Tag Archives: Films

In praise of my aunty, and something to go to in Wellington

I admire and like my aunty. She is feminist, a reader, a writer, a thinker, a singer, a musician, a maker of radio programs (is there a word for that?), an academic, a social researcher, a student (she’s part way through her PhD), and now, a film maker. Also, she has the most beautiful speaking voice. She was the first person I knew of as feminist; other people around me were, and are, feminist (notably, my mother, from who I learned my feminism), but my aunty explicitly used the title, “feminist.” I got to know her a little better over the past few years when we were living in Wellington, because in one of those two degrees of separation moments that delight and plague New Zealanders, when my book group wanted to invite some more people to start coming along, one of the other women, whom I had met only through the book group, said, “What about Marie Russell?” I sat quietly for a moment, and then said, “You mean my aunty, don’t you?” And she did. Thanks to Marie, our group read some of Elizabeth Gaskell’s books; if you haven’t read them already, I recommend them. North and South and Wives and Daughters are my favourites.

Marie’s first film is going to be screened at the Paramount Cinema in Wellington, on Saturday 11 July, 11.30am. Entry is by a gold coin donation. It’s a 35 minute documentary called “A Place to Stay,” looking at the social history of Salisbury Garden Court in Wadestown (Wellington).


How does urban design affect community? Through the stories of past and current residents, historical and family photographs, and newsreel footage, this film tells some of the unique social history of Salisbury Garden Court (Wadestown, Wellington) and presents a case study of the various connections between architecture and people.

You should go if you can. It looks fascinating. I wish I could be there myself to see it, and to celebrate with Marie. If you do go, say hello to her for me.

Conversation on the way home from work

The scene: Mr Strange Land driving, me in the passenger seat, on our way home after work today. Grey skies with some light in them, traffic, end of the day. The tone: meandering.

Mr Strange Land (MSL): Does your singing teacher call you princess?

Deborah (Deb): No (surprised).

MSL: I thought I heard him say princess on that tape of your last lesson.

Deb: No. He calls me ‘bel-la’, except when he calls me Rebecca.

MSL: Rebecca?

Deb: I think he thinks I ought to be called Rebecca. (Pause while MSL negotiates corner, lane change, heavy traffic.) I can understand that. I keep on wanting to call [Miss Nine’s] and [the younger Miss Seven’s] drama teacher Andrew.

MSL: What’s his name?

Deb: Shane. But he looks like an Andrew.

MSL: Bel-la. Bel-la. Bel-la. Bel-loch. Bel-loch. Like in Moria.

Deb: Bal-rrrog. Bal-rrrog.

MSL: No. Like on the doors of Moria.

Deb: You mean mel-lon. Mel-lon. Friend. Say friend and enter.

MSL: That’s it. I’ve always thought that was very clever of the elves and the dwarves, because the elves could read the script and translate the words, but they were a truthful people so if ever they turned against the dwarves they couldn’t come to Moria and say friend and get in. They couldn’t lie.

Deb: They couldn’t lie. I don’t know about that. What about Feanor? The most passionate of the Noldor, who brought them down. But I don’t know whether he lied or not.

MSL: What about Thing…

Deb: Thingol. Did he lie?

MSL: Didn’t he lie to the dwarves who did some work for him and then he didn’t pay them.

Deb: No… didn’t they ask for something he didn’t want to give and so they killed him and took it.

MSL: Maybe…

Deb: Wasn’t it a Silmaril? Didn’t Thingol get one somehow?


Deb: I know. Thingol challenged Beren to get one when Beren came asking to marry Luthien. And that awakened the curse and enmeshed Thingol in it.

MSL: Beren told Thingol to name him a task so Thingol named the impossible, to get a Silmaril from Morgoth and then Beren and Luthien did it.

Deb: Very saga-ish. Then Beren died, but Luthien’s heart broke and her spirit fled to Mandos and she knelt at his feet and sang a song of terrible beauty and mourning and he was moved by it, so he allowed Beren to return and Luthien became mortal and they lived out their lives, but Beren never spoke to a living man again. Mythic. And their son was Dior, and he married – agh – can’t remember. But somehow they were related to Earendil.

MSL: And Elrond and Elros were his sons, but Elros elected to be mortal.

Deb: That’s right. They were half-elven, half-human, but they were given a choice about whether to be elven or human.

MSL: But I thought Mandos didn’t have power over men, so how was he able to send Beren back? Did he appeal to whoever?

Deb: Ea? Eru? Iluvatar?

MSL: You know what this means. We’re going to have to read the damned book again.


MSL: That was one of the things I thought was a bit disappointing about the movie. They probably didn’t have time for it, but it would have been great to see Aragorn gathering up the men from the southern lands and drawing them to his banner and then arriving at Gondor. I know that ghost army worked film-wise, but it would have been great to see him use the pirates and the ghost army. The men of the south could have been fighting desperately against the pirates, then the ghost army could have swept down on them, and Aragorn could have gathered up the men of the south and sailed to Gondor. And imagine that as a moment – the charge of the Rohirrim faltering, and all seeming to be beginning to lost, when the pirate ships arrived. And then, the banner unfurling, and it being the banner of the kings of Gondor, not seen for hundreds of years. The king came again at last, in the hour of Gondor’s direst need. What a moment that would have been. (Pause) Brings tears to my eyes. Almost like a Barbie movie.

(Long pause for Deb to digest that.)

MSL: Of course, that wouldn’t have given as much scope to John Noble.

Deb: Oh, he was magnificent. He played Denethor as Lear. Wonderful.

MSL: I’ve never seen Lear, not even on film. The only Lear I have seen was Kurosawa’s Ran.

Deb: It’s an old man’s role. I think John Gielgud played Lear. So has Ian McKellan. Lear, naked on the heath. Literally. A young man can’t play that role. Like an old woman can’t play Juliet.

MSL: You need a teenager for it.

Deb: That’s right! Only a teenager would be so bloody stupid.

MSL: You should blog that.


Deb: I need to pick up some vegies at the shop. Do you want to drop me there and you go and get the girls and I’ll see you at home?

MSL (driving on): No… let’s stay together.

Deb: Good. I like your company.