Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Henry VIII

Finally I finished page 932th from 'the Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Somers' book by Margaret George. It was a fun read.

King Henry VIII (1491-1547) was infamous because he married 6 times, despite the fact that he was a Catholic.

FIRST WIVE: Katherine of Aragon
Katherine was a devout Catholic from Spain, originally brought into England to marry Henry's older brother, Arthur, who shortly after marriage died of consumption. Later she married Henry who became the King. After a series of male heir deaths, Henry believed that their marriage was cursed. Only a daughter, Mary, survived. Katherine died in 1536, probably poisoned by the 2nd wife.

SECOND WIFE: Anne Boleyn
Anne was the one caused most tumults. Since The Pope refused to annul Henry's marriage with Katherine of Aragon, Henry cut off from Rome and make himself 'Supreme Head of the Church' with the Act of Supremacy. Before that he had the 'Act of Succession' to make Anne's daughter, Elizabeth, his rightful heir. During this time Sir Thomas More was beheaded. (Now I know why that movie is called A Man For All Seasons. Sir Thomas was jailed in the tower for one year and one day.) Anne herself was executed in 1536 for adultery, incest and treason.

THIRD WIFE: Jane Seymour
Jane was the one he loved most (at least according to the novel). She died in childbirth (1537), leaving him a male heir, Edward.

FOURTH WIFE: Anne of Cleves
Henry agreed to marry Anne because the painting of her made by Hans Holbein showed her as a very beautiful woman, which was not the case. Later she gave consent to the marriage's annulment and stayed in England as the king's sister. Died in 1557, outlived Henry by 10 years.

FIFTH WIVE: Catherine Howard
Also known as 'the rose without a thorn'. Beheaded in 1542 because of adultery.

SIXTH WIVE: Katherine Parr
She married twice before and was a widow when Henry took her as a wife. This queen knew a lot about Scriptures and showed interest to the New Faith (=Protestant). Died in 1548, a few days after giving birth to a child from her 4th husband.

In those years, 'Katherine' and 'Thomas' must be favourite names.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris is another masterpiece by Victor Hugo. I cannot decide which is more tragic: Les Misérables or Notre Dame de Paris. In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean tried to leave his past and becomes a good man, but the inspector wouldn't let him be. In Notre Dame de Paris we have 5 main characters:
1. Pierre Gringoire, the failed play writer whom Esmeralda married to save him from death.
2. Claude Frollo, the priest who fell desperately in love with Esmeralda and blamed her for this.
3. La Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy dancer.
4. Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell ringer of Notre Dame.
5. Captain Phoebus, the gallant soldier whom Esmeralda loved.

When I was younger I saw the book (already translated in bahasa Indonesia) in a book store, but as a student I didn't have enough money to buy all series so I only got Pride and Prejudice and A short stories collection by Anton Chekov. How I hoped I had the money, because several years later a friend gave me the Notre Dame de Paris book as a birthday gift, but the English translation was difficult to read (unlike my Les Miz book). I think I finally read the Indonesian translation because one of my cousins happened to have it.

I watched the 1956 movie version with Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida last night. It was a very good adaptation and I liked how the actors played Frollo, Esmeralda, and Quasimodo. My favourite scene was perhaps (because there were so many beautiful scenes) when Quasimodo was giving Esmeralda flowers when she was in sanctuary. He saw a beautiful red flower and happily troubled himself to get it - they were on the top of Notre Dame - but when he gave it to Esmeralda, she was looking at Phoebus and the next moment asked the hunchback to bring the captain to her.

In the movie Esmeralda met her end with an arrow. I haven't read the book for so long, but I think she met her death by hanging. Also I didn't see Frollo smile in the movie when Quasimodo pushed him from the roof.

Quasimodo might have the ugliest face in Paris, but he and Esmeralda possessed the purest hearts. In the movie Frollo only said he took care of Quasimodo as a charity. The book explained that Frollo had a little brother whom he put out to a nurse. When he saw baby Quasimodo, he remembered his little brother and what should happen to him if he were to die, so he felt pity to orphaned Quasimodo and take him home. (Frollo deserved a credit here. In the Disney version, he almost threw baby Quasimodo into a well.)
I remember my favourite part in the book now: The story about Esmeralda's mother. After Esmeralda had been born, there were gypsies arrived in town and her mother brought her to them so they could read her future. They were delighted to see her for she was such a very beautiful baby. The next day when her mother was out, they stole little Esmeralda and put the baby Quasimodo at her place. Her mother was very shocked to find her beautiful baby turned into a monster and since then she became a gyspy hater, even cursed Esmeralda everytime she went by, for she didn't know Esmeralda was her long lost child. And at last when mother and daughter finally met (like Cinderella, for each had one of the baby shoes), they had to be separated in an instant, for Esmeralda must be hanged, having been accused as a sorcerer, for a murder she never had done.

The trial scene in the movie was like a comedy. The proofs were stupid, but this was Paris in 1482. They didn't examined further the fact that there was another man in the murder scene. I laughed when they examined the dead leaf seriously and then concluded that Esmeralda was a sorcerer and the goat Djali was a devil incarnation. However it wasn't funny for Esmeralda for later she was tortured and perhaps she would never be able to dance again as they tried to break her lovely leg.

It was also heart-breaking to see people of Paris chose Quasimodo as the King of The Fools and the next day he was flogged and none would give him water when he asked except Esmeralda.

If only Phoebus had Quasimodo's heart, said Esmeralda. But he didn't, so the story must end tragically.

The title itself can be of 2 meaning. Notre Dame de Paris either can be the great church or La Esmeralda (Notre Dame = Our Lady).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

One of my fave parts from Les Misérables


Marius knew that he had a father, but that was all he knew. His mother died in 1815, when he was 5. No one had told him more. However, the whisperings and muttered asides in the society his grandfather frequented had made an impression on the child's mind and he had come by degrees to think of his father with a sense of shame and with no desire to know him. He was
persuaded that his father had no affection for him: why else should he have abandoned him to take care of others? Feeling himself unloved, he gave no affection in return; to him it was as simple as that. Thus he grew up.
In 1827, when he reached the age of 17, he came home one evening to find his grandfather awaiting with a letter in his hand.
"You are to go to Vernon tomorrow to see your father. It seems that he's ill. He wants to see you."
Marius might, in fact, have left that evening and been with his father next morning. But neither his grandfather nor he thought to inquire. He reached Vernon at dusk next evening. Arrived at the house, he rang the bell and a woman opened the door.
"Is this where Monsieur Pontmercy lives? I'm his son. He's expecting me."
"Not any longer," said the woman.
There were 3 men in the house. The first 2 were the doctor and a priest; the 3rd, in his nightshirt, lying on the floor, was his father. He had been attacked by brain-fever 3 days before and that evening had risen from his bed, crying in delirium, "My son is late. I must go to meet him." He had collapsed in the ante-chamber and there had died. His eye was sightless and
a tear on his pallid cheek had not yet dried: it was the measure of his son's delay.
Marius stood looking down at the man whom he was seeing for the first and last time. The grief he felt was no greater than the grief he would have felt in the presence of any dead man. Was it his fault that he had not loved his father?
Directly the funeral was over, he returned to Paris and resumed his studies, giving no more thought to his father than if he had never lived. He wore a black band on his hat, and that was all.
Clung to the religious habits of his childhood, he went regularly to hear Mass at Saint Sulpice, in the little lady chapel where he had always sat with his aunt; but one day in a fit of absentmindedness he seated himself unthinkingly behind a pillar on a chair bearing the name of the churchwarden. The service had scarcely begun when an old man approached to
him and said, "That is my place."
Marius hastily moved and the old man took his seat. At the end of the service he again approached him. "You must forgive me for having disturbed you and for now taking up a minute of your time. You must have thought me uncivil. I should like to explain why I have a particular fondness of that place. It was from there that for some years, at interval of 2 or 3 months,
I watched an unhappy father who had no other opportunity of observing his son because he was debarred by a family compact from doing so. He came at the time where he knew the boy would be taken to the Mass. He loved him deeply as I could not help seeing. There was a father-in-law and a wealthy aunt who threatened to disinherit the boy if he had any contact with his
parent. The father sacrificed himself for the sake of his son's future happiness. It was all to do with politics. Of course people must have political opinions, but there are some who go too far. It is not a sufficient reason for separating a father from his child. He died not long ago. He lived at Vernon. I forget his name--- Pontmarie or Montpercy or something of the kind."
"The name is Pontmercy," said Marius who had turned pale. "He was my father."
The churchwarden stared at him and exclaimed, "So you're the child! Well, of course, you would be grown up by now. My dear lad, you had a father who greatly loved you."

(Victor Hugo)

Les Misérables

Just watched the 1958 movie version of Les Misérables, which I enjoyed very much. I had not touched the novel for 10 years, so I was glad to see this version faithful to the novel. I had forgotten many things from it and I hope I shall have time to re-read it. Les Misérables is one of my favourite books. I bought it in October 1994 and needed a month to finish it. That time I already had had the recording of the musical (complete/international recording version) and since then I added to my collection 4 more versions, plus the promo video Stage by Stage and the 10th anniversary concert movie.

I only think that the actor who played Enjolras was physically miscast, because in the book Enjolras is depicted as 'angelically good-looking', so I always think he is more handsome than Marius. The actor, Serge Reggiani, played him very well, though.

I remember went to the cinema to watch the version with Liam Neeson. I liked the beginning of the movie, Liam Neeson had melancholic eyes, exactly what I had imagined for Jean Valjean. But later I was disappointed. I understood that in adaptation of a book to a movie, certain changes usually made and many characters had to be cut off; but why changed the characters too much?

Les Misérables is the story of an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, who had been sent to 19 years hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread (actually he was charged for housebreaking and robbery, initially 5 years, but as he 3 times attempted to escape the years were added) and after he was set free with a yellow ticket of leave, meant he had to report himself every time he entered a town. In the town of Digne, no one would receive him, although he was so exhausted and hungry, until he met The Bishop of Digne. Valjean repaid his kindness by stealing his silver. Two gendarmes caught him, but the bishop said the silver had been given to Valjean, and he even added two candlesticks and said , "Do not forget that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man." and "You no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul and I give it to God." Since then, Jean Valjean really did nothing but good. He became the major of Montreil-sur-mer and made it prosperous. He saved Fantine from jail. He saved Fantine's daughter, Cosette, from the Thénardiers. He spared Javert's life. He saved Marius's life.

In the 1998 version, Javert committed suicide in front of Jean Valjean and the latter did nothing at all. I don't think it was something Valjean would do. What happened next was worse, as Valjean went home with a big grin on his face. He was happy he didn't do anything to prevent a death? That was not Valjean. The 2nd thing I was disappointed with was: the character of Marius Pontmercy. Marius is a shy student who is very poor and believes girls laughing at his shabby clothes. However in the movie version, Hans Matheson, gave Cosette his naughty smile when he first saw her; he was a lady-killer, not the dreamy Marius who buried his nose in the books.