Smolker Letter No. 12 What Should Educated People Know and Where Should They Acquire That Wisdom? “The Logician Gary S. Smolker’s Views on the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and Movies Seen at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Part Two” (October 29, 2012)
Smolker Letter No. 12 – What Should Educated People Know and How Should They Acquire Wisdom? “The Logician Gary S. Smolker’s Views on the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and Movies Seen at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Part Two”(October 29, 2012)
by Gary S. Smolker
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
You can tell from the films shown at the 2012 TIFF that the central compulsion of the persons working on those films was to gain immortality through the contribution he or she made in the production of those films.
The fact that the writers, directors, actors, etc. wanted to make great films shows in the ingenuity and intensity of the films presented at the 2012 TIFF.
You can tell the people making those films knew that marble crumbles, bronze decays but what they created in those movies on film — seemingly the most fragile of all media — will survive.
They chose for the topics of their films the larger issues of the century with the result that in their films relevant important current issues of today are locked together in an intimate connection.
That being said, it came as no surprise to me that most of the films I saw at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival contained poignant and memorable dialogue delivered with memorable performances in fast moving edge of your seat films which will engage, enlarge and enlighten viewers’ minds and help viewers better understand life and reality, themselves and other people.
Today, most classes taught in high school and college are dry uninspired affairs taught by teachers who don’t have a clue on how the brain works.
Kids believe high school and college schooling is planned amnesia and as a result of their minds drifting while in class or being put to sleep in classes they do not get the most they could out of their school years.
Luckily great films shown at TIFF are always full of energy, exciting and inspiring and as a result can be used as an antidote to educationally induced amnesia if they are utilized as a teaching tool.
Additionally, as a practical matter, great films shown at TIFF give practical guidance on how great leaders think, how great leaders make decisions, what great leaders can do, what leadership is and how to practice the science of success.
Great movies shown at TIFF also give guidance and insight on significant issues faced by modern families, about existing conditions in the real world and its future.
I recommend that all adults take seven to ten days “off” to see films shown at TIFF.
I recommend that all parents of high school and college age students attend TIFF with their children.
I recommend that Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) sponsor student trips to TIFF.
I also recommend that TIFF increase the number of programs it offers so that a greater world-wide audience may enjoy the fruits of its astonishingly successful labors.
Currently a major function of TIFF is serving as a marketplace for people who have films and people who need films for their theaters, TV stations and otherwise.
TIFF should capitalize on the opportunity created by the public’s hunger for distant learning, on-line learning and edutainment by becoming a middle-man aggregator who arranges for and promotes distribution of films shown at the TIFF and the question and answer sessions that take place after a film has been shown, through the use of easily available modern technology.
The world wide untapped audience for the best films shown at TIFF is enormous. High school students, college students and adults, inside and outside of Canada, hunger for further education and intellectual stimulation that is currently being provided in the best films being shown at TIFF.
There is no reason for education and continuing education to be anything less than a cornucopia of delight
The best films shown at TIFF are a cornucopia of delight.
I would rather see and participate in discussion about films seen at TIFF then watch “American Idol”, “The X Factor”, “The Voice”, “Dancing with the Stars” or “America’s Got Talent.”
That being said, it logically follows that education is a major industry that would benefit by utilizing films shown at TIFF and discussions that follow after an audience views those films as a teaching tool.
However, it is not physically possible for myself or the millions of other people who would like to see those films and to engage in intelligent conversations about them in film festival atmosphere because the total number of tickets for a TIFF is only about 400,000.
It is not possible for 400,000 people to see 7 – 10 days of film.
Typically there are 200 to 300 full length movies shown at TIFF.
Under TIFF’s current system of selling tickets to see the films shown at TIFF it took me more than two full days of effort to plan which movies I would see at TIFF, to purchase those tickets in advance, to plan and purchase a round trip by air to Toronto and back to Los Angeles and to book a hotel to stay in while in Toronto attending TIFF.
Even after buying tickets to as many films as I could possible see each day, I was unable to see all the movies I wanted to see at TIFF.
At 4 films a day it would take at least 50 days or as many as 75 days to see them all.
Millions of people would welcome the opportunity to see those films.
The great films shown at TIFF are provocative, stimulating and captivating. Something must be done to get the great films shown at TIFF and discussions which ensue after their showings to the millions of people in the worldwide public who hunger for that type of an experience who cannot personally attend TIFF in Toronto.
Luckily it would be possible for people to see DVD or Blu-ray versions of those movies and the discussion of those movies which follow screening of each film in their homes or in their local theaters or at their local schools or by live broadcast if the entertainment industry, the education industry and TIFF created such programs together or if an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial company did so.
I recommend that movie studios, movie distributors, movie producers and directors take the next step in bringing those films to the world wide public eager to see those films by setting up distribution divisions that make and implement distribution deals which result in their films becoming available to students in the classroom, to attendees at special educational events put on for the general public and to people who will to conduct mini-movie festivals in their own homes with those films.
