Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film – Edward Ross

61gJiZs1Y1L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_What I expected to be a fictional story centred around a protagonist’s love for film actually turned out to be 200-odd page visual essay looking at various themes surrounding film. From the way the body is represented in film (anyone who studied Laura Mulvey’s male gaze will have flashbacks in this chapter) to the use of architecture or language in film, this book explores multiple aspects of the world’s favourite and most talked about films as well as a few movies you might not have heard of.

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Film has been a big part of my life for many years, from growing up watching sci-fi films with my Dad at weekends to sharing and expanding my knowledge with my film-mad boyfriend (who still berates me for not wanting to watch The Wrestler nor 10+ hours of Lord of the Rings). As a result, I was a big fan of this graphic novel, desperately pouring over each panel carefully and trying to absorb all the arguments.

I think anyone with some love or knowledge for film would enjoy Filmish, as well as anyone who has studied/studying film or media or just anyone wanting to understand more about how film is constructed. As someone who studied media from GCSE to degree level, myself and my boyfriend (who did a degree in TV Production) really enjoyed the richness and analysis of Ross’ arguments, using theories from our dissertations.

I felt the book is enjoyable for how current it remains to be since its publication in 2015. It discusses both some of the failings of film in recent years (for example, there is a section about Disney’s representation of gender, age, disability and ethnicity) as well as giving some insight into why audiences react in certain ways to gore or death, for example. Combined with clear illustrations depicting well-known scenes in everyone’s most loved and hated films, there is something for everyone’s interests in this book (I loved the amount of analysis on gender representation in film!).

The chapter structure of Filmish does well to break down the analysis without making it becoming too overwhelming, however, I feel one of my main criticisms of this book was that the chapters near the end of Filmish feel far less put together and concrete than the first chapters. The arguments become less complex and at times, the analysis doesn’t feel balanced either looking at films from face value rather than delving deeper, or alternatively, looking a little bit too deeply perhaps and proving a point using a small gesture in a 30 second clip in one film.

Overall, this book does a superb job of giving access to film theory through the form of a graphic novel, providing some interesting, thought-provoking arguments and providing fundamental insight into film. I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest particularly in film and graphic novels – it is a great book to share with fellow film lovers and I especially enjoyed trying to work out which film each panel was depicting with my boyfriend.

Everyone will take away something from this book, whether its a new film recommendation or two, or simply an understanding of how their favourite film is constructed.

I give it a 4 out of 5

 

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Dissolution – C.J. Sansom

515Qxg1aeGL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Dissolution is the first book in the Matthew Shardlake series following a lawyer working for the monarchy in the turmoil of Tudor England. I was recommended this book by a customer when I used to work at Waterstones who was after another crime book set in Tudor times (it was actually hard to find one!). I’m a lover of a good old ‘whodunit’ crime novel and I love Tudor history, so this book was a perfect combination for a history and literature lover like myself.

The narrative itself centres around the events that transpire at the monastery of Scarnsea, one of the monasteries that Henry VIII has ordered the closure of. When a commissioner working for the Crown is murdered, Shardlake and his assistant, Mark, are sent there by Cromwell to discover what happened and shut the monastery down for good.

It is the rich historical background of this book that is arguably the best part, set in the aftermath of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour’s deaths and in the pinnacle of Cromwell’s dissolution of the monasteries after England’s move towards Protestantism. Combined with a setting full of secrets, immoral deeds and more and more questions arising, it made this book readable and rather enjoyable for any history lovers.

However, considering it took me a substantial amount of time to get into this book (to the point where I nearly gave up), I’m glad I continued as this book delved further into the monasteries’ inhabitants secrets and perhaps immoral deeds. With more and more questions arising on every page, it kept me turning the pages – particularly near the end – wondering who the murderer might be.

Matthew Shardlake is not a protagonist that I feel you’re supposed to cheer along – I found him rather dislikeable throughout the majority of the novel, although I found him better towards the end. I had some odds with his assistant, Mark, as a character, as he went from the naive yet cheerful apprentice to moody throughout the novel without much obvious motivation for this change of behaviour.

My main problem with Dissolution was the speed of which the story picked up. It was only until around 150 page mark that I began to read with some interest, everything before seemed unnecessary or just a bit boring really. For anyone picking up this book, I recommend to stick on with it if you do find it a bit dull to begin with. As the story gains momentum and intensity, you’ll find yourself reading it until the early hours wanting to find out the killer!

On the other hand, the writing is excellent throughout, and explained aspects of my Tudor History A level that I had forgotten. Having some prior knowledge of the Tudor period helps in reading this rich historical novel, however, it’s not necessary for your enjoyment I think.

I’m interested in continuing this series, especially as some of the other books centred around King Henry VIII at court (always preferred the scandals at court to the political and religious detail when we studying it!).

A promising start to hopefully a wonderful series!

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

The Power – Naomi Alderman

31195557For anyone who has their ear on the ground about feminist reads or new books by female authors, this is probably pretty well-known, especially since it won Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017. I thought this would be the perfect book to fill that Handmaid’s Tale shaped gap in my life since the end of the TV series and finishing the book – especially as Margaret Atwood mentored Alderman for this book!

It all begins when teenage girls suddenly start developing this power – this ability to transmit electricity from their fingertips. As it is passed from woman to woman, the power at women’s fingertips suddenly starts to unbalance the power within the world, overthrowing dictatorships, rebelling against patriarchal structures and empowering women to take over from the oppression they’ve always experienced. The book follows four people coping with this new found power dynamic – Allie, a mixed race foster child; Roxy, the daughter of London’s biggest mob boss; Margot, an American middle-class politician stuck in a system full of men and Tunde, a Nigerian teenage boy seizing the opportunity to document the rise of The Power.

This book made me feel a lot of things. At different points throughout, I felt empowered, disgusted, saddened, angered and hopeful in ways I haven’t before in other books (as a side note, I’d be interested to hear whether women and men have different reactions to this book!).

The Power creates a world both so unlike and yet so similar to our own one now – I found myself thinking certain events unimaginable to some extent, but really at face value, any of the events in this book could happen if a group of people was given something extraordinary and powerful. The narrative has moments reminisce of the Arab Springs,  ISIS terror attacks or even protests in recent years both here in the UK and in America. Regardless of motivation and the type of power – sci-fi or reality – Alderman puts a mirror up to our own world barely clothed with its sci-fi element.

The main two elements I loved about this novel was its characters and its complexity. Its characters all felt equally well-developed and rich – their individual narratives all getting equal time to one another. No narrative feels less important than another, which I feel is something had to do when you have a multitude of narratives interlaced with one another.

The word ‘rich’ truly defines what I loved about this book – its characters, its plot, its writing had such a depth to them that allowed the book to explore so many themes and their relationship to one another from gender equality and its unbalances to rape culture, religion and the role of government in a way I didn’t find too preachy.

My only criticism is that, while I took a way a lot from this novel, for me, it was not clear exactly what Alderman wanted to get across as the ending just finishes very suddenly and ambiguously. Maybe that is the point or maybe it is open for your own interpretations based on your own experiences – who knows. However, I think the problem for me here lies in its framing as a history book which felt a little unnecessary by the end – I felt it would have been just as good without.

I don’t think this is a book that everyone would like for its choppy narrative and, at times, its global setting tends to lean on stereotypes potentially in its representation. This was a hard book to review because it was hard to put my finger on why I liked it so much. Ultimately, I have not enjoyed a book like this in a long old while and it was refreshing to read an absorbing, complex and rich narrative without feeling a little overwhelmed.

I give it a 5 out of 5