Muslim blogs

Little Women: Greta Gerwig’s Bold New Adaptation

The Platform - Sat, 18/01/2020 - 17:40

Despite the sexism that plagues mainstream awarding bodies, Greta Gerwig’s exceptional directing of Little Women has ensured that the film is classic yet current, portraying memorable and relatable definitions of femininity.

*Contains spoilers

Greta Gerwig hasn’t shied away from female storytelling in the past, with her Golden Globe winner Lady Bird touching our hearts back in 2017. So, naturally, when her adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century classic Little Women (1868-9) was announced there was no other filmmaker deemed more appropriate to take on this project. With a female-centric narrative and a variety of strong female leads, Gerwig – a female filmmaker giving a big “f*ck you” to a predominantly straight white male industry – hit the ground running with this fresh literary adaption.

This is a film that pays homage to Alcott and takes inspiration from her writing:

“I just feel like… women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts, and they’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty, and I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it. But I’m so… I’m so lonely.”

This plea by protagonist Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) is one of the most heart-breaking moments of the film, in a scene which was especially poignant for me because it exemplifies the female voices that carry the power of words. Gerwig’s scriptwriting and Ronan’s performance allow audiences to sit within that dialogue and contemplate. It is truly mesmerising. These words really hit home for me – I’ve never heard such an accurate portrayal of what it means to be a woman, spoken so eloquently and yet with so much pain.

What is so interesting about this quote is that it is not from Alcott’s Little Women, but it is in fact from one of her later books titled Rose in Bloom (1875). By bringing our attention to Alcott’s lesser known work, we know that Gerwig doesn’t want to just flippantly recreate what has been done before, she listens and aims to inject an authenticity into the story that we didn’t know existed elsewhere.

Gerwig’s fresh takes don’t stop there. Her bold decision to tell this very classic tale through a non-linear narrative keeps audiences engaged and fully utilises the innovation that can be conceived through adapted screenplays. It certainly stands out among its predecessors. Gerwig brings Alcott’s progressive thinking to life within this female friendship narrative and I soaked up every minute of it. Jo, Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Mary (Laura Dern) are given due attention, all of them representing such diverse talents and definitions of womanhood.

Gerwig, Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, having previously worked together in Lady Bird, are the power trio that will always have me throwing my money at a cinema ticket. Pugh, however, is especially compelling as the young Amy, channelling humour, naivety and charm, cloaked within an extremely effective fringe! Her performance embodies everything about female coming-of-age including the harsh realities that permeate womanhood. Mature Amy wears the scars that growing up has inflicted on her; she sees the world for what it is and conforms to it reluctantly. Pugh displays an impactful characterisation that uplifts the oppressive moments of this feminist tale. Even the smallest of roles are played with a palpable dedication as Watson, Scanlen, Dern and Meryl Streep are by no means in the spotlight, but still have no trouble catching the attention of the crowd. We know that Gerwig has dedicated her time and compassion to writing these characters the way Alcott intended them, taking special care to present distinct femininities that every woman deserves to witness on the big screen.

That is why it is so devastating that the awards season has commenced, with very little attention or praise given to Gerwig’s exceptional direction. The Golden Globes aired on television earlier this month complete with a heavy dose of testosterone. Little Women, unfortunately, received only two nominations: one for best original score – an element of the film which wasn’t exactly more notable than its other breathtaking qualities – and unsurprisingly, one nomination for best actress which went to Saoirse Ronan.

It is a disgrace that the film was snubbed of a best motion picture nomination and even more outrageous that Gerwig was overlooked in the best director category. It’s our duty as spectators to assure Gerwig and other women in film that we see them, we admire them and we urge them to keep going, despite the blatant sexism and uniformity that plagues the awarding industries.

I couldn’t finish without addressing one striking contribution to Little Women. Jacqueline Durran’s costume design is an asset to this film. I was sat absolutely in awe of the striking costumes threaded throughout, each one telling a story, from Jo’s androgynous cap and waistcoat to Meg’s falsely affluent pink ball gown. One of the reasons why Durran is so extraordinary is her ethical philosophy towards costume in film and television. Durran aims for sustainability in her designs and has achieved this in many films, including a 100% sustainable costume for Belle in Beauty and the Beast (2017). At a time when the climate crisis is reaching unpredictable peaks, Durran is making a doubly bold statement in Gerwig’s film.

Little Women may just be my favourite film of the year – it hits all the right notes and showcases an array of female talent. The relationships presented between the March women will overwhelm audiences with a profound sense of gratitude for their own loved ones, as Gerwig’s script drives home the message of unconditional love and sisterhood.

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

Categories: Muslim blogs

Poem: What They Don’t Know Is

The Platform - Sat, 04/01/2020 - 00:41

after Dennis O’Driscoll

That this cannot be avoided by everyone wearing protective glasses.
That the contents of their half-full cups are about to evaporate.
That the University will remain closed until further notice.
That Kim Kardashian’s arse has been abolished.
That the idea of tomorrow is suddenly quaint as a dinner plate made in West Germany.
That the price of house insurance just went up ten thousand per cent.
That the lack of reception on their mobile phones isn’t because they’re going through a tunnel.
That even the hairstyle of the Fox News anchor woman is no longer perfect.
That Adolf is now the second most hated politician in history.
That the station at which this train terminates no longer exists.
That the priest who’ll give them last rites is just a guy in an outfit
his brother recently wore to a fancy dress.
That God is a skeleton who knows everything and will one day talk.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Muslim blogs

Sun Rising Over Snowy Woods

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Fri, 13/12/2019 - 07:36

The sun rises over the snowy woods,
And looks into our hearts searching for good.
For those who prayed throughout the dark of night, 
The sun will find a mirror for its light.

Or is the mirror that she sees the lake?
Adorned with sheets of ice and downy flake.
Reflecting beauty for the passersby,
Reflecting all the beauty of the sky.

Or does she see illusions of our lives,
And hearts grown hard and cold just like the ice.
If that is what she sees then she should know,
How joyfully we greet her warmth and glow.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Autumn Leaves

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Tue, 19/11/2019 - 15:59

The leaves of Autumn float gently down from the soon to be barren trees. As they quietly populate the ground, layer upon layer, they represent a metaphor for our lives.

In the Spring they silently entered into the world, cautiously exiting the little wombs lining the branches, branches which stretch mile after endless mile. Then they grow strong , lush and vibrant; capable of withstanding the violent rain and weathering heat of summer.

Then in early Autumn, they delight our eyes with the brilliant montage of their colors, painting scenes that evoke thoughts of Paradise. Now they are gone and with their passing we ponder the stark, denuding nature of death as they lay brown, crumbling and lifeless upon the ground.

Yet, it behooves us to inquire as we stare down upon their now uninspiring forms. Is what we witness before us the denouement of their life’s drama. The answer requires us to dig a little deeper. Doing so we observe that they shelter a hidden, living world beneath their dusky roof. The grubs and worms, bugs and beetles they give life to sustain higher forms of life which in turn sustain us. The flakes of paint peeling off from their ceiling becomes the earth which will nurture the trees, which will bring forth the leaves of a future season, which will represent a continuation of the cycle of their lives. Knowing this we can happily bid them farewell for we are certain that we will meet them again in Spring, after the Winter of our lives.

Categories: Muslim blogs
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