SEEING FICTION— 10 Best Literary Films

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Photo: Jonas Hafner | This is captivating— thank you | aufzehengehen.de

Most of what we see on screen is fiction. The creations of strategic marketing campaigns, press releases, and narrative fallacies which turn complex realities into soothing, but overly simplified stories. These creations are designed to shield us from the complications of the world around us.

After awhile, everything becomes a blur. That is why much of what’s on television does not fascinate me— it simplifies too much. But a good film is a work of art. Like a good book, it opens the mind, inspires creativity, and fascinates.

Movies based on literary classics top my list because when a timeless story gets told through film, the idea is not to create a book clone but to channel the story using a different medium. Each has its own merit. A movie complements a book— it never replaces it.

Here are ten literary adaptations that are worth seeing as much as they are worth reading:

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)— Based on Alexander Dumas’ classic.  The main character, Edmund Dumas takes us through a scarring adventure after being betrayed, leading to imprisonment by his best friend.

Anna Karenina (1997)— There are many adaptations of this Russian classic, but the 1997 version starring, Sophie Marcauex as Anna is elegant, beautiful, the best I’ve seen.

Onegin (2000)— Another Russian classic. This one is based on Alexander Pushkin’s novel set in verse, Eugene Onegin. The film will chill your body, and soul, starring Liv Tyler as Tatyana, and Ralph Fiennes as Eugene Onegin.

Жестокий романс (1984)— [RUSSIAN] Based on Alexander Ostrovsky’s classic play, Бесприданница (Without a Dowry). Very tragic, very Russian, and very beautiful.

Адмирал ( 2008)— [RUSSIAN] One of Russia’s highest budget films. It depicts the undoing of Russia’s golden age. The story is based on Admiral Kolchak’s battles and loves (plural).

Far from the Maddening Crowd (1967)— Based on Thomas Hardy’s classic. A remake of Far from the Maddening Crowd is scheduled for release May 2015 starring Carey Mulligan, but in the meantime, Julie Christie starring as Bathsheba is nostalgic, passionate, and very true to the book.

The House of Mirth (2000)— Set in America’s Belle Epoch and based on Edith Wharton’s novel of the same name. It is the tragic story of Lily Bart who finds herself trapped in the conventions and traditions of New York’s upper class. The acting and mise-en-scène are exquisite.

Jane Eyre (2011)— This passionate, chilling and charmingly British film is based on Charlotte Brontë’s autobiographical tale of woe. The film explores every emotion to the depth by spinning the story line on a wheel of anticipation.

The Princess of Montpensier (2010)— This film is based on a French short story published by Madame de La Fayette, who takes us into the world of the sixteenth-century French court and high aristocracy. A little bit of love, a little bit of war, and a lot of philosophical musings.

Anonimo Veneziano (1970)— [ITALIAN] Beautiful and cinematic. I watch it for Venice and for the best soundtrack of all time which weaves Alessandro Marcello’s Oboe Concerto in D minor, in-and-out of every scene. I certainly do not watch it for the dialogue because it is in Italian and the only word I understand is— ciao.

STUFF MINDS ARE MADE OF— 15 Most Influential Books in My Life

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PHOTO | JONAS HAFNER | ♡ HIS WORK

The books we read form our inner world, they help structure the way we think and help us to determine our values.These are fifteen of the most influential books in my life.

I inherited a little bit of a ravenous appetite for books from my dad who bewildered his teachers when he read through his entire school library in his teen years— or maybe from my mom who filled our story times with enchanting Fairy Tales.  Regardless of where the appetite came from, I am glad to have it because books are such stuff as minds are made of; and our observations are rounded with their depth.

Recently, I got asked for book recommendations, and while perusing the reading list, I started back in 1996 to keep track of my readings I chose fifteen books that shaped, ravished and influenced me most.

These are mostly classics and may seem outdated, but they are not because wisdom is timeless.  Here is why I recommend them:

