9c647a

I have seen the Memoirs of a Geisha several times. It is one of those movies that leave you breathless, in a deeply philosophical state of mind. I love beautiful things and this is a beautiful movie. The actors, the costumes, the narrative, the stoty in general. It contains a lot of everything- love, loyalty, strenght, wisdom, pain…

изтеглен файлThe movie shows the transformation of the fisher’s daughter Chio into the legendary geisha Sayuri- a path full of pain and sacrifices, of love and duty. As a young girl, Chio is sold by her father to a geisha house and is separated from her sister who’s sold to another okiya in Hanamachi. The little Chio is incredibly beautiful since an early age, having the rare for a Japanese girl blue eyes. Her features and qualities determine her a very successful nenki (career as a geisha). However, this doesn’t stay unnoticed by one of the most popular geishas in Hanamachi who happens to live in the same okiya as Chio- Hatsumomo. She sees in the little girl a serious competitor and does all her best to stop her from becoming a geisha. But when Chio is 16 another legendary geisha- Mameha- takes her under her wing and helps her to transform from the little, frightened girl Chio into the beautiful and most desired geisha in Hanamachi, Sayuri. However, Sayuri does something that is absolutely forbiden for geishas- falls in love…

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What I love about the Memoirs of a Geisha is the wisdom it teaches. The narative is so beautifully written, it makes you feel the emotions of the characters as your own. The most emotional moment for me was when Chio lost everything and ralized the only home she had was this same okiya she was desperately trying to escape. The moment of pain is so beautifully and realistically recreated that you just can’t stay indifferent to it. “At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.” 

Fate is something many people deny. We like to think we have control over everything especially over our very lives. However, no one can escape their fate. Whatever we do we always go towards it, one way or another…

“If you keep your destiny in mind, every moment in life becomes an opportunity for moving closer to it.”

L. V. K.

One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them

I have to admit I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings but I have seen the movies over 100 times! I know I will read it one day but the films are touching me so hard every time I watch them that I just cannot risk to ruin this effect (not that it is possible). I used to love Game of Thrones, the TV show, and I was refusing to start reading the books because I knew it wouldn’t have had the same effect on me anymore. However, I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and started reading and as expected I don’t feel the same way when I’m watching it now. I still love it, but I love the books more. With The Lord of the Rings I think such thing cannot happen. This is my favourite movie-trilogy ever and nothing will replace it. It is amazing how its effect over me hasn’t changed over the years. Every time I’m watching the movies, I find something new I’ve failed to see the previous time I’ve watched them. There is some kind of special magic in this trilogy and a very big amount of wisdom.

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What is so special about LOTR is the way it’s been made. With so much passion and dedication. It is a huge project, planned for many years and one can see it from a first sight. The actors are brilliant, the effects are amazing, the music is divine, the costumes are magnificent etc. The Lord of the Rings is a classic story about good and bad but told in such a way that it makes it anything but commercial. The way is shows how good turns into evil and evil turns into good is absolutely brilliant- the border between the two is so blurred.

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Gollum

Let’s take a classic example- Gollum. He’s been a normal hobbit with a normal life, nothing extraordinary. However, when the Ring- the source of evil- comes to him, he cannot resist its power. The Ring corrupts Gollum’s heart and makes a pity creature out of him- treacherous, hateful and ruthless. But at the same time he remains Smeagol as well- desperately seeking protection, a saviour, a friend. He finds all this in Frodo- the Ring bearer. Just like Smeagol/Gollum, Frodo had a normal life, all spent in the Shire. For me, the Shire symbolises simplicity, beauty and pure happiness, especially in the movies. The cute, little houses, the green fields, the harmony in which the hobbits live. Frodo has to leave all this and go on a mission which may cost him his life. This probability is enough to kill his will. On the other hand, the Ring is trying to corrupt him as well and to take power over him. However, unlike Gollum, Frodo shows extraordinary fortitude and strong will, which helps him oppose to the power of the Ring. As Galadriel says: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future“.

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My point is, the transformation of good into evil and of evil into good is very interesting to see as it actually shows how life is. No one is entirely good or bad- not even the wise elves or Gandalf, not even Aragorn or Legolas or Gimli, not even Saruman and Sauron. Both good and bad live inside us, but it is our choice to follow one or the other. The Lord of the Rings is a really good metaphor of real life; an epic story about the war between good and bad. However, the real war is inside us and we fight it every single day with the choices we make. We all have one mighty “Ring” within us that corrupts us, seduces us, tricks us. Whether to surrender to it or fight it, is for us to decide.

L. V. K.

“The Last Lions”- a heartbreaking story of mother’s love

The Last Lions is a marvelous film, fantastically made and narrated with an intriguing and dramatic story, in which the brutality of life is shown to its highest extent. This documentary changed my perception about our role (as humans) in this world and made me really want to make a difference. All my life I have loved animals, but after watching The Last Lions, I started looking at them from another perspective. “When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul…”

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Mother’s love is the strongest and purest feelings of all; to love someone unconditionally, to love them more than you love yourself. However, there is nothing more painful for a mother than losing her child. Even if the mother is a lioness and the child is a cub. Animals are capable of having strong feelings like love and sadness and we need to respect them in order to understand them.

The Last Lions is a National Geographic documentary. It is a real life story showing the beauty and at the same time the cruelty of mother Nature.

Normally, I’m trying to avoid documentaries about animals because most of them are very sad. Life, especially wildlife, is merciless and only the strong ones survive, while the weak are doomed. I love animals and can’t accept cruelty against them in any form, even if it is a law of nature. However, the other day I was switching the channels and suddenly my attention was caught by Nat Geo Wild, broadcasting a documentary about a lone lioness trying to save her little cubs from a rival pride. The story of Ma di Tau (“Mother of lions”) was so touching that I decided to see it all. I have to confess the narrative was brilliant (need to give credit here to the fantastic Jeremy Irons) and if I didn’t know the story was about lions, I would have thought the protagonists were humans. The film-makers Dereck and Beverly Joubert have researched the habits and the way of  life of the lions in Botswana for 30 years, so they have shown the feelings and thoughts of Ma di Tau in so realistic way that the viewer just can’t remain indifferent to her story.

Ma di Tau and her cubs

Ma di Tau and her cubs

The lioness and her cubs went through many dangers in order to escape from the rival pride. They reached an island with a herd of buffaloes where the mother was trying to catch one of them, in an attempt to feed her children. It was incredible to watch her caring for her babies in such a gentle way, showing what a real mother shoud be. However, one night she went hunting and left the little ones on their own. When she came back the next day they have disappeared so she followed their tracks. I was very worried that the cubs have been killed by the buffaloes because Ma di Tau kept close to the herd. Fortunately, following the tracks, she found one of them. Thank God!- I thought. But her happiness (mine as well) lasted for a moment. The female cub was alive but it’s back was broken by the buffaloes! The poor little thing could use only it’s front legs as the hind ones were completely damaged. The mother spent the day with the baby caring for her but at the end, she realised the cub could not survive. So she took the hardest decision- to leave her child. The next scene was heartbreaking- the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! Ma di Tau was leaving and the cub was crawling in a desperate attempt to follow her, but she never turned around. I cursed myself for deciding to watch this film. I was completely ruined by that scene and I know I will never forget it!

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Ma di Tau with her little cub

I was secretly hoping (as I bet many of you, who’ve watched the film, have been too) that the people from the crew might have helped the poor creature. I have searched and searched for information and finally found a statement by Dereck Joubert, where he was explaining they haven’t saved the cub and why. And unfortunately, I have to agree (to an extent) that was the right decision. Sometimes we make difficult choices that break our hearts, but we know deep inside they are right. We cannot intervene in natural selection and we cannot make wildlife less cruel. I believe leaving her child was one of the hardest decisions Ma di Tau has ever made; as the narrative says, we don’t know about animals’ feelings but what breaks every mother’s heart is losing her child. Fortunately, the lioness found her other cub, which was fine, and joined the rival pride, becoming their new matriarch.

