XC (Re)leituras - Kosovo: a short History, by Noel Compton, comments by André Bandeira

This superb «short» History of Kosovo, dates back to 1998. It is condensed and very informative, but not short. Generally speaking, the author leans on the side of Kosovo independence and advocates the cause of albanians, no matter wherever they've settled for centuries long. One of the curious things is that the names «Bessa» and «Arnaut», which are not uncommon in Portugal, for instance, could be traced back to Albania. In times of alleged «islamic invasion», this book gives us a very enlightening perspective. What we call albanian is, no need to mention, a long process of ethnic miscigenation, which began long before the Ottoman Empire. Should one say that islamization came afterwards to consolidate that process? No. Islam, in the Balkans, was as much a matter of personal choice, as it was one of opportunity or even one of hidden agenda. Not faraway, the bosnian muslims have once been Bogomils, an heretic christian sect which preferred convert to Islam than submitting to the Pope. Here is something which was not strange, a couple centuries later, to the Reformer Luther and was never out of sight from some orthodox clergy. By the way, very many among the Geg, the northern albanian stock, who generated Women such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta, have always been catholic, faithful to Rome, but very much jealous of their temporal prerogatives, which they found from time to time, much more protected by the ottoman Empire than by any Christian power. Albanian families could be composed both of christian (orthodox or catholic) and muslims, which meant that the confessional borderline was, sometimes, not worthier than an untidy blanket. They fought on austrian side, on orthodox side and on ottoman side. One thing they didn't like, no matter where the push came from: that was to be disarmed. That's why the most prestigious mountain clans in the Balkans have albanian names such as Klemëndi or Mirdit. All this boils down to the need of finding an all-embracing concept which could grasp the albanian stock. One possibility could be their language, the other could be the one of old Illyrian people and their founding myths. But this latter wouldn't be enough. Tribes and clans living in deep, almost inaccessible valleys among the cliffs, that is a model which squares all classical north-eastern Mediterranean. What the author leads us to conclude, that is the fact that a common religion, is both able to unite a pre-existing stock of people, while the religion itself, loses very much of its identity in the course of that process. That holds both for Christianity as well as for Islam. That means that neither all Islam makes part of Europe's identity, nor all Cristianity does.There is God and Goodness beyond the Temple.


LXXXIX - (Re) leituras: En Folkefiende (an Enemy of the People) by Henrik Ibsen, comments by André Bandeira

This is the most important play of Henrik Ibsen, the most important writer of Norway. Here is the plot: in a town, the municipal baths are attracting tourists and enriching the population. The physician, who makes part of the board of directors, finds out that a tanner's shop is polluting the waters which feed the baths, and spreading diseases among the sick people who are using them. He decides to make public his findings.His brother, who happens to be the Mayor, and Chief Constable, dissuades him of doing that, because the repair will take two years and will cost a fortune, therefore diverting the tourists to other towns and ruining the local Economy. If the physician goes ahead -- as he is determined to, for the sake of the customers's health and the honour of the community -- he will lose his job, his brother tells him. The physician's father-in-law, the owner of the tanner's shop, buys all the shares of the baths, before the report comes out, and tells the physician that if he denounces the wrondoing, all the money he had spared and invested, as legacy for the physician's wife and children, will boil down to useless paper sheets. The newspapers who first decided to publish the report, conspiring to replace the Mayor with people of their own, finally ask the physician to deffuse the rumours, because they are afraid of losing readers. In a public gathering, where he toils to speak up, he manages to utter the most important words of Ibsen: «The majority has the Power - unfortunately - but has no right. The right, that's what I have and other few. The minority is always right». The throng bashes him, and the self-proclaimed free journalists call him, first, «aristocrat since yesterday's eve» and,then, «revolutionarist». He's finally voted «enemy of the people», loses his job, has his home both foreclosed and attacked, and becomes impeded of practicing Medecine. After having a possible migration to America aborted, the physician gathers his family, tries to rebuild a way of living, and says to his daughter: «...den staerkeste mand i verden, det er hen, sam staer mest alene» (the strongest man in the world is the one who stays most alone). There is a frightening statue of Ibsen, at the top of Oslo's main boulevard, Karl Johan. The physician, in the play, doesn't mind of losing everything, in order to save weak and ailing people who come to town, from faraway, looking for relief. He doesn't mind either in his quest for prioritizing honesty rather than a rotten welfare. But he is not fighting for any majority, neither he claims to be either a superior being or a new leader. Actually, after he realizes all the quicksands on which the community is founded, he doesn't defend it any more, no matter the one which holds a majority or the one which is looking to build a new majority. He defends himself, and the right of being unique and integer against the balance of forces. Precisely: the right against any might, as if they where the Sun and the Moon. And if Ibsen proved us that the minority is sometimes right, one man, alone as he means it, he is always right. Each and every man, even caught by surprise and shot twice, long before growing up to be a man.


Audições III - The Serpent's egg, by Ingmar Bergman, comments by André Bandeira

What makes one prophetic, it is the reality itself. A handfull of moves are enough to make a prophecy, not because anybody around is holding some special powers, but because the best of the self-fulfilling prophecies, that is a Reality which takes over and prophetizes. This movie, starring David Carradine, tells the story of a daring Doctor who has a private dungeon and who makes terrible experiments on trumps and drunkards he recruits as guinea-pigs, in exchange for shelter and food. It takes place in Berlin, during the thirties and it's all about the prescience of Dr. Mengele and the nazi concentration camps. Two policemen, rather conservative and nostalgic of the Kaiser, decide, after some corpses had been found, that they won't be able to stop the flux of times, squirted by a crazy Weimar republic of demagogues. But one of them, the Commander, states very clearly «they won't go where they bound to, as long as I'm in charge». In order to avoid arrest, the doctor ends up committing suicide, while performing an experience on himself. And that's it: wolves never sneak in with the pack. Or, at least, the wolf doesn't use the same tactics to get to the flock. Where he should say hate, he says «humanism». Where he should say fanaticism, he says «cultural conservative». Where he should say genocide, he says «emancipation of Europe». Where he should say passion for chaos, he says «learning with the perpetrators of chaos, the cultural marxists». Where he should say «xenophobia», he says «pro-sionistic and anti-Islam». Where he should say «fascination for Lucipher as a personification of Odin and Thor» he says «protestantism should revert to catholicism». Where he should say «game-crazy and sadistic», he says management Science and gun sports. Where he should say narcissism, he says «nationalism». And where he says «it was cruel, but it had to be done», he whistles as a snake, diverting the attention to a defenseless quarter, while shooting twice on defenseless adolescentes who swam in frozen waters, dressed in bathing-suits, shoeless and terrified.
He is not norwegian. Norway was founded by a Saint, a former Viking who went to battle, knowing he was going to be crushed. Olav, the Fat one, thought that Jesus was much better than Odin and Thor and he felt guilty when he saw handicaped children being abandoned in the bushes, to be eaten by the wolves. He became Saint Olav, and he still leads all of us to the battles where the enemy hides in the fog. He died fighting with his wife and his lover, who was already pregnat and whom he didn't drop, by his side. All three fought as Vikings, children of Balder, not of Loke. When he died, and his followers had been completely crushed, the people and the nobles began converting spontaneously to the creed of Christ. That was his first miracle. The second was the norwegian people.


Audições II - Spartacus, by Stanley Kubrik, comments by André Bandeira

This is a movie you can find anywhere in the net, with the soundtrack, the main trailers and the making-of. Normally, I cannot stand it till the end, because it comes so loaded of hope that the ending appears to be certainly tragical and endless, before it comes. But how beautiful are their faces, the one of Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), Lavinia (Jean Simmons) or Antoninus(Tony Curtis), especially when the plot is about to bud in the first successes obtained by the army of gladiators, freed, and rounded up against Rome. How prude is Lavinia's crimson tunic, or her very character, while bathing, and the way Spartacus caresses her. How beautiful are the words they exchange and the feelings they portray. How beautiful is the poem that Antoninus recites about returning to a home which the freed slaves will never reach. How beautiful are the faces of the finally freed men and women, performing their humble tasks of everyday life, while roaming in Italy, to find a way out. And how beautiful is the scene, when the winning generals invite the defeated throng to surrender Spartacus but, before this latter can give himself away, everyone raises and says that he, himself, is Spartacus. And how different are the orange and sunset colours of this masterpiece of sentiment, comparing with the recent and shadowy «Spartacus: blood and sand». One movie, sides with the other, as a golden hand with a swollen foot. The movie begins with a short spring of hope which rapidly becomes tainted with grief and anticipation, but the bare news of a baby Lavinia is carrying in her womb, Spartacus'son, is enough to hold the invincibility of life till the very end. The dialogue of Crassus (Lawrence Olivier) and his still servant Antoninus, amounts to one the most eloquent lessons, drawn from a set of values and tones, which is still worth teaching. The eloquence comes up mostly in the silence and flight of the absent slave Antoninus, whom Crassus cannot find anymore, when he ends up his eulogy to the fatality of Rome and the inevitability of corruption. Neverthelesse, the most beautiful looks in the movie are those exchanged by the gladiator Draba, a negro, and Spartacus, before they leave to the arena, bound to fight till death. It is a superb silent movie. The victor, Draba, won't execute the defeated Spartacus and will be finally finished up by Crassus, who sponsored the show. By this shift of man-made Destiny, Spartacus, will know his own. The whole narrative refers back to this long, silent look of the negro gladiator, caged as an animal, before being leashed out in the arena, to kill, or die. His silence, full of all the worries and cares of this world, is the final testimony, emerging at the very beginning of the movie. Draba's silence breaks once and for all (while avoiding the anxious look of his fellow in disgrace, Spartacus)the caroussel of fatality. This is a movie on the promises fulfilled since the beginning of Times, it is a movie on trust.


Audições - I - As Meninas de Sinhá, comments by André Bandeira

This is a remarkable folk music group from Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is composed of about thirty women, who decided, some of them, after enduring miserable lives since they were child, to set a folk music group in a slum,called Alto da Vera Cruz, in the capital Belo Horizonte. They are chanting and dancing as a group, since a couple of years now, accompanied by a guitar and a drum. They do their show either on stage, or mingling together with the audience. In the audience, it is hard to stay sitting when, despite their average elder age, they invite one to dance around the floor. Their choreography is simple, mostly based on the traditional steps of «Dança de roda», where everybody dances altogether with everybody and, from time to time, people clap their hands in a blow, raising the arms up at the sound of the refrain. It is also part of the show some speeches made individually by the members of the group who tell their long ways to get to themselves, most of them in a comic tone which doesn't hide the impact of all the hard experiences they lived through. I invite you to have a look and listen to their promo video in the Net, called « Tá chovendo Fulô» (It is raining flowers). It is such a touching and victorious chant that one is tempted to consider it better than the final speech of Charlie Chaplin in «The Great Dictator» or take it as a the sudden rush of life to the head, while facing the unknown.