Great Films Shown At TIFF Are Great Teaching Tools Because They Inspire, Captivate and Dramatize Important Real Life Issues and Experiences
Great films are alive.
They have energy.
They are not a lifeless embalmment of knowledge.
No-one could possibly have their mind drift or fall asleep or feel restless while viewing the great films I saw at 2012 TIFF.
Many of the films I saw articulated a sense of celebration in the joy and the tragedy of the human experience.
The films I saw and discussed at the 2012 TIFF dramatically illuminate the decisions made and actions taken by people who know how to think.
Many of these movies dramatize modern every day issues most of us have faced or will face and which are being faced or will be faced someone we care about.
I found almost every movie I viewed at 2012 TIFF illuminated important issues in a fast moving each of your seat spellbinding way.
I found each of the films I review in the material which follows to be so interesting that I had to write a movie review about it. I love discussing each of the films reviewed in the material which follows and the lessons taught in those films.
Leaders and Leadership
Many of the great movies I saw at 2012 TIFF clearly show that a successful leader’s life is not all champagne and caviar.
Each of those films teach that leaders are not conformists.
Leaders are not mediocre people.
Leaders are original.
They are ingenious.
They have a free-wheeling imagination.
They are enterprising, resourceful and self-reliant.
They see and seize the opportunities around them.
They work hard.
Being a leader is not a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. job.
When called upon to do so, they survive by ingenuity, willpower and endurance against all odds.
Dynamic individualism is the priceless quality they all possess.
“No Place in the World”
Film festivals are great places to go to; there is a magic that goes on at film festivals. You get to meet screenwriters, directors, actors, movie producers and distributors in person and to make friends with other attendees.
My wonderful experiences at TIFF were not limited to watching entertaining gripping films or to discussing those films with the persons I already knew or to discussing those films with strangers while waiting in line to see the next film.
At a bar I late one night, after a day and night of viewing movies, by chance, I met and talked to the children and descendents of 38 Ukrainian Jews who had lived in a hidden underground cave in the Ukraine for 511 days to avoid being captured and killed by the Nazis in World War II.
Their parents and ancestors had the foresight and wherewithal to hide in that cave and to secretly live underground, in that cave, until that region was liberated by the Soviet Army.
The people I met that night, were in Toronto to view the world premier of “No Place on Earth,” a film that tells the story of the ordeals of their living parents, grand-parents and deceased ancestors who lived underground in the dark in that cave for 511 days.
We discussed the stories passed down from generation to generation in their families about living underground in that dark cave, finding food and water and supplies to live on for 511 days.
They told me that that the entrance to underground hidden from view cave in which their parents and grand-parents had lived in for 511 days was so narrow that a human body could barely squeeze through the entrance and once one squeezed through the entrance into the cave one had to thereafter squeeze through a dark narrow labyrinth before reaching a place where a person could stand up.
The particular cave in which their parents and grand parents had lived for 511 days was discovered by someone in 1993 from the National Geographic Magazine who was exploring the Ukraine’s “gypsum giants.”
The Ukraine’s “gypsum giants” are some of the longest horizontal caves in the world.
The modern day discovery of this cave was made by American cave enthusiast Chris Nicola.
Chris Nola came across signs of human habitation while he was exploring that particular cave.
It took Nicola nine years to uncover the secret that the cave survivors had kept to themselves after leaving the Ukraine as quickly as they could and immigrating to the United States and Canada.
Over nine-five percent of the Jews living in this area of the Ukraine perished in the Holocaust.
Locals told Nicola that there were rumors of Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in those caves during World War II. But, no one knew what happened to them.
That night, in a bar in Toronto, after midnight, I listened to the survivors’ stories, passed down to their children and grandchildren, as they told their families’ heretofore secret stories to me first hand.
This movie easily shows why when evaluating whether a person is a leader, the first question you should ask yourself is: To what degree does that person think and act for himself or herself?
A leader should have the ability to originate ideas, develop plans, implement programs, solve problems and meet situations without constantly running to superiors for advice.
The acts of the leader(s) who made the survival of their families possible during that 511 day ordeal underground in a dark cave in World War II to escape capture and being killed by the Nazis are prime examples of leadership.
A true leader is honest onto himself/herself, places value on his or her own self and his or her own values, and wants to accomplish something of lasting value other than building his or her own bank account.
Leaders seek fulfillment via imaginative and enterprising action.
Leaders are individuals driven by a purpose.
They are individuals who do not surrender their individuality or integrity as human beings to accomplish their goals.
They are not conformists.
They are markedly different from others around them.
They are not shallow people driven by trivial motives.
In the documentary film “The Gate Keepers” six such individuals (six former directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s national security service) were interviewed about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The reason “The Gatekeepers” is such an important movie is that no one can doubt that anyone is more committed to Israeli security than those six interviewees.
I did not personally see that film.
According to a friend of mine who saw that film: Those six former directors of Shin Bet make it clear in their interviews that that they are unanimous in their judgment that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has been an unmitigated disaster from Israel’s perspective; that there are clear outlines of a political two state solution; and, finally that the only reason that one has not been reached is because of short-sighted and weak-kneed political leadership.
