Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: January 2012

I am sure this film is perceived in a very different way depending on whether you have seen the original Swedish films and / or read the books. I have seen the films, not read the books, and I was wondering what Fincher would bring to the screen that was not there before (especially the first Swedish film is really excellent). Not much, actually. The actors are almost all less interesting and edgy than in the Swedish version, the story is laid out not half as clearly. The Swedish movie is one of high suspense and tension, the Fincher one is basically an effort in style over substance. That style is great, no doubt, as is common with Fincher films. One very poor choice is to ask the native English speakers to speak with supposedly Swedish accents, what sense is that supposed to make?? It is actually borderline ridiculous, and is indicator of all the problems of a film that needs to be very specifically positioned in the market to find any audience, but that at its heart does realize that it does not know why it exists. The Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross soundtrack is another example: it is excellent, but is also an over-stylized, abstract approach. Too much abstraction for a very concrete story usually is an indicator that this story has been processed too often already, and yet another way to tell it is sought. I think what they are trying to do is add layers and variations to the story in order not to bore those who are familiar with the plot from reading the books. That means as a stand-alone product, the film is way too abstract to make any sense. As part of the Millenium universe, it does not add too many interesting aspects. While it is possible to enjoy this approach on an intellectual level, I think nobody would have missed this film had it not been made…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_girl_with_the_dragon_tattoo/

There are those days when you feel life is just too bright and happy, prospects are too good, people are too nice to teach other. Watch this film, it will bring you back down. There has hardly ever been a film that treats family and parenthood so coldly, cruelly and truly, that dares to ask what a parent can do when he / she realizes that through all parental love, the fact remains that their kid is a bad person. I would expect most parents at some point develop a degree of hate against their ungrateful, obnoxious, annoying, dirty, omnipresent, always demanding, permanently crying children. If only for a minute, or for life, that will depend. But all parents, I guess, will feel terribly guilty about these feelings at some point. “We need to talk about Kevin” is about this guilt, and how you possibly can deal with it. Tilda Swinton’s character realizes that while her relationship to her son is failing almost from the very first day, she is unable, maybe unwilling, to give up on him. She puts effort and energy into him every step of the way, even when I as audience to this movie would long have asked for the form with which I can get separated from my child and send him to a foster home or a hospital. She takes punches for him even after she needs to, she is like the Irish sin eaters who try to relieve the just-deceased’s  afterlife by taking their sins and burdening themselves instead.

This is Tilda Swinton’s movie, she lives the role with this intensity and physique that can be matched by hardly any other actress working today. But Ezra Miller as older Kevin and Jasper Newell as the younger kid match her in their own way: the character is designed to be of almost Damien-like quality, but especially Miller makes sure that you keep believing this kid, you accept that he acts on some form of nihilistic philosophy. And both their sheer physical beauty creates a stunning contrast between their inner lives and outer appearance.

This kind of movies is what cinema is about: provocative story, stylized in a way to reflect the characters’ inner conflicts, great actors that can hold back if needed, challenging ideas that are painful to think through. A stunning achievement, certainly one of the best films I have seen in the last couple of years!

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/we_need_to_talk_about_kevin/

Of course the expected things happen in this film: reversal of roles (the potential child molester becomes the victim, becomes the child molester – the potential victim becomes the avenging angel becomes the psychopath), and reversal of fortunes (he is caught, he escapes, he is caught again, he escapes in more than just one way, he is caught without being tied down at last). That is very stylishly presented, with a nice setting (apparently, a lot of thinking went into the colouring of the apartment) and Patrick Wilson (whom I think I have not seen before) in the midst if it as (apart from everything else) a man in the web of a mad spider. Whether one needs to dwell into reflections on the morale of the plot line… I think better not, because that thing is better taken as a cringer, a leg-cringer in a way, and interestingly works as such very well even at second viewing, which I happened to do while listening to the (not too interesting) director’s audio commentary that comes on the DVD (which has quite a nice cover, I have to say, even though the symbolism is a bit overdone).

