The Arts Review: Blå ögons’ Midsummer Night’s Theology of Star Wars

Arts and entertainment

Welcome to a review of the latest cultural goings on. This week reviews of: Blå ögon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Theology and Ethics of Star Wars.

Andrew Venning reviews Blå ögon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Theology and Ethics of Star Wars.


Blå ögon

Blå ögon review

Following the success of The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen et al. Channel 4 has created Walter Presents to showcase a lot of foreign language television drama. We have just been treated to something different with the enjoyable German drama ‘Deutschland 83’ and now More4 brings us ‘Blue Eyes’ set inside a right wing political party in Sweden. Very UKIP.

“What is so interesting about the opening of this series is the way it dares to look deeply into right wing feeling”

What is so interesting about the opening of this series (only 1 Episode so far) is the way it dares to look deeply into right wing feeling and also how parties with far right elements are perceived. The inner turmoil and splits inside the party, that contain both nationalists who are fighting against immigration and open borders through to the fear and ignorance of the more extremist elements of the party. We follow a couple of the lives of people in the party and at one point we are asked to sympathise with one of these characters and we become split between our instinctive natural humanist feelings and the disgust at the extremist politics and opinions that same person espouses.

Blue Eyes certainly seems to shed light on the in-fighting of a right wing political movement and the feelings of fear and anger that are currently sweeping across and infecting Europe as I type. There is also murder and other intrigue thrown in as well. Very interesting subject matter and has definitely piqued my interest. I will certainly keep watching….

Blue eyes is written by Walter Presents can be found on more 4


A Midsummer Night’s Dream Review

A Midsummer Night's Dream Review

Filter Theatre’s ‘A Midusmmer Night’s Dream’ was performed at the Lyric Hammersmith to wide acclaim in 2012. Sadly I missed it then due to the fact I myself was doing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Oxford. I was lucky enough to catch their production of ‘Twelfth Night’ at The Park Theatre, London and what a show that was! Filter’s production of Dream (as I expected) is just as mad and intense!

“This is quite possibly one of the funniest and best ‘Dreams’ I have seen, probably ever!”

I consider myself (at times) quite a purist and yet when Shakespeare is treated with SUCH utter anarchy and yet utterly respected at the same time, in my opinion, it absolutely works! If you are going to go all out madcap, go ALL OUT! as Filter absolutely does. This is quite possibly one of the funniest and best ‘Dreams’ I have seen, probably ever! (Julie Taymor’s New York production comes very close). I have to say that I have seen the play so many times that I do worry if it can ever be re-told in a way that will tell me something new (not that I know everything there is to know about the play!) but this production just takes away the drawing board and explodes onto the stage with sheer fun and delight.

Filter completely disregard some of the text at times, particularly in the mechanical scenes, and replace Shakespeare’s dialogue with “modern” prose and “naturalist” and colloquial speech, or rather, something that is more familiar to us and yet it still portrays the truth of what is happening in the mechanical scenes beautifully.

Walls are smashed into, Oberon (dressed in lycra as a superhero) smashed through the paper ceiling and walls, Puck crashes through the set (Fosters can in hand) dressed as Lyric Theatre Stage hand and at one point the “audience member” who is “filling in” for Bottom has his Sainsbury shopping (he left on stage when “volunteering” to fill in) raided and the food is lobbed across the stage during a mass food fight with the cast and audience! (in Twelfth Night pizza’s were ordered in to the auditorium) for someone experiencing the play for the first time they may miss out on some of Shakespeare’s poetry but they do get a vivid, refreshing and zestful performance which tells this magical and dreamlike story with it’s own magical and dreamlike staging.

Bravo!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is currently at the Filter Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, London


The Theology and ethics of Star Wars Review

The Theology and ethics of Star Wars Review

Conway Hall ethical Society has chosen a fascinating topic for discussion under their ‘London Thinks’ programme featuring Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou; cultural historian, Sound of Cinema presenter & Free Thinker, Dr Matthew Sweet; Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Andrew Copson and chaired by the journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed.

One has always been aware of the theological parallels in the Star Wars films, the idea of a greater unseen mystical force of good and the temptation of darkness/evil. Fear, hate, anger and strong Christian dogma. Samira Ahmed who chaired the event had wanted to call it ‘is Han Solo a humanist?’

At the start we are treated to scenes from the film, but due to the fact that the event was streamed live online, and rights issues, we could only have sections of the script read out to scenes created (By Ahmed) using Lego… and wonderfully so!

This discussion covered such a vast number of points that it would bore everyone if I named them all, so I thought I would flag some of the interesting points made during the discussion for anyone interested to think about or discussed amongst friends.

“It was a fascinating talk with a mixture of the expected OTT Star Wars fans and people genuinely interested in the ethical, theological, humanist and moral themes”

Discussion Thoughts:-

The Force considerred by a lot of people in New Hope as an old belief system of nonsense, despite actual proof that Darth Vader has tangible and realistic powers.

Han Solo’s cynicism which eventually leads to skepticism and by ‘The Force Awakens’ becomes acceptance, but too late.

Kylo Ren can be made comparable to young men being self-radicalised under their parent’s noses.

Obi wan Kenobi, the most immoral character in Star Wars? The argument here was that Kenobi is a bad as the Emperor in that he recruits a young man, is economical with the truth and weaponises him for his own ends. In contrast with the usually hated Lando Calrissian who gives up his friend’s, yes, but only to save the lives of Millions of people on Cloud city. When he sees a chance to help his friends he does, and then he immediately joined the rebellion. Is Lando possibly the most ethical character in the film?

Is The Empire as Monotheistic power with a vengeful Emperor/God in parallel with Christian theology?

Here’s a thought. R2D2 and BB8 are  the only characters impervious to the force and other mystical manipulation. If everyone is controlled by ‘destiny’, then the AI in the films are the only people with free agency. R2 always makes comments, always has the “map” (key?) and always has his mission to find the “divine” leader. Obi, Luke etc. And a parallel is made with Moses going into the wilderness. This was one of the most intriguing elements to the night’s discussion.

If the force needs balance (like in Genesis in the Bible i.e. Chaos from order, dark and light, Good and evil, Lucifer as initially a product of good) then there can only be an existence of the force that includes someone like Darth Vader. Ergo peace is non-existent. Darth Vader is in conflict with himself, a spiritualist trapped inside this strange consumerist, machine with no real connection to the almighty and mystical power of the force.

We were also treated to a discussion on the deleted scenes and the character Jer Jerrod’s dilemma, where he was compared to the “good” Nazi, someone who is caught up in something they don’t actually believe in. The panel discuss a scene in which Jer is told to by the Emperor to destroy Endor with the Death Star and he voices concern about the 700 troops they have left on the planet but the Emperor demands that he go ahead and blow-up the planet, here follows an insightful debate on the moral implications involved and the parallels with WWII Nazism.

Then followed a debate on the differences of democracy and faith in Star Trek and Star Wars. Start Trek being a compliant universe and perhaps one more favoured by scientists?…But this went into even deeper territory….

It was a fascinating talk with a mixture of the expected OTT Star Wars fans and people genuinely interested in the ethical, theological, humanist and moral themes in this enduring films.

This was a one off, but there was a live stream and Conway Hall has many more up and coming events.

Click here for more info on the theology and ethics of Star Wars


Andrew Venning All reviews by Andrew Venning