The legendary Avraham Shalom, who headed the operation to kidnap Nazi leader Adolph Eichmann from Buenos Aires in 1960, in answer to a direct question (Should Israel negotiate with Palestinian authorities, even Hamas?) answered: “Israel should negotiate with everyone about everything.”
It has been reported that in a recent interview, former Mossad Chief Efrain Halevy, chief of the Mossad in the years 19998 through 2003, stated, “I realized dialogue with the enemy is essential. There is nothing to lose. Although the claim was, if you talk to them you legitimize them. But by not talking to them you don’t de-legitimate them. So this has convinced me that we all have been very superficial in dealing with our enemies.”
I would love for TIFF to bring together the worlds of film and education by partnering with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs in pairing scholars from the Munk School and renowned experts from all over the world and foreign dignitaries with the director and interviewees in The Gatekeepers to engage in extended discussions following the film’s showing to facilitate a deeper understanding of the issues addressed in “The Gatekeepers.”
I am sure a world-wide audience would love to watch that in person as well as by real-time satellite transmission.
“Zaytoun” is a story which gives a convincing account of why living in Lebanon is hellish for Palestinians.
It is a movie which induces a high degree of reflection on the character of Palestinians, their humanity and leadership potential, the cruelty inflicted on them by Christians and the related potential for Palestinians and Israelis to peacefully live together as neighbors. It lovingly leaves the viewers with the idea that Palestinians and Israelis can constructively and cooperatively live in harmony and at peace with one another.
“Zaytoun” is a movie about change.
Zaytoun” lovingly leaves viewers with a sense of optimism and the idea that Palestinians and Israelis can constructively and cooperatively live in harmony and at peace with one another.
The main characters in “Zaytoun” demonstrate that the status of leaders is not equated with their financial success or their age but with their actions.
The leading main character in “Zaytoun” is a twelve year old boy (Fahed).
At the beginning of the movie we meet twelve year old Fahed, Fahed’s father and Fahed’s grandfather who are now living in a Palestinian refugee camp (the Shatila refugee camp) in Beirut, Lebanon.
Fahed’s father’s goal in life is to return to his now deserted village in Palestine to plant a young olive tree in front of his empty “home” in Palestine.
Fahed’s father lovingly took this young olive tree from his village when he fled from Palestine to Beirut, Lebanon.
The young olive tree is in a pot. It has lovingly been taken care by Fahed’s father since he fled Palestine.
While living in the refugee camp, Fahed’s father is killed in an Israeli bombing raid.
Shortly thereafter, an Israel fighter jet is shot down while flying over or near the refugee camp.
The shot down Israeli jet fighter pilot is captured by adult Palestinians who imprison the pilot in a makeshift prison cell.
Fahed is charged with guarding the Israeli fighter pilot.
Fahed is told that he must take good care of the Israeli fighter pilot because the fighter pilot is a valuable asset which can be exchanged for 1,000 Palestinians now being held as prisoners in Israel.
Fahed is so enraged by the death of his father in the Israeli air attack that he shoots the now handcuffed fighter pilot for no reason, while the pilot is captive behind bars in a make shift “jail cell” in the refugee camp being “guarded” by Fahed.
Fahed’s only inheritance from his father is the young small potted olive tree, snatched by his father as he fled from their ancestral home.
Fahed is obsessed with desire to return to their village to replant that olive tree.
Shortly after wounding the pilot, it dawns on Fahed that the only way Fahed will be able to get through the protected border between Israel and Lebanon to his father’s deserted village in Palestine/Israel is if the Israeli jet fighter pilot convinces armed Israeli guards at a check point on the border between Israel and Lebanon to allow Fahed to enter Israel.
Like all leaders, Fahed is not satisfied with the status quo.
Twelve year old Fahed proposes the following deal to the Israeli fighter pilot: Fahed will help the wounded handcuffed Israel fighter pilot prisoner escape to Israel if the pilot will persuade the Israeli guards at the border between Lebanon and Israel to allow Fahed to enter Israeli to replant the young olive tree in the now deserted Palestinian village that Fahed’s father and grandfather had fled.
The Israeli fighter pilot (Yoni) agrees to the deal.
The key traits of leaders are (a) their energy, (b) their imagination, (c) their flexibility, (d) their adaptability, and (e) their versatility.
Leaders are adept at improvisation and innovation and resourceful.
Furthermore, leaders have the ability to come up with new ideas and the ability to implement those ideas.
As Fahed and Yoni make their way through battle torn Lebanon, everyone in roving bands of armed militas they encounter wants to kill them.
The steps Fahed and Yoni take, while eluding the armed militas, demonstrate Fahed’s and Yoni’s leadership traits.
Fahed and Yoni consider each obstruction and “impossible” problem they encounter to be an irresistible challenge.
At all time during this movie, Fahed and Yoni have a direct personal interest in everything that happens to them and posses that vividly alive state of mind which harnesses all of an individual’s skills and intelligence to the task at hand.