Ellen Page received much praise for her acting. I liked it, too (and she is a really pleasant watch, too), but I found it a wee bit overdone and overcool and oversweet (candy… get it?) at times. The explanation for her behaving the way she does and talking and playing the way she does may have to do with her “SECRET PAST”, but as long as nobody tells me whether there is such a “SECRET PAST” or not and what that “SECRET PAST” would be I just think her part is a bit over-designed.

The whole logic is far from being credible, is far from being plausible, too, but some dialogues and some surgical procedures are quite entertaining. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424136/
Guardian: http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Critic_Review/Observer_Film_of_the_week/0,,1800169,00.html

RT: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hard_candy/

If you have read Stephen King’s “11/22/63”, you will feel compelled to see “Of Mice and Men” and “12 Angry Men” again. I did and I wanted, and how long has it been since I have seen Sydney Lumet’s masterpiece. I did not know before that it was his first feature. This is stunning, as he not only masters the actors and acting, creating thrilling interactions between these sometimes more, sometimes less angry men – he also uses the setting that is basically a stage to create space and dynamics. He uses camera movements and cuts to create a universe in which the characters can bring all of their histories, their rationality and irrationality, their rage, their traumas, their professions, their life experience, their fears. He locks them down into a jury room, turns on the Summer heat and brings on the thunderstorms. He boils them alive in their own sweat to see what will happen.

Looking at this today, the use of theatre limitations is pure genius, it allows to leave out the courtroom drama, make it a jury room drama instead. This could fall flat, but it does not: all the pieces of information are conveyed through argument, nothing feels convoluted. This could be easy work for the jury, as all the evidence has been presented, but matter-of-fact it is harder, because not only is there no way of going back to questioning witnesses, but the jurors also have to live with the deficiencies and neglects of attorney and court. There is no white knight superhero who comes in with superior intelligence and conjures up the arguments to rescue somebody whose innocence will be proven at some point, but there is only a regular guy at the outset (albeit played by an immensely intense Henry Fonda) who is not satisfied with the quick way a kid is sent to the electric chair. He does not have specific reasons, he does not provide clever insights, he just wants to force everybody to talk and argue about it. “I don’t have anything brilliant” is how Henry Fonda starts it.

The opposition, or rather the blood thirst / indifference to a person’s life crumbles over 90 minutes, and towards the end there are the two scenes that may still be among the most memorable in movie history: Juror 10’s hate speech against anybody and everybody is rewarded with his peers (literally) turning their backs on  him, one by one. And Juror 3, the last man standing, played by an outstandingly energetic and powerful Lee. J. Cobb, finally explodes with rage about the others, himself, his failures in life, like a supernova burning away all his covers and defenses.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1000013-12_angry_men/

I should not have watched that. As a kid, I never watched the tv show when it was on, and I did not watch it in particular because German title really put me off (“Smileys Leute”). I was an astheticist from early on, even though I still do not know whether to spell it like that. Anyway… I never heard the English title until this movie was announced, and immediately thought that this is an even worse title for a movie than the German one. I did not even understand 25% of the words in it! The third downer came when I read that it was based on a novel by John Le Carre, which means it is a spy novel, which means it would be the least likely of all novels ever to be read by me. I think I have never ever read a spy novel. I do not like James Bond movies. Cold War stories are fun only when they are about hiding the microfilm in a body cavity and smuggling it from Krakow through Bucharest to Vienna, where the dead body of the microfilm mule will be found decoratively spread on a very well-lit wet pavement. That means I am not interested in the film’s story, I do not understand the references to other books or films or tv shows. In the case of “Tinker Tailor…”, I do not even understand the story. Usually within the first 20 minutes of a film, you will know where this is going, the plot has been outlined. Then you can lay back and enjoy the execution of the story. Not here: I got a bit distracted after 20 minutes, and when I paid attention again I did not have a clue where all these people were going and what they were doing. Luckily most if the scenes are lined up like a game designed for the annoyance of the Gary Oldman Character: he needs to go from one possible source to the next one, and sometimes you can understand what he is trying to achieve even without having followed the previous bits. Gratefully, Le Carree and the script authors also used some flashbacks that were very helpful in creating more confined areas of amusement, where it did not matter whether I knew why this person was blindfolded and tortured or the other one shot in the head.

