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Bücher, Filme, Technik und Benedict Cumberbatch – auf Deutsch and in English

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Andrew Hodges: The Enigma

One of the things coming with being a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch is getting to know about books you’ve never heard of and you probably never would have read because they simply exist out of your horizon – or are simply not available in your country and language.

Andrew Hodges‘ „The Enigma“ is such a book that appeared in my life just because I learned back in 2013 that Benedict was about to play Alan Turing in the film „The Imitation Game“. Surprisingly enough I did know that Alan Turing was the man that helped breaking the German Code during the Second World War with the help of the Enigma machine – something I must have stumbled upon during school (thanks to my teachers and German curriculum).

„For him there had to be a reason for everything;
 it had to make sense – and to make one sense, not two.“

Because of the topic – oh God, it has something to do with maths which I’ll never understand in German how could I handle this in English?! – I tried and failed getting a German version of Hodges‘ book when I wanted it. So I gave an English kindle version a try just because it is cheaper and you know you do have a dictionary at hand when you are lost in language and maths. But I hardly needed it because Andrew Hodges did a very good job walking on the edge in between historical facts, technical explanations and bringing a man to life that was not only far ahead of his time when it comes to science or technology. He also was a man struggling to find his own way in a society that couldn’t cope with homosexuality as a normal form of living and loving but made it illegal forcing women and men to live their lives like criminals.

„Like any homosexual man, he (Alan) was living an imitation game, not in the sense of conscious play-acting, but by being accepted as a person that he was not“, Hodges writes. Being a highly intelligent man, Alan Turing didn’t care about his appearance but concentrated on his work and somehow on his own world in which the simple and clear rules of science were all that matter at least to him. But he also was very well aware of the fact that the society he lived in wouldn’t tolerate his sexuality: „He had wanted the commonest in nature; he liked ordinary things. But he found himself to be an ordinary English homosexual atheist mathematician. It would not be easy.“

Andrew Hodges‘ autobiography is full of historical facts, science stuff and biographical details that show that the author did a very proper and deep research. Far more it is a tribute to Alan Turing – full of love and admiration – who thought about computer and the way they might think and communicate with one another long before the word had it’s meaning and long before the word internet was even invented.  „Enigma“ is a historical document and a thrilling novel that is a joy to read.

Andrew Hodges: Alan Turing – The Enigma, Vintage Books
Deutsche Ausgabe: Springer-Verlag, Wien.

 

Third Star aims right at your heart

It’s not a light hearted film that will cheer you up. Yes, there is a birthday party at the beginning of „Third Star“, guests are happy, table is ready for them. But somehow things are not real. That’s because James Kimberly Griffith (Benedict Cumberbatch) has cancer. It will be his last birthday and everyone knows this.

„I’ll turn 29 today, won’t see 30“, says James at the beginning and sums all the tragedy in one sentence. He introduces his family, his best friends who drop in and within a few minutes the audience is hooked while James and his friends Davy, Bill and Miles are up to their trip to Barafundle Bay, James‘ favourite place on earth.

„That’s not worth living for“

The trip shows all the tragedy of every one of them, having their lives they are desperately trying to cope with while they are focused on James. It’s because of him they come together – as we learn for the last time in his life – they help him, they have a vehicle build especially for this occasion, they carry him because James‘ can’t walk properly any more. And they learn that James is only still alive because he swallows lots of drugs, especially morphine, to help him deal with the pain. While James sees his surrounding like a child – laughing at normal things – he’s wide aware that he doesn’t want to go on with his life. „Because of the pain, and the drugs I take for the pain, and the drugs I take for the side-effects of  the other drugs. (…) Gradually I’ll slip further into thinking solely about pain. And that’s not worth living for.“

„I ate healthily, but there was no snacking, no drinking, no bread, no sugar, no smoking.  Afterwards I had a pork belly roast.“ (Benedict Cumberbatch about his role, Source: Glamour) 

„Third Star“ is heartbreaking in it’s intense focus on James who is fragile and rude and well aware of all of his surroundings and of the fact that his friends  – brilliant played by JJ Field, Tom Burke and Adam Robertson – will have lives he doesn’t agree with but lives he will never be able to have himself. Benedict Cumberbatch’s James is fragile, childlike in his joy of ordinary things and always holds his public at the edge of tears (and honestly beyond this edge) without being kitschy.

[I wrote the original blog entry in German when the DVD finally was available again.]

You can buy the DVD on Amazon.UK here.

[Update: The film script is now available. You can order it here.]

[Update: The film is available in some countries on We are colony. Extras which are not available in the DVD can also be found there – for ridiculous little money you may support independent films.]

„12 Years a Slave“ has no mercy

There are films that make you smile and you leave the cinema light heartedly. „12 Years a Slave“ is none of them. In fact this film will tear you apart because there is no mercy, no relieve, it’s brutal and shocking. And it’s the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who was born as a free black man and sold into slavery where he only tries to stay alive and find a way back home.