  1. The Bible— Yes yes, this one is crucial. Read it cover to cover at least once. It’s not that long, it’s not that hard, and one should not argue for, nor against God, until this is done. Half of the world’s disagreements would get avoided if people knew what they were talking about when it comes to the Bible.  This is also imperative for anyone interested in literature by say, Milton, Shakespeare, Edith Wharton, etc. everyone quotes the Bible so reading it in context adds depth to just about every other significant work of literature.
  2. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith— This one, on the other hand, is very long, and very hard. Still, it is not hot to be ignorant about economics, so I highly recommend reading all five volumes. Just once.  After all, this is the fundamental work on capitalism and always will be, so it is worth the effort.  Smith settles the questions of the origin of money, how value is determined, the division of labor, taxes and all that other stuff, logical putting things into their places. This book is guaranteed to save you from falling into the pits of contemporary conspiracy theories and all sorts of get-rich-fast schemes.
  3. The Laws of Winners by Bodo Schäfer– Schäfer outlines the principles and habits which distinguish successful people from those who are merely lagging through life. He shares stories, facts, and principles which, if put into practice, will propel success in all areas of life.  P.S. Reading is one of his tips for success.  He reads around 150 books per year himself and highly recommends it to everyone else.
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie — Everyone who is anyone has read this (Warren Buffet still credits Carnegie for helping him overcome certain fears) and so should you. This book will behoove you and everyone you meet.
  5. The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm— Because love is an art and as with all arts, mastery requires knowledge.
  6. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis— This is an eloquent explanation of the various types of love to help you understand how to love your friends, your parents, your God, and your lover differently, but powerfully.
  7. Etiquette by Emily Post— Because vulgarity is neither charming nor pleasant.
  8. The Personality of a House by Emily Post— Because creating a beautiful house or a delightful room does not happen by accident and learning the basic principles of architecture and design is key to avoiding all sorts of interior and exterior faux pas.

ON THE FICTION SIDE:

  1. Camille: the Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas, fils– Because this is the greatest French love story of all time.
  2. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin– Because this is the greatest Russian love story of all time. In fact, it is so great that it is worth learning Russian just to appreciate the full effect of Pushkin’s luscious verse.
  3. Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare— Because this is the greatest English love story of all time. It is timeless, classic, and everyone should know where over-quoted lines like, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet ” originated.
  4. The Complete Works of Dorothy Parker— Because her wit is like a double-edged sword.
  5. Measure for Measure by Shakespeare— Because reading Shakespeare is the best way to understand human nature and learn to discern the twists and turns of character which divide a nobleman from a self-righteous ass.
  6. Travel Essays— I love them all. From Vladimir Gilyarovsky’s ramblings through Moscow, to the world travels of Francis Mayes. Seeing cities through the eyes of different travelers introduces hidden places, fresh insights and allows me to see the world from many perspectives, not just the shadowy limits of my own.

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE:

  1. The Wisdom of SolomonThis book is found in the Apocrypha. I’ve been reading this short set of Proverbs over and over for as long as I can remember and every time I come to Solomon’s descriptions of Wisdom— everything inside of me burns from the radiance of his words.

These books contain the lines I want to quote, the thoughts I want to think, and the world I want to live in.

George Bernard Shaw on Choosing a Mate

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Photo | My Fair Lady (1964)

When it comes to the mate-choosing phenomenon, George Bernard Shaw had some rather keen observations at the conclusion of, Pygmalion.  He worded them so eloquently, I will share them verbatim, but first about the play.

The film, My Fair Lady (1964) was based on the play by George Bernard Shaw who borrowed the plot from the myth of Pygmalion. The original story was written by Ovid, back in the day and goes something like this:

There lived a top notch sculptor, who sculpted a top notch sculpture. His skills were so top notch that his statue came out to be more than he bargained for. His medium was ivory and his matter was a woman.  His ivory woman was so perfectly sculpted under his skillful chisel that to his shame he fell madly in love with her. Despite the fact that she was ivory. But phew! Venus, the goddess of love came to his rescue. She felt pity for him and brought the love of his life to life.  The sculptor married his sculpture and they lived happily ever after— or so we will conclude for now.
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Now back to Shaw’s observations. Since they did not fit into the play he just threw them into the epilog as a freebie:

“Women, like men, admire those that are stronger than themselves. But to admire a strong person and to live under that strong person’s thumb are two different things. The weak may not be admired and hero-worshiped, but they are by no means disliked or shunned, and they never seem to have the least difficulty in marrying people who are too good for them. They may fail in emergencies, but life is not one long emergency: it is mostly a string of situations for which no exceptional strength is needed, and with which even rather weak people can cope if they have a stronger partner to help them out.

Accordingly, it is a truth everywhere in evidence that strong people, masculine or feminine, not only do not marry stronger people but do not show any preference for them in selecting their friends. When a lion meets another with a louder roar “the first lion thinks the last a bore.” The man or woman, who feels strong enough for two, seeks for every other quality in a partner than strength.

The converse is also true. Weak people want to marry strong people who do not frighten them too much, and this often leads them to make the mistake we describe metaphorically as “biting off more than they can chew.” They want too much for too little; and when the bargain is unreasonable beyond all bearing, the union becomes impossible: it ends in the weaker party being either discarded or Bourne as a cross, which is worse. People, who are not only weak but silly or obtuse as well, are often in these difficulties.”

Here, here now… think about this before your next date.