It always takes a bit longer when I am trying to express that I have no idea whether the film was good or bad, but I can say that the film is very calm, very unexcited about its subject matter, and that is a very distinct Tomas Alfredson style. I was reminded of “Let The Right One In” in that it never looses its cool, the people never get very excited,  most actually never make it out of a melancholic  paralysis (maybe the Tom Hardy character excluded). Production design and costumes are fabulous – only that the result is a film that perfectly reflects the ghastly look and the dullness of the Cold War era. And of the spy profession, by the way, so I was right to always stay away from these movies…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/tinker_tailor_soldier_spy/

Thorough analysis of the … plot… here:  http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2012/01/23/tinker-tailor-a-guide-for-the-perplexed/

During the opening moments of “The Descendants”, I could not help to think “oh this is what an American version of ‘Beginners’ looks like”. After half an hour, I was worried that it would be an American, or Hawaiian, version that would not even be half as good as “Beginners”. In the end, I was happy to see that it had taken some interesting twists and turns and had found its own story.

My worries were not justified, it is a good film, and the best thing about it is … no, not George Clooney or his handsomely grey hairline. It is the conflict Clooney is confronted with. As this happens in the first 20 minutes, I guess it is not really a spoiler to say that Matt King’s (Clooney’s) wife has a near-fatal accident, is in hospital in a coma, and this is when he finds out that his wife has had an affair with another guy for a while. Many interesting decisions need to be made by Matt building on this fact: how to deal with his wife, her imminent death, but it also plays into business dealings in a major way. Dealing with this initially invisible, then briefly visible character, or rather with the fact of his marriage being in shambles much longer than he realized (if he realized at all), having his hands full with the prime plague of a single parent, two adolescent daughters, he walks through his life in a slightly melancholic (very George Clooney’ish) way, very controlled, even balancing private and work life, but realizing that there are things he cannot do on his own. He draws in others (his daughter, his in-laws, even at some point the lover of his wife) intentionally to allow life to be in order again. Family is mentioned a lot here, the whole film is set before a background of a large family heritage being processed, and it seems that if there is a key message of the film, Alexander Payne wants to tell the audience that dealing with catastrophes in a collaborative way usually helps. That is not big news, but it makes for a well-developed, unspectacularly warm-hearted film.

In the final scene, we see a family sitting together in their house near the Hulalahula beach watching a film about Antarctica and penguins… I was wondering whether this is the Hawaiian version of adult extreme tv…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_descendants_2011/

There is no point in doing a film of the year 2011 list, because most of the 2011 films reach me way too late – I can do a list if the best films that I saw and that were originally released in 2011 maybe early 2013… but anyway, as I keep updating my “ranking” of the films that I have actually seen, why not praise those that were the best and were actually released AND seen by me in 2011.

The best film I have seen over the last two years is still the same that topped that ranking last year (and that would have kicked “White Ribbon” off that list two years ago, had the list existed then). Nothing has nearly been as impressive as  “Winter’s Bone”, and how could anything top this masterpiece? But there is Le Quattro Volte (2011), the silent goat-herding experiment, I have only this year seen Fish Tank (2010) (another Dameselle in Distress movie – it was pointed out to me that “Winter’s Bone” and “Fish Tank” topping my list tells a lot about me… I suppose the lost goat baby was also technically a goat girl teenager) and I stumbled across Certified Copy (2010) as the most unlikely of my favourite films. I would never see that film intentionally, the same way I only saw “Before Sunset” by accident because I happened to have a ticket for the Berlin Festival premiere – and not only are both films my most surprising favourites, but of course also strongly related in how they take you on a strange ride, a talkative one.

