11.4.05

Exploring the dark side

No, I'm not going to write about The Revenge of the Sith (which will - thankfully - be the last of the Star Wars movies). Unless you think that all things dark are part of the Sith/Jedi continuum, and you're welcome to do so.

The past few weeks I've been seeing movies and reading books that are dark in tone. Sin City, for example, takes noir to a new level. First, there's the language. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a deliberate choice to use the clipped Spillane-ish language, that it was hewing to the reality created in the graphic novels. Still, it grated on my ears (I have sensitive ears for that sort of thing). The blatant objectification of women wasn't a problem for me, because I walked in knowing that this was what the genre was about. Ditto the lack of character development and the repetitive nature of the stories. I was even amazed and pleased at the creation of the "world", the cleanness of the transfer from the graphic novel to film. But it is a dark world that gets explored.

De-Lovely shouldn't be a dark film, but it is. The relationship between Cole and Linda was deeply disturbing. The power struggle, the love she has for him that is twisted (to say the least), the unhappiness they both had were moving. One could almost see a parallel to what we imagine the Clinton's relationship being: she's with him for the power it brings, despite the constant pain she's in thanks to his actions. I could name many in my circle of friends and acquaintances that also fall into that love/hate/need/despise relationship, including myself, which is probably why I found this the more problematic of the films.

Then there are the mysteries. By their nature, mysteries explore the ugly and the dark - a murder here... a theft there... intent and retribution all swirled into a nice package for the reader. Some mysteries, however, are darker than others. I usually stay away from the hard core and the procedurals, but the cozies are losing their charm for me. Years ago I read Judas Child and became enamoured of Carol O'Connell's writings, which started me reading her Kathleen Mallory series. Mallory (no one dare call her Kathy) is a unique creation, I think. She's a sociopath and a cop, adhering to her own moral code. The coldest, most disturbing of the series is Stone Angel, and I highly recommend it. The newest, Winter House, is not at that level - images from it have not inserted themselves into my head the way Stone Angel did. But... the story of Nedda "Red" Winter is chilling in its own way.

Wrapping up my dark exploration is With No One as Witness, Elizabeth George's latest. The story itself isn't bad, but the ending, with the casual violence of today's society wrecking havoc on the major characters, is the part that will stay with me.

Perhaps it says something about the place I am in my life right now - the things I'm finding important or are occupying my mind seem to be tinged darkly. Perhaps I'm seeing more darkness than is there, or than is intended. Yet given the recent events that have so captivated the news and the chattering classes, perhaps the darkness is out there reaching in more and more.

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