In “Zaytoun”, Fahed and Yoni demonstrate what close teamwork and mutual confidence between people working towards a common goal can accomplish by licking “insoluble” problems together.
Some people say that is easier to solve insoluble problems by working together with confidence towards a mutual goal in a movie because everyone sticks to the script in a movie more than they do in real life. It is harder to stick to the script in reality. I don’t agree.
I am aware of the motto, The greater the pain the greater the reward.
If you want to become wisher you must realize that in wisdom only what is mastered with effort and torment endures.
Watching movies for pleasure or relaxation alone will not impart long lasting wisdom to you because there is no effort or torment in relaxing.
In order to increase the wisdom to be gained from watching a movie it is important that you discuss it,or even better that you argue about it.
Also it is immensely beneficial to listen to what directors, writers and actors say about their films in response to questions from an audience.
Read thoughtful movie reviews, like discussing those films with other people, will sharpen your mind and train your understanding.
If the people you talk to about “Zaytoun” have a different reaction than you do to “Zaytoun” and argue with you about any aspect of that movie, that interaction will be beneficial to both of you because in wisdom only what is mastered with effort and torment endures.
Ultimately,“Zaytoun” can leave one viewer stimulated by a feeling of far-sighted unquenchable optimism or at the other end of that same spectrum “Zaytoun” may leave another viewer with the feeling that the Arabs have a lot of disposable income to finance propaganda.
One person I spoke to told me, “To me, the theme of Zaytoun is wishful thinking expressing a lack of insight and an absence of reality.”
In response to that comment, I asked that person, “How do you account for or explain the reality of what the United States did after the conclusion of World War II with the cooperation of former enemies Japan and Germany.
“Both Japan’s and Germany’s industrial capacity had been devastated by the war, bombed, turned into rubble by American bombers.
“Many people in Japan and Germany were starving.
“Yet, because former enemies (Japan and the United States, Germany and the United States) were able to work cooperatively together, Japan and Germany again became world economic powers with well fed populations.
“Watch the movie “Emperor” or read my review of that movie in Smolker Letter No. 12.”
That person did not respond to my questions above. But, two other persons did respond to those questions.
One person replied, “Germany was destroyed and Japan was nuked. They had to agree to our terms.”
Then the first person (with the wishful thinking comment above) replied: “Both Germany and Japan agreed to stop trying to kill us. Their agreement meant something. The Muslims will never top trying to kill us and their words, written or in film, are meaningless, a strategy to disarm us.
I replied that not all Muslims are trying to kill us. Condemning an entire religious group having 6 billion members as being murderous people trying to kill “us” is “group hate/group libel/hate speech” akin to Henry Ford waging his antisemitic war on the Jews in the 1920s when he was the richest and one of the most if the most revered man in the United States. I advised him to read Victoria Sacker Woeste’s recently published book “Henry Ford’s War on the Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech.”
Another person who read a draft of my review of “Zaytoun” provided sent me a written piece long discussing World War II, including a discussion of why the United States entered World War II, which countries were chosen to be America’s allies and which countries were chosen to be America’s enemies and why World War II lasted so long.
According to that paper there is an elite group of people who wanted the Unites States to enter World War II, wanted the United States to provoke the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor and wanted everything that was done by the United States in World War II to happen. According to that paper this elite group orchestrated everything done by the United States in World War II and created the Cold War and the Communist Threat after World War II for their own financial gain.
I have no comment on those claims.
In my opinion, the movie “Zaytoun” is constructive thinking in action. “Zaytoun” expresses great insight and a through grasp of reality in the real world.
“Zaytoun” means “olive tree” in Arabic.
I am for those things that allow life to thrive and opposed to those things which interfere with life thriving.
The lesson that it is possible for former enemies to harmoniously and constructively work together is glaringly showcased in the movie “Emperor”, which is a “true” story about the rebuilding of a devastated Japan immediately after the conclusion of World War II as a result of the joint cooperative harmonious efforts of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito and General Douglas MacArthur.
In my opinion the story told in “Zaytoun” is the product of someone with a positive view of life. “Zaytoun” teaches a lesson based on historical precedents while at the same time reminding us that a blueprint for a better future exists.
I can not help but reflect on the heroic tenancy and courage of that 14 year old girl in Pakistan advocating education for women in Pakistan who was shot recently in an assassination attempt against her by a group of intolerant people who do not want women or girls to receive a formal education. That assassination attempt created a “cultural happening”: it provoked outrage provoked in Pakistan and all over the world.
That 14 year old girl was (and still is) ready to stand up, to put it all on the line for what she believes in.
The questions presented by Zaytoun” are:
- Will we allow ourselves to have such a sense of “otherness” about Palestinians or Israelis that we make it politically impossible for us to be less courageous than the 14 year old girl in our sense of life, in our respect for the rule of law and justice?
- Is the current dislike and hatred of the anti Palestinian movement (the movement which hates all Palestinians and/or all Muslims and feels that Palestinians and Muslims are inferior and dangerous people) of today, the flip side of the antisemitism suffered by Jews in the past and which is still being suffered by Jews today in various places in the world such as escalating attacks on Jews in France?
- Is anti Muslim literature group libel, blood libel, hate speech? Will the ancient virus of group libel, blood libel, hate speech die out in the free atmosphere of the United States?
- In the long run who will gain and who will lose as a result of rampant group libel, blood libel, hate speech campaigns attacking people on the basis of their national origins, religious beliefs and/or the color of their skin?
I agree with Lyndon Johnson’s statement about the importance of education:
For the individual, education is the path to achievement and fulfillment; for the Nation it is a path to a society that in not only free but civilized; and for the world, it is the path to peace — for it is education that places reason over force.
History looks favorably on William Faulkner’s epigram: “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”
The talented writers, director and actors in “Emperor” obviously had a deep awareness of the significance of the back-story they were telling about the actions taken by the United States that had to be taken by the United States before the United States would be able to productively, efficiently and effectively take a role in rebuilding Japan immediately after the conclusion of World War II because “Emperor” is a cinematographic and story telling masterpiece.
“Emperor” tells the back-story of how the decision whether or not to try Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal was arrived at by General Douglas MacArthur.
General MacArthur assigned the task of determining whether Emperor Hirohito should be tried for war crimes to General Bonner Fuller.
General Fuller fully looked into whether or not Emperor Hirohito should be tried for war crimes before arriving at any conclusion.
General Fuller conducted an investigation by (1) interviewing high ranking Japanese leaders, (2) painstakingly studying and learning the psychology of the Japanese soldier, (3) and making himself familiar with the entrenched beliefs, customs and habits of the Japanese people with respect to Emperor Hirohito being a divinity, the status and role of Emperor Hirohito (as a divinity) in Japanese culture and the psychology of the Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilians.
Japan was a devastated country at the time General MacArthur had the job of investigating and making the momentous decision of whether Emperor Hirohito should be tried as a war criminal.
The film vividly re-enacts that devastation.
At the same time General MacArthur was tasked with deciding whether Emperor Hirohito would be tried as a war criminal, General MacArthur had the mandate/responsibility to rebuild and modernize the Japanese economy, to get the Japanese people employed in creating wealth and a better life for themselves, in order to counter Russian efforts at world domination.
Even after atomic bombs had been dropped by American bombers on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the entire Japanese people believed Emperor Hirohito was a “God.”
The Japanese people were willing to unquestionably give their life/die for Emperor Hirohito.
Neither General MacArthur or General Fuller or Emperor Hirohito was a short-sighted man.
Each was a careful intelligent hard working man who continuously carefully studied and evaluated Japanese business conditions, world business conditions and political conditions and trends.
They grasped the big picture and knew how to “read” other men.
Each one of them could understand the another man’s point of view.
None of them had a defeatist philosophy or defeatist attitude.
None of them was a three hours over a six martini lunch man.
They were willing to stick their necks out, to assert themselves and fight for what they thought was right and best.
Their decision to work together to rebuild Japan was based on their evaluation of each other as men, their confidence in their ability to read other men as well as their personal evaluation of conditions in Japan and in the rest of the world.
History is made as much in people’s hearts and minds as it is on the battlefield.
The challenge of rebuilding Japan fit perfectly with these three men’s ambition to build something of enduring value well beyond the limits of their own personal interests.
Their motive/purpose in working together was their desire to do something constructive with their lives.
These men, like all great leaders, derived genuine satisfaction and an equal sense of accomplishment from their work.
The recent histories of Japan and Germany prove that two enemies can rebuild a devastated country by working together.
This film reminds us of that historical fact.
“A Late Quartet”
In “A Late Quartet”, the leader-founder (played by Christopher Walken) of an illustrious string quartet who is a father figure to the remaining members of the ensemble finds out that he (Christopher Walken) has a degenerative disease (Parkinson’s Disease) which will make it impossible for him to continue to play the cello with the illustrious string quarter he has founded and led for almost 25 years.
The dramatic tension in the movie arises out of the tension between Walken’s drive/desire to have this string quartet continue after he is forced to drop out and the conflicts between the remaining members of the quartet that are tearing them apart and who, but for their love and respect for Walken and the beautiful music they are able to make while playing together due to the mastery of their craft, would go their own separate ways.
“A Late Quartet” is a masterfully crafted dramatization of complicated stories containing stories within stories containing subtly refined messages within messages.
The ensemble consists of a first violinist (played by Mark Ivinar), a second violinist (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), a violist (played by Catherine Keener) and the founder of the quartet (a cellist) played by Christopher Walken.
In this movie, Hoffman and Keener have a beautiful young daughter (played by Imogen Potts) who is a talented violinist. They ask Ivinar to tutor their daughter (Potts).
In one memorable scene, Ivinar is disgusted with the way the young very talented violinist Potts is responding to his coaching.
She is playing a Beethoven quartet without feeling.
In this scene, Ivinar hands Potts a three volume folio written about the life of Beethoven and tells Potts to read it so that she will understand what Beethoven was feeling and thinking — what was going on in Beethoven’s life — at the time of it’s creation.