The year was a disaster for disaster movies and busted all the blockbusters. I checked what the best-ranked action / adventure movie was I saw, and I find a bit of Hanna (2011), and my most fun movie of the year Real Steel (2011) (not as good on second viewing, especially if the second viewing is not in a movie theatre – but man, when Twin Cities gets it, it is still time to throw the doughnuts at the screen and cheer!). A bit behind these is Duncan Jones’ surprising follow-up to “Moon”, Source Code (2011), which had its flaws and suffered from the “Run Lola Run” syndrome (knowing that you have to have all these repetitions, but not really having the perfect solution for keeping the tension up). There was one film that I saw in 2D and wished it had been 3D (Piranha 3D), and at least one case where I wished I had found a 2D screening Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010-11).

Animated movies were not very good this year:  “Cars 2” was even more boring than “Cars”, “Rio” was nicely coloured and that was that, and “Rango” was a bit more edgy, but also not fully satisfactory. I will need to catch up on the smaller productions, I look forward to “Chico and Rita”, and have only seen a little bit of “When Sita got the Blues”, plus “The Illusionist” and “My Dog Tulip” waiting in the wings. It can only get better.

Hors Category, as they say in the Tour de France, are some films I particularly enjoyed, for various reasons:  Trollhunter (2011), Red State (2011) or Beginners (2011) all contributed one way or the other to an interesting movie experience.

There are films that I can watch almost any time, in any mood, and that surprise me with new perspectives and details. There are not many, maybe seven altogether? In any case, “Seven” is such a film. The gloomy atmosphere, the perennial rain, the brooding Detective played by Morgan Freeman, the clearly temper challenged young guy with a past that Brad Pitt makes come alive. To position Kevin Spacey such late in the film, give him only a couple of minutes screen time, but make him the intellectual opponent to Freeman’s Detective with a brain.

This time I paid more attention than usual to the opening credits, a little masterpiece of its own, and realized for the first time that he is already working with texts that have to do with pregnancy. What? When? More puzzles to be solved… and I look forward to watching it again soon!  I don’t think Fincher ever made such a coherent and dense film again.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/seven/

It is an appropriate reverence, to look back on Pina Bausch through her works. Wim Wenders knew and liked her work for many years, and they apparently wanted to collaborate for a long time. Because of Pina Bausch’s death, the form of the film had to change from something we do not really know, because it was never thoroughly developed, to what we now see: a revue of Bausch’s most famous choreographies, replicated to make for most beautiful camera capture. It looks gorgeous, even though I do not understand what the 3D would add to it. Being a technical layman, I can also only guess that the 3D is not done in the most professional way.

Does this make a great movie? Not at all, it is in its best moments (such as the Café Europa scenes) as good as sitting in the theatre and watching a live performance. A bit better, because you do not hear as much breathing and cracking of bones as you do in modern dance performances on stage. The more cinematic elements (i.e. the outdoor shootings) are actually rather distracting.

The dancing is just the way it is – spectacular and innovative. The film allows you to see it. It is as simple as that.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/pina_3d/

It is about a horse that goes to war. If you have seen any film in your life, you will know exactly what this film will look like, what the storyline is, and how it will end. The episodic nature of the film is almost the best aspect about it, because it promises to get away from the expected by cutting off the bonds established in each part. It cuts many of these bonds, and quite violently, actually, but when towards the end I realized that in one crucial way, the film will go soft on the audience and offer closure, I got even a little angry. A film about the war that left the world in shambles both morally and economically cannot end on such a light note, or nothing has been learned about the cruelty of war. Of course War Horse is a comic movie in the wider sense of the term, it does not allow to be judged by the standards of real life. But: then nothing is left that lifts this film above any Bollywood happy ending movie. Devastatingly unoriginal…

 http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/war_horse/ 

The wet dream of the Scottish Tourism association: Ever other decade, it is perfectly possible to watch Braveheart again. Of course Sophie Marceau and the clichés about giggling French Mademoiselles are still annoying. Of course Mel Gibson’s hair does not look more fashionable with increasing distance. Of course some of the Scottish accents are really more off than they should be. And what struck me this time: these Highlanders had a hell of a good dental plan, look at these armies of white straight teeth!

But what the hell: longswords, kilts, evil kings and too many of them, treason, friendship, eternal love, decapitation of the hero, full frontal warrior nudity, arrows in the provocative butt cheeks, Robert the Spineless Bruce, Brendan Gleeson, Prince’s Lovers Taking A Fall from Grace and Great Height, freeeeeedoooom – what else do you want between “Game of Thrones” seasons?  I kept looking for Ser Gregor Clegane in the midst of battle, but seems he was busy on other grounds shedding enemy blood. The pretty good BlueRay transfer makes me long to go back to the land of glens and bens again.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1065684-braveheart/

I am a sucker for non-market economics: application of the economic principle outside narrowly defined market situations (then again, for an economist, there is hardly anything that is not a market situation, but that is a matter of definition). I worked quite a bit on public choice and institutional economics at university, and have maintained the belief that studying human behavior by way of cross-fertilisation of economics, psychology, sociology, biology and whatever comes in handy helps explain a lot about how decision-making happens, past present and (most importantly for an economist) future.

In this spirit, I see with quite a bit of satisfaction the demise of the traditional form of neoclassical economics, using rather simplistic models of human behavior, and I enjoy the success of rogue economists’ publications in the “Freakonomics” spirit. These heirs to Gary Becker do not only explain a lot of things traditional economists cannot explain or understand, they are usually also much more fun to read.

A recent example from my reading list: “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that shape our Decisions by Dan Ariely”. Easy to read, easy to grab, often profound in the way it shows essential determinants of human behavior. Ariely describes experiments he and his colleagues conducted, and these experiments are mostly highly interesting ways of showing the side conditions of human decision-making. I believe when you put some work into applying these findings and transfer them to any given policy, market or private life situation, there is a good chance that you have a profoundly higher probability of getting what you want. Findings on what makes people cheat in exams, or steal, etc. He shows how simple the wiring often is that creates decisions in the midst of complex information. (Sometimes the wiring is embarrassingly direct: as a man, it is not very nice to read the findings of the experiment assessing the ability of sexually aroused males to anticipate their mating behavior).

There are interesting chapters about the interplay between social rules and market rules (try telling your date how much the meal you just paid her cost and see how your expected revenue declines). How much easier is it to cheat when no cash is involved! Includes funny yet clever suggestions about credit card improvement schemes: e.g. credit card calls your husband each timer you buy shoes, or your wife each time you buy chocolate beyond your monthly chocolate limit.

An enlightening and entertaining overview of experiments conducted in the area of behavioural economics, exactly my piece of cake!

The film is slightly better than I feared it would be, big budget Chinese production that it is. Those have continued to let the audiences down during the last years, especially when they are about current themes. The least that will happen in the average production is that the heroic efforts of whoever is suitable to be heroic are highlighted with such inappropriate pathos that it is hard to watch and destroys whatever may be the good sides of a film. The Tangshan earthquake has some heroes and heroic stories to be told – but director  Feng Xiaogang  manages to keep the glorification of the army and the survivors and the government at a (probably necessary) minimum. His interest seems to be in a story of cruelty: a mother who decides the fate of her children in the middle of the earthquake aftermath – she has to make a terrible (albeit slightly contrived) choice. As a consequence, she will suffer for more than 30 years under a guilty conscience, while the child on the losing end of the choice will nurture hate against her and will punish her with indifference. That is quite an interesting moral fable, and it allows a strong final scene, where both mother and child reflect again on their respective choices  – and it turns out that both have seriously punished and damaged themselves with the choices they made. The film indicates that the daughter was more wrong than the mother, which you may or may not accept, but the moral face-off is worth the 135 minutes wait. For a foreign audience unfamiliar with Chinese family life, obligations and commitments, I can imagine the characters are sometimes a bit hard to understand in their motives, but I found it mostly convincing, even surprising how the author dares showing the drama and the failures that comes with being stuck in this rigid form of family system.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1393746/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aftershock_%28film%29