The aim of this documentary is not just showing the life of a single lioness, but addressing the issue of extinction of the lion population in Africa. For just 50 years time, their number has fallen from 450,000 to just 20,000 due to human activity! The film-makers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who dedicated their life to the cause of saving the lion population in Africa from extinction, donated all their profits from the film so all the money went for saving the big cats. Moreover, they managed to convince National Geographic to do the same, which is actually the first time NG has ever done this.

If I have to leave my feelings aside and give a professional point of view, I have to admit the whole film is done at a very high professional level. Telling the story of a single lion family, creates a relationship between the viewers and the main character and makes them feel sympathy for her. Showing the heartbreaking scene with the abandoned, hurt cub is cruel but makes the audience take to heart the problem (that was the effect on me)- the drastic reduction of lions’ population in Africa. This emotionally sad moment is the most powerful one in the whole film and it makes the viewers remember it and focus on supporting the cause of saving the lion population from extinction.

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I hope the death of this little hero won’t be in vain and it will make people think about the lions in Africa and the sad faith that awaits them if we, humans, don’t defend them from ourselves.

One day we will know that all animals have a soul. Hopefully, this knowledge does not come when it is too late.” Anthony Douglas Williams

L. V. K.

Which Would Be Worse- To Live As a Monster or Die As a Good Man?

Most of you will recognise this line immediately; yes, this post is about Shutter Island. Actually I posted it long ago in my other blog, Think. Dream. Believe. but as it is one of the best movies I have seen and definitely one that makes you think, I decided I should provide an updated version of it here as well.

shutter-island-bHave you ever seen Shutter Island? If you haven’t I highly recommend it. It is one of those movies that make you feel strained from the beginning until the end and even after. It plays with the mind and makes it reveal its complexity even more. The story Martin Scorsese tells is very intricate and grim, but at the same time gripping and touching. The cast is also very well chosen – Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer. DiCaprio has proven his talent within the recent years. He’s not any more the sweet, blonde boy we all know from Titanic. He transformed into a serious actor- one of the best Hollywood has ever had. This man made some really high-quality movies in the past few years: The Blood Diamond, The Aviator, Inception, The Great Gatsby etc.

But let’s go back to Shutter Island. There are movies that are a must and it is one of them. I would describe it as a psychological thriller with drama elements but mixed in so incredibly good way that the end product is brilliant. Of course, there are many critics that would not agree with me like The Guardian for example, which review on the movie uses phrases such as “old-fashioned melodrama” and “shaggy dog tale”. Of course everyone has the right of an opinion and my personal one is that the movie trains one’s reason and logic and does not leave the viewer indifferent to the story it tells and the way it’s telling it. I have made my personal investigation on people’s reactions while they are watching the movie and straight after its end (which reverses the action at 180 degrees). They were all stunned but deeply impressed. I have a friend, who in the first minutes after the end of the movie, believed her mind was playing games with her too.

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Leonardo Dicaprio as Teddy Daniels in “Shutter Island”

We don’t realise the power of our mind. It is so big that it’s out of our control, moreover, it’s in control of us. That is scary but impressive at the same time and proves us we are not that great as we think we are. We are not in full control of our emotions, desires, thoughts, but our mind is. And who is in control of our mind? Well that question hasn’t been answered yet. But it raises a number of others like, “Is there any particular reason for mentally ill people to get ill?”, and “Do we know what’s in these people’s heads?”, “Do we actually know what’s in our head?” After watching Shutter Island or a movie like this you start asking yourself all these questions. I praise the power of films of this type, because they make you think and analyse yourself and the surrounding world. They raise questions and make you look for the answers.

After all, we are rational creatures and one of the reasons we are living in this world is to fight for the privilege to know the truth…

L. V. K.