One of the magnificent subtle proofs/messages set forth in this masterpiece of a movie is that a virtuoso musician will and does play a musical instrument with real zart (i.e., real tenderness).
In one of the last scenes in this film, the Walken ensemble plays before a live audience and in the middle of the performance Walken leaves (because Walken can no longer keep up with the other members of the quartet) and replaces himself with a substitute cellist.
In this scene iconic actor Christopher Walken is replaced by a virtuoso cellist, who the audience watches playing her cello while the other members of the quartet play their musical instruments.
In this scene it appears that the virtuoso cellist is making love to her cello while she is playing it.
This scene perfectly demonstrates the difference between actors “playing notes” on musical instruments and a true virtuoso playing a masterpiece on a musical instrument.
There are many additional pieces of wisdom/lessons to be learned by studying “A Late Quartet.”
The stories dramatized in this movie provide illumination on how a great manager (Walken) manages.
The wisdom to be gained from studying the actions taken by Walken in this high energy dramatically charged movie and the results he obtains, as he is confronted with one problem after another, and treats the egos and explosive emotions of the three other musicians in his ensemble, who are in a constant state of trauma, include the following points/pieces of wisdom:
- A great leader (1) is fully aware that a manager can only obtain results through people;
- A great leader (2) realizes that one of a manager’s prime responsibilities is to direct human activities,
- A great leader (3) is decisive, operates with a clear eyed resolve about the right path to follow; and,
- A great leader (4) realizes that human beings must be led and never driven.
“A Late Quartet” drives home four points: (a) that the primary function of management is to obtain results through people; (b) great people/leaders are not just talented, they are thoughtful and hard working; (c) great music is passionate, provocative, has vitality, is meaningful, it is not just notes on a page or even sounds in the air; (d) there is a big difference between good, great and wow/amazing.
By the way, the great Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel, once stigmatized a performance as “Nozart”, a brilliant bilingual pun: no “zart” (i.e., tenderness) and the lesser art of playing notes.
Hannah Arendt was a stimulating intellectual presence. She had a fearless originality and was a thinker who followed her thoughts wherever they led.
She was and still is a major intellectual figure. She had friendships and affairs with giants of the intellectual world and was involved in some of the great political controversies of her day.
Hannah Arendt was University Professor of Political Philosophy in the Graduate Faculty of the New School of Social Research for many years as well as a Visiting Fellow of the Committee of Social Thought at the University of Chicago and taught as a visiting professor at UC Berkeley, Columbia and Princeton.
Hannah Arendt’s book The Origins of Totalitarianism” is considered to be the most influential book on that subject ever published.
The publication of Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” launched a civil war between intellectuals in the United States and Europe the likes of which had never been seen before. No book in living memory has elicited similar passions.
Hannah Arendt comes across in the movie “Hannah Arendt” the way she was in real life: full of energy, headstrong, independent, passionate, loving and human.
It is amazing how good, nay excellent, nay masterful, is the work performed by everyone involved in making “Hannah Arendt.”
At a minimum, Pamela Katz and Margarethe von Trotta should be nominated for an Academy Award for their screenplay; Margarethe von Trotta should be nominated for an Academy Award for best Director; and, Barbara Sukowa should be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Somehow screenwriter Katz and screenwriter and director von Trotta have able to provide an accurate impact-full portrait of Hannah Arendt’s turbulent intellectual, social and romantic life in a 113 minute movie.
Actress Barbara Sukowa shows in her performance that she totally grasps who Hannah Arendt was. In her performance, Sukowa “is” the real Hannah Arendt. In “Hannah Arendt” Sukowa shows that she totally understands Hannah Arendt: she understands the person, the personality, the strength, the energy and the loving kindness, loyalty and humanity of Hannah Arendt.
The scenes of Hannah Arendt interacting with her fellow intellectuals in her apartment in New York and with the publisher of the New Yorker are superb.
In an early scene in the movie, Hannah Arendt (actress Barbara Sukowa) movingly describes how she lost her courage and will to live and then regained her determination to live, while in a detention camp in France.
According to Arendt (played by Sukowa), she saw a vision of her husband and knew that when the war was over her husband would come looking for her and would never stop looking until he found her. This vision gave her the will and determination to live.
There was a lot to follow in this fast moving, relatively short, 113 minute movie because the movie (of necessity) quickly treated the facts that Hannah Arendt witnessed the trial of of Adolph Eichmann (one of the architects of Hitler’s genocidal “Final Solution” to the question of Jewish existence: systematic industrialized murder) in Jerusalem, then wrote a report on the trial published in the New Yorker magazine which was later published as a book, and was attacked by some of her closest friends, and by Jews, Jewish organizations, and intellectuals all over the world.
In one memorable scene in “Hannah Arendt”, representatives of the government of Israel ask Arendt not to publish her report on the Eichmann trial as a book.
Arendt refused that request.
In another memorable scene in “Hannah Arendt” faculty members at the Graduate School of New Social Research in New York ask Arendt to stop teaching at the school and to resign her teaching position.
Arendt refused that request.
In the movie “Hannah Arendt” viewers are informed in general terms that the uproar that followed the publication of her report of the Eichmann trial in the New Yorker and the publication of her book on the trial was the result of two reports made by Arendt after witnessing the trial and reading the transcript of the trial proceedings:
- With respect to the number of Jews killed by the Nazis, Arendt said the number of Jews killed by the Nazis would have been much smaller if Jewish leaders in each community under Nazi domination had not cooperated with the Nazis.
- With respect to what kind of man was Eichmann (i.e., what kind of evil monster was Eichmann), Arendt said that Eichmann was a normal non-thinking man following orders, that Eichmann was a completely mediocre person who followed orders.
In the movie “Hannah Arendt” no one explains whey Arendt held those views or why she made those statements.
I don’t fault the movie, the screen writers, or the director or the actress for not explaining why Arendt expressed those opinions and/or report those facts.
The movie hints that Arendt considered those two statements [(1) that the Nazis would not have been able to kill so many Jews without the cooperation of Jewish leaders in conquered territories, and (b) that Eichmann was a mediocre normal man) to be facts and not to be opinions.
In my opinion there was not enough time in the movie to educate the viewer why Arendt reported those “facts” and held those “views.”
In my opinion, “Hannah Arendt” is well worth seeing two or three times.
Don’t you want to know the rest of the story?
In my opinion, it is worthwhile to make the effort to become informed why it was so important to Arendt to report those facts/views.
I wanted to know the rest of the story. Here is what I found out by reading what other people had to say about Hannah Arendt.
Arendt devoted less than a dozen pages out of 312 pages to the cooperation given to Adolph Eichmann by Jewish leaders in conquered territories.
Arendt commented that the distinguished notables of the Nazi appointed “Jewish Councils” (Judenrate) became instruments of Nazi determination to eliminate a maximum number of Jews with a minimum of administrative effort and cost.
Some community leaders were well aware that the deportees were going to Auschwitz and not to some resettlement area in the east as the Nazis claimed.
That this happened is a factual matter, brought up both at trial and after trial.
Arendt suggested that if there had been no Jewish organization at all and no Judenrate, the deportation machine could not have been run as smoothly as it did. The Nazis might have been forced to drag out millions of people, one by one, from their homes. In such circumstances, could not more Jews have been saved?
- compiled lists of potential deportees,
- supplied the Nazis with these lists,
- collected keys and detailed inventories of vacated apartments for the Nazis to hand over to the Aryans,
- they summoned the deportees to show up on a certain day, at a certain hour, at a certain railway station with provisions for a three or four day journey.
Arendt wrote: “The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been leaderless, than there would have been chaos and misery, but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people.”
Arendt asked: Why didn’t the leaders of the Jewish councils refuse to accept the responsibilities assigned them by the Nazis? Why didn’t they advise the Jews to run for their lives or try to go underground?
The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal at any rate, that I am after examining him.”
Arendt thought that Ben-Gurion staged the Eichmann trial solely to force more reparations money out of the German government and as a means of creating a sense of national unity among a mass of demoralized new immigrants and was outraged that the tragic role of the Judenrate was barely mentioned at the trial, least of all by the prosecution.
Arendt suspected that the prosecution was covering up for the Jewish leaders who ran the Judenrate.
One commentator (Amos Elon) claims that Arendt’s suspicion that the aim of the show trial had not been to convict Eichmann or examine the Judenrate was proven right two decades after the trial, when the deputy prosecutor Gabriel Bach (later a Supreme Court Justice) told an interviewer that if all those witnesses had appeared in court and told stories of the Judenrate, “no one would remember Eichmann.”
As a result of the publication of her book, the Anti-Defamation League of B’ nai Brith sent out a circular, urging rabbis throughout America to denounce Arendt from the pulpit on the Jewish high holidays.
A nationwide campaign was waged to discredit her in the academic world. A group of lecturers — some flown in from Israel and England — toured the country decrying Arendt as a “self-hating Jew,” the “Rosa Luxemburg of Nothingness.” Four separate Jewish organizations hired scholars to go through her text, line by line, in order to discredit it and to find mistakes.
Quoting Elon: “… Ben-Gurion’s intentions from the beginning when he ordered Eichmann kidnapped and brought to trial in Israel and his public statement afterward certainly gave credence to the view that it was indeed a show trial. Its purpose, in Ben-Gurion’s words was to ‘educate the young and the entire world and to give the Jewish people a voice in making a historic accounting with its persecutors.'”
In 1975 Hannah Arendt received Denmark’s Sonning Prize in recognition of her contributions to European civilization.
In her acceptance speech Arendt said:
I have always been fascinated by the particular way the Danish people and their government handled and solved the highly explosive problems posed by the Nazi conquest of Europe. I have often thought that this extraordinary story, of which you, of course, know more than I do, should be required reading in all political science courses which deal with the relations between power and violence, whose frequent equation belongs among the elementary fallacies not only of political theory but of actual political practice.
When the Nazi conquerors told the Danish people all Jews in Denmark would have to wear a gold star of David, everyone in the country (including the King and Queen) put on a gold star of David and refused to take it off.
For all the above reasons, “Hannah Arendt” is a remarkable film.
Modern Day Family Issues
I also saw several films at 2012 TIFF that deal with the practice of “dadhood”, the practice of being a dad, the practice of being a mom, the parent-child tie and family responsibilities inherent in having children.
I will publish my review of those films in on my blog (“The Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange Blog” http://www.garysmolker.wordpress.com) in a future Smolker Letter.
Among the compelling films which I saw at 2012 that deal with the modern family that I intend to review in a future Smolker Letter with respect to their treatment of family issues are Ramin Bahrami’s “At Any Price”, Scott McGee’s and David Siegel’s “What Maisie Knew”, Robert Pulcini’s and Shari Springer Berman’s “Imogene”, Billy Bob Thornton’s “Jane Mansfield’s Car”, Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone”, Deepa Metha’s “Midnight’s Children”, Yaron Zilberman’s “A Late Quartet”, David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook”, and Jesper Ganslandt’s “Blondie.”
You Should Capitalize on the Fact People Are Social Animals Hungering for Wholesome Intelligent Interaction
People love to spend mentally stimulating time with other people.
People do not want to be alone.
People would love to see a great movie with a friend (or, with a stranger) that is so stimulating, that is so full of ideas, and/or is so full of interesting facts and/or wisdom, that they will want to talk about it with someone else.
Each of the movies reviewed, here, in Smolker Letter No. 12, is that kind of movie.
Holding A Mini-Film Festival in Your Home
You should rent or buy one or more of the films reviewed in Smolker Letter No. 12, watch it with one or more of your friends in your home, then talk about it with them.
Alternatively, if one or more of those films become available by satellite TV, or on cable TV, or is broadcast on a network TV station, watch it with friends at home, then talk about it with them.
When and if, a service becomes available whereby you can listen to a discussion by an off-site director, screen-writer, actor, scholar or academic about one of those films (or better yet, participate in such a discussion in real time by tweet or text over the Internet) do so.
Holding A Mini-Film Festival at Your Local Church, Synagogue, Temple, Mosque, Museum, or Restaurant, Coffee Shop or At Another Meeting Place
Your local church, synagogue, temple, mosque, museum. parent teacher association, college alumni association, and the community and professional associations you belong to, as well as the local coffee shop and restaurant you frequent, should rent or buy one or more of the films reviewed in Smolker Letter No. 12, watch it with other people, then talk about it with them afterwards.
That would be a wonderful way to raise money for your local church, synagogue, temple, mosque, museum, social organization, college, high school, middle school or grammar school and a wonderful way to meet other interesting people who share a hunger for continuing education with you and want to support the same thing you want to support.
Alternatively, if one or more of those films become available by satellite TV, or on cable TV, or is broadcast on a network TV station, have it shown via that means at your local church, synagogue, temple, mosque, museum, etc.
When and if, a service becomes available whereby you can listen to a discussion concerning that film lead by an off-site director, screen-writer, actor, scholar or academic about (or better yet, participate in such a discussion in real time by tweet or text over the Internet) do so.
I belong to the Cornell Club of Los Angeles.
The Cornell Club arranges dinners at local homes as a means to raise money for a college scholarships. Part or all of the charge for attending the dinner goes to a scholarship fund which helps defray the cost of a local high school student who will be attending Cornell University.
I would be interested in going to one or more of those scholarship fund raising dinners if an interesting film was shown after dinner and attendees discussed the film amongst themselves and with someone intimately involved in the making of that particular film.
Similarly, I would love to go to restaurants, coffee shops and/or bars that made themselves into once a week venues for a film fest.
Schools Do Not Have To Fail In Their Mission to Develop Student’s Minds Nor Must Schools Be Boring
Emotions measure the value of something and reason can only make choices on the basis of those valuations.
It is more likely that a student’s head will become an interesting place to live if the student watches an interesting movie full of ideas, facts, lessons and wisdom than if a student attends a boring lecture.
It is should be obvious to all thinking persons that students will get more “learning” from watching an exciting fast moving high energy movie which presents ideas, facts, lessons and wisdom and then discussing that movie with other intelligent people than from watching a boring teacher present a boring lesson.
The key to a well-lived life is to have trained the emotions to send the right signals.
Watching and discussing such movies under the leadership of intelligent knowledgeable people will empower students to think through points of view, will turn out people who know how to think, and will train their emotions to send the right signals.
It is tempting to think that people grown like plants. You add nourishment to the seed, and an individual plant grows up. But that is not so. Mammal brains grow properly only when they are able to interact with another.
A mind exists in a network. It is the result of the interaction between brains.
The Traditional Residential College Experience
The traditional residential college experience of four years in semi-sequestered study at a college or university immersed in study with scholars with no other care in the world which began in about the 12th Century does not make sense in the 21st Century.
GARY S. Smolker
Copyright (c) 2012 by Gary S. Smolker, All Rights Reserved