It is a bit funny to see these films with a political message today, when that message is not allegorical or hinted at, but spoken right into your face. On the other hand, communication was different in the 1950s, and so was political logic and diplomacy. The whole film only works because the alien with the vastly superior technology, ability to fly from wherever in just five months, produce impregnable metal and indestructible robots – this alien is not able to just send out a radio broadcast or tv message all over the world’s channels, making sure that his message about love peace and happiness and the end of all violence is heard by all the world’s leaders at the same time? Why bother to bring them together? Because that gives you more time to contact the superbrain scientist who believes you and brings his fellow top scientists from all over the world to come and witness your statement. It  is just such a good guy, that alien man that looks just like people on Earth do: when he makes the world stand still for half an hour by cutting off electricity, he makes sure nobody is harmed by leaving out the hospitals, airplanes in flight and other vital instruments. He is not beyond threat, actually he came to Earth in order to explain his threat.

So in summary: nice alien, good cause, friendly warning… why did we not listen, I wonder?

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1005371-day_the_earth_stood_still/

Not a masterpiece, but a nice bit of entertaining with a great acting trio at the center. It has some very nice elements that make it terribly entertaining, at times even hilarious. One is Harrison Ford: a seasoned political journalist forced into the purgatory of moderating breakfast tv, disgruntled by this but unable to escape the allure of good tv money… that sounds a bit like Harrison Ford, seasoned actor of character drama, pushed into the pit of romantic comedy… and that has its moments. While he is predictably grumpy during most of the film, he has some glorious outbursts: a nice introductory speech where he gives his impressive CV: “I have cooled Mother Theresa’s feverish forehead with a wet tissue. I have been shot at in Bosnia. I have had dinner with Dick Cheney!” (or similar, could not find the quote right now). And in the grand finale, he brings down the house with a very awkward impro cooking show, and all is in tears… Rachel McAdams, who I did not know before, is cute  as the overwhelmed but determined producer, and Diane Keaton is really great as Harrison Ford’s co-host, engaging in a match of the elderly about screen supremacy (“who gets to say ‘Good Bye’?”) .

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/morning-glory-2010/

Kristen Wiig. Enough said, she is the only reliable comedian in the Saturday Night system at the moment, and as this the only perspective for a Tina Fey follower. Is there any other fearless female comedian out there? I don’t know one, really, and it seems that unless you have gone through the SNL boot camp, you shrink away. She is here to stay, even though the number of facial expressions she has is still limited. Never mind, she is hilarious as the loser maid of honour who messes up every single element of wedding preparation for her best friend – by bringing down the plane that was supposed to take them to their Vegas bachelorette night, by making everybody crap their gowns, and street, and sink. By just not accepting that the bride is now grown up and enjoys fancy France trips more than hanging out with the girls in the backyard pub. Or does she? Nice additional note by her relationship to police officer Rhodes, who brings an English touch of sophistication and principles – which does not make both their lives easier of course.

Certainly among the best comedies of the last years, which is not to say much, but thoroughly funny, and yet another bit of evidence that women preparing weddings need to be put in protective custody and only released after the wedding is over. Just kidding. A bit.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bridesmaids_2011/

I usually do not post comments on books I read in this blog, but sometimes a book I just finished seems to be calling out for some notes to be jotted down, if only to avoid the depressing development of having forgotten everything you just enjoyed over the course of a mere couple of months.

