Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review of the Ana Kokkinos film The Book of Revelation

The Movie

The Book of Revelation is a 2006 Australian film depicting the abduction, torture, and rape of a young man by three mysterious women. It was adapted from the book of the same name by English author Rupert Thomson.

The Controversy

This article is in response to a review of this movie I read on Amazon where the person said the story was unrealistic because even if a man could be raped by a woman, he certainly wouldn't consider it a traumatic experience. After all, isn't that every man's dream? Well, answering that question is kind of the whole reason for a story like this to exist, and the answer is, yes it could happen, and yes it would be traumatic.

My Review

First off let me say that the lead actor's performance was amazing. The movie revolves around a theme that many people find unbelievable. To make it believable you need actors who can accurately portray the emotions that the characters are meant to be feeling. Tom Long as Daniel does just that. Even if I didn't understand why the situation would have traumatized him, I would have been won over by his performance.

This is also a very quiet movie. Those who prefer films with lots of action would probably not reap the same enjoyment from it that I did. I, however, found the slow pace to be highly effective. It gives the audience time to reflect on what has happened and to really feel what Daniel is feeling.

Okay, on to the story. I primarily want to answer the claim that the experience of being raped by a woman would not be traumatic for a man. I'm with you up to a point. If the three women in this film had simply come upon Daniel in the alley, somehow pinned him against a wall, sexually pleasured him for the next ten minutes or so, then let him go, he may have been able to return to his normal life relatively unscathed. He probably would have felt a bit weird about the experience. Maybe even a little creeped out by it. It's possible that it would have made him hesitant to walk alone in a deserted alley in the future. But I don't know that it would have completely ruined his life the way the events of the movie do. But the women do a good bit more to him than simply offer sexual pleasure, and what they do would traumatize anyone.

First of all they drug him and kidnap him. Imagine how vulnerable that would make a person feel, to be going about one's business and then all of a sudden have all control of what happens next taken away. Second, they lock him in a room and chain him up. That's where he is when he wakes up, with no idea how he got there, or who put him there. He doesn't know what is about to be done to him. He's there for hours before the women finally come into the room. How many gruesome scenarios would be playing out in his mind while he waits for...what? Torture? Death? He has no idea what is coming.

When the women first come in, he has no way of knowing what they want, so it's perfectly natural that he would flinch when they touch him. For all he knows they're getting ready to slice him open and eat his liver while he watches. When all they want is to give him a blow job he probably feels some relief. Probably even enjoys it. But the fear would be there nonetheless. What are they going to do when they get finished with this?

The next thing that happens is they leave him alone until he finally pees all over himself. Now, even if the sex didn't bother him, I'm pretty sure this would have. What man wants to wet himself in front of three beautiful women? Then they all come in and stand around him, talking about how dirty and smelly he is because he just wet himself. So now we add humiliation to the fear he's already feeling.

There's also the fact that they keep him locked up for twelve days. Now, I know I'm not a man, so maybe I'm just not looking at this the way a man would, but I think I would reach a point where, no matter how lovely the women are, no matter how enjoyable the sex is, I would be ready to go home. Ready to be anywhere other than that room. Ready to sleep on a real bed and eat what and when I want and basically have control of my life back. But maybe that's just me.

Perhaps you're still not sold. Perhaps you still think this experience would be any man's fantasy. Did you watch the movie? Did you miss the part where they attach the chain to his genitals? Does that sound like something that would feel good? Again, I'm not a man, so maybe I just don't know, but I'm thinking not.

The Book of Revelation is an excellent movie that depicts a sensitive topic in a very believable way. I would certainly recommend this film.

Friday, July 22, 2016

5 Reasons Why Indie Authors Need to Read Indie Books

It's a given that reading is of the utmost importance to writers. Reading the classics helps us understand what gives a book staying power. Reading the latest bestseller tells us what is popular right now. Reading within our own genre gives us great ideas for future novels. But how many of us regularly read indie books? Many people do read them, I know. Indie authors are making real money in their chosen profession, which means someone is reading their books. But how many people will actually choose an indie book over something traditionally published just because it's an indie book. Here are a few reasons why you should consider it, especially if you are an indie author yourself.

Finding That Rare Gem

Just because the world hasn't discovered a book yet, that doesn't mean it's crap. Some amazing things are being written every day but not getting discovered because most indie authors do not have the kinds of resources for marketing campaigns that big publishing houses have. Don't be afraid to take a chance on an obscure book. You never know, that author could make it big years down the road, and you will be able to say you've been a fan since the beginning.


If you're a part of the indie publishing world, then you are probably connecting with fellow authors on all your social media platforms. That's great! That's what you need to be doing. But at the end of the day, the thing indie authors really want is for people to buy their books, so if you're not doing that you're not truly building relationships with your peers. Retweeting them and liking their Facebook posts is great, but if you want to make a friend for life, read some of their books.

Boosting Your Own Sales

Let me make one thing clear. I am not advocating a review swap. That gets into some really sticky territory that could potentially border on the dishonest and the unethical. If you like a fellow author's book, go ahead and write a glowing review, but don't ask for a review of your book in return. Let them make their own decision about your writing.

I'm also not advocating that you beg fellow authors to buy your book, promising to buy theirs as well. Just buy their book. It will get their attention, and maybe they will return the favor. Maybe they won't, and that's their choice, but it's a chance worth taking. And even if they don't buy your book, you'll still (hopefully) get an enjoyable read out of the bargain.

Learning How to Write

If fellow authors are successful and are getting rave reviews, then you need to know what they are doing. You need to read their books, taking careful notes on their writing style, the pacing of their stories, character development, etc. Yes, you can learn those things from traditionally published books as well, but if you know the author is in roughly the same boat as you, you are more likely to pay attention.

Learning How Not to Write

Self-publishing does not carry the same stigma it did in the past. The advent of eBooks has had an enormous impact on the way things are done, and indie-pub is now all the rage. The fact remains, though, that indie publishing is an unregulated business. Though it is in an author's best interest to make sure a book is well-written and free of glaring grammatical errors before publishing, it is not a requirement. People can publish basically anything. It could be amazing or it could be...well...not. If you've read a lot of indie books, I'm sure you have come across a few that were so bad they made you cringe. Reading the bad ones is just as important as reading the good ones because the next time you sit before your computer screen ready to compose your next masterpiece, you will be keenly aware of the poor sentence structure and awkward dialogue you've just been reading. If you make the same mistakes in your own writing, they will jump off the page at you and you will vow to do better. Reading someone else's "bad" book will open your eyes to similar problems in your own writing you may have never noticed otherwise.

These are just a few reasons why you should be reading indie books. If you can think of any more, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to leave me a comment!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Into the Wild: A Reflection on the Film

This article is about my emotional reaction to the movie Into the Wild. It is not intended to be a review. I will not be discussing the pacing of the story, the quality of the acting, or the accuracy of the information presented. If you're interested in reading about how well the movie lines up with the actual story, the following links may be of interest:

Into the Wild Debunked
A Note From Carine McCandless

What Is Into the Wild?

Into the Wild is the story of a man who died because of his own misguided ideals.

It is the story of a young man who thought he had it all figured out and didn't want to listen to the advice of those who could have helped him on his journey.

It is the story of a restless soul who never really found his place in the world.

It is the story of a man who tried to build a perfect life and failed in the worst possible way.

Into the Wild is probably the most disturbing movie I have ever seen.

Why Did I Find Into the Wild so disturbing?

You may think I'm exaggerating. You may think I meant to say "thought provoking" rather than disturbing. But I'm not exaggerating. I was profoundly disturbed by this film. I watched it for the first time about about a week ago. At first I referred to it as one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen. Then I didn't sleep for four nights in a row because of the nightmares this story provoked. I don't think any film has ever done that to me before, so it's now officially the most disturbing movie I've ever seen.

I am a horror movie buff. I can watch things that would give the average person nightmares and barely be phased by them. I love stories that are creepy. I can usually tolerate the gory without too much emotional strife. But watching a young man starve to death all by himself in the middle of the woods was more than I was prepared to deal with. I literally have not been able to sleep at night for thinking of it.

I think I am disturbed by this story for the same reason many people are inspired by it. Because I see a little of myself in Chris McCandless. I think that while I watched the movie some part of me was subconsciously thinking, "that could have been me". Perhaps because a part of me identified strongly with Chris, that same part of me wanted to see him succeed. When he didn't, I simply couldn't cope.

The Universality of Into the Wild

It's odd to say that I identify with Chris McCandless, considering how different my lifestyle has been from the one he had. Looking back on my adult life, the first word that comes to mind is "traditional". And I mean very traditional. I was twenty when my husband and I got married. A year later we bought our first house. Three years after that we welcomed our first child. I've spent a huge amount of that time being a stay-at-home mom. Like I said...very traditional.

By saying that I identify with Chris McCandless I do not wish to imply that I feel tempted to run away from my husband and kids. Nor am I saying that I resent the choices that brought me to the place where I am today. I did the things I did because it was what I wanted, not because it was what society said I should want. In fact, growing up as I did in the aftermath of the Women's Lib movement, I always felt that society was telling me I should want to "have it all". My choice of the traditional, the old-fashioned, the simpler life was my own little rebellion against the society in which I was raised. So I suppose I was really identifying with Chris McCandless way back then; I was just following a different path. But my feelings about Chris and his story are a bit more complicated than that.

There are three categories of people: those who are content to the point of complacency, those who are restless to the point of misery, and those who are somewhere in between. Most of the time I fall into the middle camp, but when I do start to drift toward an extreme it is usually in the direction of restlessness. I've written about these feelings multiple times, so I won't say it all again here, but if you are interested you can read some of my previous posts:

The Angst: Embracing Our Discontent
The Odd World of the Introverted Artist
A Personal Meditation On Matthew 25: 14-30
The Inevitability of Regret
My Lenten Journey, Part 5

Because I have felt that restlessness, I sympathized with Chris and his search for meaning in his life. I desperately wanted him to find what he was looking for while at the same time recognizing the mistakes he made along the way.

Lessons Learned From Into the Wild

Perhaps it is because I am in my late thirties as opposed to my early twenties that I am more frightened than inspired by this story. For me it is a warning against trying to be too independent. Though we may become fed up with the people in our lives and disillusioned by society, the truth is we need people in order to survive. Chris McCandless followed the noble dream of getting back to nature and living as our ancient ancestors did. But our ancestors were not alone. They lived in groups. In tribes. If a man was injured, he had someone to carry him down the mountain. If he was overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible task, he had older, more experienced people to help him. Sometimes people died, because medical care as we know it today did not exist, but at least people did not have to die alone. Society has never been perfect and it never will be because people are not perfect, but we still need each other. Left alone, we perish.

Being an introvert, I never found the idea of dying alone to be all that disturbing. In fact I've had moments when I've thought that would be preferable to dying surrounded by people who want to invade my personal space, put their hands on me without permission, then proceed to slobber and cry all over me. But Into the Wild showed me how terrible dying alone can really be. The level of isolation Chris McCandless knew during his final months of life is something I can't even imagine. In one of the nightmares I've been having these past few nights I dream that I am Chris during his final days. I won't describe the dream. I'll just say that I don't want to be that alone when it is my time to die. It's just about the most horrible death I can imagine.

He did not deserve to die like that. I know his story is something of a controversial one. For every person who views him as a hero, there is a least one person who who feels he got what was coming to him because of his own impulsiveness and lack of preparation. There are also the people who would say he was a jerk for ditching his family and not keeping in touch with those who loved him most. But I'll say it again. He did not deserve to die like that. No one deserves to die like that. Maybe he made mistakes, and maybe he has only himself to blame for his own demise, but that doesn't diminish the tragic nature of what happened. He went into the wild in search of something profound and encountered instead a lonely and painful death. I can only hope that there was peace also. I hope that God was with him and that he wasn't truly alone.

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why I Actually Liked the Ending of Mocking Jay

NOTE: This article contains spoilers.

An Unpopular Opinion

It seems the past few years have been rough ones for young adult dystopian novels. People seem universally disappointed with the clichéd "married with kids" happily ever after in Mocking Jay and with the death of Tris in Allegiant. I feel completely neutral about Allegiant. I didn't love that Tris died, but I wasn't overly upset by it either. Sometimes the hero dies at the end of a book. I've been known to like those books in the past, so I had no hard feelings about this one.

Mocking Jay, on the other hand, was a book whose ending thoroughly satisfied me, so I was surprised to find that so it left so many people disappointed. I would like to explain what, exactly, I liked about it. But first things first...

The One Thing I Didn't Like About Mocking Jay

I didn't like the fact that Prim dies. Not that I hate books where important characters die. I loved Henry's death in The Time Traveler's Wife. I wept, and yet felt strangely comforted, at the death of Father Karras in The Exorcist. But those deaths made sense to me. Prim's death made no sense at all.

From the beginning of the series, everything Katniss does is for Prim. Her feelings of responsibility to her mother and sister are the primary reasons she gives for not running away with Gale at the beginning of The Hunger Games. Saving Prim from certain death is Katniss's only thought when she volunteers to take her sister's place as tribute. Saving Prim seems to be one of the main themes of the books. And then she just dies? Um...huh? 

Let's talk a little more about The Exorcist. The book was written by a devout Catholic, so it contains many themes with regard to faith and morals that I don't plan to get into here. I'm just going to talk about the primary action of the book, which all revolves around Regan and her possession by an evil entity. Father Karras comes on the scene, not fully believing that Regan is possessed, but determined to help nonetheless. In addition to being a priest he is also a psychologist, and he treats Regan's case from a very scientific point of view. As the story unfolds, of course, he begins to realize there is a little more going on than merely a chemical imbalance in the brain. He agrees to perform an exorcism. Or at least assist in one. The exorcism fails, but Father Karras sacrifices himself in order to save Regan.

I love the scene where he dies. There has been so much about his emotional state and the loss of his faith in God earlier in the story that the reader truly wants him to have a happy ending. And he does. The movie sort of rushes through this scene, but in the book it is very strongly implied that in the final seconds of his life his faith is restored. We are then led to believe that he does indeed find joy in the hereafter. And of course Regan and her mother have a happy ending as well.

What if Regan had died instead? I don't know about other readers, but I personally would have wanted to grab William Peter Blatty by the lapels and scream, "Why would you make me spend 300-plus pages rooting for this kid to be saved and then kill her anyway?" Well, that's kind of how I felt about Prim's death in Mocking Jay. Maybe not quite that angry, but at the very least confused.

Now...on to what I did like about the book.

Katniss's Feelings About Children

In the first chapter of The Hunger Games, Katniss tells Gale that she never wants to have children. This is not motivated by her personal feelings about kids in general, but by her revulsion at the thought of bringing a new life into such a messed up world. These feelings become a recurring theme of the series, so the fact that she ends up having children in the end really says a lot about how far she's come emotionally. It is also a testament to the fact that they really did create a better world when they won their fight against the Capitol. Katniss is free to have a family and to love that family without the fear that one of her progeny will carried off to a horrible death. Yes, this ending may be clichéd and overused, but in this situation I found it fitting.

The Love Triangle

Gale is Katniss's best friend. There's an undeniable attraction between them that they both seem to want to act on, but for some reason have just never gone there. Then Peeta comes into the equation. If we are to believe that he is indeed telling the truth in his interview before going into the arena and not merely making a publicity stunt, then we know that he has loved Katniss practically from the first moment he saw her. At first Katniss does not return his feelings, but as time goes on their bond deepens and we see something forming in Katniss's heart that could very well be love. But of course it's complicated, because Gale is still a part of her life.

The question of who she would eventually choose plagued me from the beginning. At first I wasn't sure who I wanted to root for, but gradually I started to think I wanted her to end up with Peeta. My husband and I actually had some in-depth conversations about this. He was rooting for Gale. Neither of us had any idea who she would choose, if she even chose at all.

I was naturally delighted when I reached the end of Mocking Jay and discovered I'd bet on the winning horse. But my satisfaction with the end of the book went much deeper than that. I literally had tears in my eyes (something that doesn't happen to me often) when I read the final few pages. The passage that moved me so profoundly was this one:

What I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring.

So in the end she chose the person who was good for her. She and Gale may have been kindred spirits of sorts, but their relationship would have been toxic. She chose the man who could keep her grounded. Who could provide a counter-balance for all of her passion and rage. She chose the one who was the missing part of herself.