But for twelve long years he is nothing more than a working machine in the hand of such slave owners like Edwin Epps (brilliant played by Michael Fassbender) who always is ready to torment his slaves for no reason. But it’s not this brutality, the whipping, the humiliation that moves you deeply. This films gets all it’s strength because there is no moment of relieve, no humour as you may find in Quentin Tarantino’s „Inglourious Basterds“. Of course there are silent, idyllic scenes placed in an incredible beautiful landscape. But you can’t appreciate them because you fear that there will be another cruelty waiting to unfold.

„12 Years A Slave“ is a film that has all the power cinema is able to give. That is because Steve McQueen established a fine ensemble of actors, lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor whose Solomon has the sympathy of the audience. Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps literally is the brutality of slavery and the personification of the American South without doubt that white men are born to be superior and may do whatever they want to.
William Ford – played by an amazing Benedict Cumberbatch – at least tries to treat his slaves as human beings, but he is not able or not willing to change anything. At least he gives a little bit of hope where there is no hope at all.

William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch, left)
and Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) Screenshot: pb/Tobis

Because the film is based on the memories of Solomon Northup we do know that he managed to escape but this doesn’t relieves your heart. Leaving the cinema after 135 minutes is like coming back into a world that seems on mute and unreal. But „12 Years A Slave“ is a film you should not miss and it definitely needs all the Oscars it’s nominated for.

If part of this article sound weird this is due to the fact that I’m no native speaker, so don’t be too harsh.
Feel free to share this blog entry but please quote and link properly.

Eine deutsche Version dieses Eintrags gibt es hier.

„12 Years a Slave“ kennt keine Schonung

Es gibt nicht viele Filme, die einen so hilflos zurücklassen wie „12 Years A Slave“. Das liegt natürlich an der Handlung, die nach einer wahren Begebenheit erzählt wird: Kurz vor Ausbruch des Amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs wird Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), ein freier Afroamerikaner aus Saratoga/New York, gekidnappt und in die Sklaverei verkauft. 12 lange Jahre hofft er, der Willkür und dem Sadismus des Sklavenhalters Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) ausgesetzt, wieder aus der Gefangenschaft zu entkommen.

Was den Film fast unerträglich macht, ist nicht mal so sehr die gezeigte Brutalität – die gibt es beispielsweise auch in Quentin Tarantinos „Inglourious Basterds“ Doch während es dort immer wieder Momente gibt, in denen man durchatmen, ja sogar lachen kann (auch wenn einem das Lachen im Halse stecken bleibt), gönnt Steve McQueen seinem Publikum keine Erholung. Selbst die Landschaft, die wunderschön ist und wirkt als sei sie aus einem Gemälde entnommen, macht nur misstrauisch. Misstrauisch, weil die Idylle trügt und im nächsten Augenblick die Unmenschlichkeit dieses Systems erneut mit voller Härte zuschlägt.

Die ganze Kraft des Kinos

„12 Years A Slave“ zeigt die ganze Kraft, zu der das Kino fähig ist. Und er zeigt die Brillanz des Regisseurs Steve McQueen, der bei der Auswahl seiner Darsteller seine Meisterschaft beweist. Allen voran Hauptdarsteller Chiwetel Ejiofor, mit dessen Solomon das Publikum leidet. Michael Fassbender zeigt als brutaler Sklavenhalter Edwin Epps die ganze Perversion, die in den amerikanischen Südstaaten herrschte. Eine Perversion, die William Ford zumindest in Ansätzen erkennt, der Plantagenbesitzer ist aber nicht in der Lage, tatsächlich etwas gegen die Sklavenhaltung zu tun. Ein brillanter Benedict Cumberbatch verleiht dieser Figur mit wenigen Gesten und perfekt eingesetzter Mimik zwar die Aura einer Heilsfigur. Doch wie die Sonne an einem bitterkalten Wintertag nicht wärmen kann, so wenig kann der in Konventionen gefangene Ford tatsächlich helfen. Vielleicht will er es auch gar nicht.

William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch, links, und
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Eijofor). Screenshot:pb/Tobis

Das 135 Minuten lange Drama entlässt den Zuschauer zwar mit einem Happy End – Solomon Northup konnte fliehen und seine Erinnerungen aufschreiben – die Welt, außerhalb des Kinos wirkt aber eine ganze Weile so, als sei sie in Watte gepackt und unwirklich. Den mit neun Oscars nominierten Film muss man gesehen haben.

You may find the English version here.

Little Favour leaves you speechless

Benedict Cumberbatch as Wallace.
Foto: Sunny March/http://www.benedictcumberbatch.co.uk

You think that Benedict Cumberbatch is this perfect British gentleman, always dapper, always handsome (no we don’t mention the pics in flipflops and scarf because he’s always adorable)? Think twice. At least you have to after watching the short film „Little Favour“ which is out now to buy on iTunes.

Seven years before the story of the film is settled, Wallace (Benedict Cumberbatch) left Her Majesty’s service and it’s ten years since his American counterpart and friend saved his life. Now – as Wallace is just about to start a relationship – James (Colin Salmon) comes back, asking just for a little favour.

This little favour is much more than just „little“ as the story is unfolding. And despite the fact that the film is only about 22 minutes long, it is thrilling, exciting (yes it is bloody and some scenes are cruel) and with a very surprising turn that lefts you staring on your screen with open mouth. Patrick V Monroe has written and directed his first film – but surely will become a household name – with the promise to give us more films as perfectly as this. And it is indeed amazing, because actors, settings, music (will there be a soundtrack available somewhere?) and dialogues are just well –  perfect. And even if there are no words spoken and you just think that you’ve muted the sound (Production/Sound Mixer: Nigel Albermaniche), you’ll realize why Benedict Cumberbatch is such a brilliant actor: All what has to be said is in his face, his eyes, his impressions, even his movements. And honestly who cares about perfect suits, clean shirts and styled hair?

„Little Favour“ is the first film produced by Sunny March. The company was founded by Adam Ackland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Dillon and Adam Selves. The film was crowd funded with the original target of 25,000£ – which was outstripped, reaching 86,240£ within twelve days.

If part of this article sound weird this is due to the fact that I’m no native speaker, so don’t be too harsh.
Feel free to share this blog entry but please quote and link properly.

[Update: Little Favour is now available on We are Colony for little money. You not only get access to lots of extras. You also support independent film.]

 

The Fifth Estate

Whoever has been living under a rock for let’s say the last couple of years and hasn’t ever heard anything about the online platform Wikileaks will have trouble understanding what the film „The Fifth Estate“ is all about. And whoever thought that the film will take revenge on Wikileaks‘ founder Julian Assange, will be disappointed.

Maybe all visionaries have something in common. They believe in an idea, they fight for with all their powers and sometimes with every means they can get their hands on. Because they deeply believe that what they are doing is right. That is what makes them special. Others can’t really get what this is all about, because they do not understand. Julian Assange is a visionary, inspired by his believe that all information should be accessible by everybody. That’s why he established Wikileaks, why he has fought and is still fighting for his believes against everything and every person, including his nearest friend Daniel Domscheit-Berg – thoughtlessly hurting feelings and causing disappointment on each side.

Making things visible that are not visible

Director Bill Condon concentrates his work on the relationship between Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg. And if this isn’t enough to get along with – you know that Assange wasn’t amused when works for the film started –  „The Fifth Estate“ tries to make things visible that are not visible: Websites, Mails, Chats, Computercodes and a lot of other tech-stuff most of the public has only a faintest idea of what those things are really made for. And so there are many flashing lines, different windows on computerscreens (they often work on Thinkpads by the way for anyone interested), a huge sterile looking office, an empty snow covered field, with a few camp fires and people hovering before their laptops when they are not too busy traveling round the world.

Brilliant leading actors

What is holding all the different scenes together is the brilliance of the leading actors: Daniel Brühl always grounds his Daniel Domscheit-Berg even when his enthusiasm is about to pull him away from his ordinary life which he finds boring but which defines him deeply – there is a scene when Julian accompanies him to Daniel’s parents who are so normal and so typically German that you as a German almost can see your own parents shining through –  and which urges him to end the friendship with Julian Assange.

Benedict Cumberbach – who was the baddie in the latest Star Trek film, is about to be Alan Turing in the film „The Imitation Game“, will hit the cinemas in „12 Years a Slave“, „August: Osange County“ and gives voice to the dragon Smaug in „The Hobbit“ before Christmas (and we all are desperately waiting for him bringing Sherlock back to our telly) – Benedict Cumberbatch is hardly visible as a person.

Benedict is Julian Assange

Because he does what he always does as an actor: getting under the skin of the figure he is about to play, stepping totally aside and bringing the character to life with the brilliance of an actor who is said to be one of the best of his generation. His white hair, his totally changed face, contacts that cover the natural colour of his eyes is combined with totally unfamiliar gestures, reactions, different body language what all together helps Benedict Cumberbatch really being Julian Assange, at least the Assange of this film. A restless, hounded, highly intelligent computer expert who is at the same time lonely, isolated and very fascinating, who brutally pisses off his best and trusted friend although he earns him so much. „All I have got is a webside, a couple of fake email addresses. And you. Do I have you?“ Assange asks Domscheit-Berg at the beginning.
Cumberbatch gives his Assange every feeling from a cold and calculating machine-like behavior to a soft and very vulnerable human being – and he manages all this brilliantly within a second and with very little expressions. But as so often you see the change in Benedict’s eyes. With all this Cumberbatch rules the film and dominates it but he doesn’t dominate an also brilliant Daniel Brühl.

„If you want the truth, you’ve to seek it out for yourself. That’s what they’re afraid of. You.“, the fictional Assange says in an fictional interview that’s wrapped around the film. The film – like in real life – he accuses of being an attack on himself and Wikileaks. But the film isn’t an attack at all. Partly based on the memories of Daniel Domscheit-Berg (who supported Daniel Brühl in his preparation for the role) and taking his point of view, the film can not be objective or even a documentary.
„The Fifth Estate“ is above all a good and thrilling entertainment. And maybe it will get some to find out more about Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

You find the German version here.

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