I do not want to forget the details of “11-22-63”, because I thoroughly enjoyed it, and in particular did I enjoy how he compiled known fiction elements into something gripping and new. If you, like me, are a long-time Stephen King admirer, then a whole bunch of motifs come leaping at you within the first couple of pages – and it is clear where this story is heading: It is “Dead Zone” and the camp fire story of the monkey’s paw, it is nostalgia and melancholia about the things we leave behind, with the special touch of melancholia subjective narration can provide (the Summer novella “The Body”, famous as the source for “Stand By Me”, comes to mind). Mortality and ageing play a part, as does dedicated love. And evil: not the abstract force that allows religions to set pretty good incentives for their followers, but evil as a concrete element partaking in the machinery of human interaction. King wrote about evil personified before, most notably in his bulky “It”, and no surprise that it is the town of Derry, home of the clown that haunted Derry’s sewers so long ago, that plays a part in this story again.

If you are a long-time fan, you will enjoy old friends showing up again (the dancing kids in Derry are not just friends, they have been accomplices in defeating evil), but there are also hints that it is not just the friends that you will meet again (one car that the main character stumbles across frequently suspiciously looks like the one called “Christine” in another great King-fest of nostalgia).

King lines up his new heroes and the old ones to tackle the main question that is clear from the title: What if… What if you could stop the father from killing his kids because you knew in advance and could take him out. What if you could stop the stray bullet from paralyzing the girl? What if you could stop the ex-husband from cutting up the pretty girl? What if you could stop Oswald from shooting Kennedy? King is such an incredibly mature, skilled and seemingly relaxed author today that he does not step into the obvious trap of having an answer to this. He is not interested very much in messages, his strength is characters. The characters at the heart of his stories are always elaborated, always understandable, always detailed to a degree that makes it impossible not to understand their motives and actions. These are real people (even if they are a dog – sorry Cujo, I did not want to leave you out, don’t get mad!), and often they are facing real decisions. Of course it is easy to fix a past murder if you have a time machine (or time rabbit hole), but what some elaborated on as butterfly effect, others as rippling the time-space continuum, yet others as messing with God’s plan, is not trivial. The worlds King paints in this book may have some troubles of their own (earth-crust shattering ripples, a general resistance to change, the past is obdurate), but at their core they are a variation on what Doctor Pangloss already understood: we have to assume that the world as it is is the best of all possible worlds, because it is the God decided to give to us. Creating deviations from this natural path once it has been established has fascinated authors for ages (examples here), and what Stephen King can add to the discussion he does. He brings it to the heart of the American trauma, and he shatters plenty of self-delusions about the way of US and world history doing this. Would saving Kennedy (or Martin Luther King, or Robert Kennedy) have been for the better? He shows that using the terms “better” or “worse” will get your fingers burned, because the implications of any such change – as theoretical a mind experiment as it may be – are mind-bogglingly complex. At one point in the book, we are shown one of the alternate realities that could be created, and suffice it to say that it is not clear why we should want to have that one rather than the one we know.

Decades ago, Stephen King wrote in one of his books’foreword or afterword (usually gems of author’s wisdom and insight, not to be skipped by any means) that he has only a tiny handful of original ideas in his life, and has written variations on these ever since. It is interesting to see that “11-22-63” is such a reprocessed seasoned idea, and makes for a book that did not only receive stunningly positive reviews (not a regular occurrence for King novels), but also a thrilling read. I was willing to get along on the ride with these people, with George / Jake, Sadie, Mike and Deek, I was willing to follow them at much greater lengths than the people from the maybe at face value more “original” “The Dome”, which maybe lacked the humanity, or rather the personalization and individualization of large events that “11-22-63” has.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: