ANYWAY. I'm currently beavering away on a few stories, including my very first foray into "heroic fantasy". I've never wrote anything like this before, despite growing up on Chadda Darkmane and Gord the Rogue stories (alongside Fighting Fantasy gamebooks). I was a bit stuck on what to write that wouldn't come across like a flagrant Conan rip-off, then started researching ancient history after being spurred on by the discovery that Solomon Kane stories are set during the 'Restoration' era. This in turn lead to some interesting research on different religious beliefs, and so on and so on. I'm now looking at setting something in a fictionalized version of ancient Catalonia, which should hopefully be enough of a different/interesting take on a heroic fantasy backdrop. Then again, maybe it's already been done and I'm flogging a dead horse. But we'll see!
I recently watched two remarkably bleak films (though they present different takes on the term): MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and SHAME. The first is an artfully done examination of a broken mind, and the subsequent restructuring of a damaged psyche. The second is about a relentless spiral of addiction, and the attempts of one man to break free.
Martha Marcy May Marlene introduces us to Marcy May as she tends crops and cleans up around a farm that appears to be the peaceful home to a commune. Then, for no apparent reason, she runs away. As soon as another member catches up to her we get a glimpse into the real attitude of those at the commune, before being violently sent into the future: Marcy May is back home with her sister and is using her real name of Martha. She won't talk about where she's been for two years, other than she lived with a boyfriend and he lied to her (which has an element of truth to it, as we'll come to discover).
Slowly, she starts to exhibit weird behavioural issues, and the film starts to flip suddenly (but elegantly) between past and present - in turn, revealing the genesis of her behaviour and disturbing parallels between commune life and 'normal life'. We see how she is taught certain life lessons at the commune that a person learns in the outside world, except Marcy May is told them with subtle twists that don't cause suspicion, even though to an outsider what's been taught is very far from 'normal'.
Martha Marcy May Marlene does end rather abruptly, but with enough of an insinuation as to what is about to happen, which I think is an especially ballsy move.
If you're a fan of Michael Fassbender's willy, you'll love SHAME. He plays a New Yorker named Brandon. He has a well-paid job, nice clothes, modern apartment...but he is trapped in a routine as much as anyone, except his involves sexual fulfillment. Brandon is a sex addict. Whether he's shagging prostitutes, taking part in porno video chats or masturbating in the work toilet, he can't help himself. He appears to be managing, until cracks start to appear - some are caused by his blase attitude towards sex and relationships, others by his behaviour (his work laptop is found to have an insane amount of porn on it, but he blames an intern)...and then his sister appears.
She is damaged herself, though it's not entirely clear how, to start with. She's doesn't appear to be able to 'grow up' even though she has solid intentions to do so. However, when she sleeps with Brandon's friend and work colleague, this seems to set something off in Brandon. A change has been wrought.
Shame is the meanest form of 'bleak', as it offers an insight into life free from trouble, before stirring up a palatable sense of impending doom. The last part of the film gets very uncomfortable as characters clearly, and consciously, taking destructive paths. Will they still manage to make it out the other side? Maybe.
Now, OTHER THINGS:
My band, Handsome Bastards, might have some very exciting news to reveal soon! Terribly vague, I know. But suck on it.
I also hope to have some interesting news to reveal involving the arts collective I run with my best mate. Well, I do, technically, but I don't think I can talk about it officially, yet :)
And to end, some music that's been fueling my creative process lately/making my brain feel funny: