Skip to main content


Moving Pictures for Thinking People

 The weather is getting warmer. I've just has my last physio session for my broken wing and I'm starting to get out and about a bit, but I did want to tell you about a couple of interesting movies I've seen  over the last couple of months before I forget. There have been some great series around, like books which you just can't put down. The following are my own interpretations, though you may well come to entirely different conclusions. 

“The Giants” Tasmanian

Saw this at our State Cinema. It’s Tasmanian and about the rise of the Green movement – Tasmania had the world’s first green party, which grew out of the protests against the flooding of Lake Pedder for a hydro – electric scheme in the 1970s. Despite being unable to stop the Lake Pedder project, it was able to prevent the building of a dam on the Franklin – Tasmania’s last wild river. It is also about the protests against the destruction of our native forests and about Bob Brown who has been a key figure in both. It will certainly bring back memories for a lot of people in Tasmania as well as highlighting the need to keep fighting for what is left. You may be able to watch this online via the links in the trailer.


“Marseille” (French series, Netflix) not to be confused with several movies of the same name. Two seasons -

 Very disappointed to see the low score given to this series by Rotten Tomatoes whom I often rely on for guidance as to which movies to watch. Fortunately viewers were more generous at 68%, but I still feel that they missed much of the point. It’s not often that I feel I must defend a movie from its critics, but I do think this one deserves a lot more recognition. 

 It is in a sense a commentary on modern politics and how the will of the people is often thwarted by powerful players. It’s true that both the old mayor and his youthful competitor lust for power and there is considerable wheeling and dealing by both, but in the case of the incumbent, it comes from a different place. The old mayor does it because he loves the city and does what’s necessary to see its citizens flourish, whereas in the case of the younger man it is about gaining personal power.

Beyond the inter -generational conflict, I loved the grand sweep of this series and thought Gérard Depardieu was perfectly cast as the ageing mayor competing with his protégé who wants to take Marseille in a different direction. Whenever I see Depardieu in something – he was brilliant in “Manon des Sources” too, I immediately think of that quote attributed to Voltaire, though there's no proof he actually said that.

“Give me a few minutes to talk away my face and I can seduce the Queen of France.”

He’s certainly won me over.

 “Japan Sinks” Japanese series, Netflix, not the 2020 Anime version

On the Disaster Movie front, I really ‘enjoyed’ -if that’s the right word, “Japan Sinks.” It starts off like “Don’t Look Up” but this one is about looking beneath our feet, rather than to the heavens. There’s the familiar scenario of a mad scientist proclaiming the worst, only to be ignored and vilified because it’s bad for the economy, that is, until the day when his predictions look as if they appear to be coming true.

Unlike many a movie I've seen lately, the hero and the heroine do not immediately jump into bed, but maintain polite reserve throughout all three seasons. Indeed, it was precisely the occasional glimpses into Japanese culture – the politeness, the food, the tender concern for elderly parents and so on, but also class divisions and the prominence given to the country not losing its reputation as an economic super power, which I found interesting. Both these two young people and the old guard, believe they are putting Japan's interests first, which provides much of the friction in the series. Old friendships are tested too. The movie really asks what defines a country? Is it its landmass? Is it its economy? Is it the people? And how can its culture be preserved if the basis for its existence ceases to exist?

While I thought the depiction of the geophysicist was a bit too much of a cliche - most scientists of my acquaintance have been much too reserved until recently, the other characters are engaging. The story isn't all gloom and doom either. I like for example, that the Japanese geophysicist regards his American counterpart as the second best in the business and vice versa. 

“Occupied” Norwegian series on Netflix – 3 Seasons, 10 Episodes

There are a number of dark political thrillers coming out. “Occupied” is one of these. Seeking to move out of fossil fuels, the Prime Minister finds himself confronted by pressures from within and without. It tells us a bit about what can happen when larger powers decide they want the resources of a smaller country. Suspenseful to the end. 


“Designated Survivor” USA on Netflix 3 Seasons

This, like “Occupied” is also about a humble, honest man trying to maintain a straight course through a minefield of opposing forces. I this case the hero is an ordinary mid -level government official who is elevated to the presidency due to extraordinary circumstances. 

 “The Barrier” Spanish on Netflix  13 Episodes

True horror stories aren’t about aliens, zombies and vampires. The dystopian future depicted in the “The Barrier” is unfortunately everyday reality in many countries and it has certainly happened on several occasions in the past. Others seem to be working hard to get there.

Although this story is set in Spain at some time in the future, the people of Argentina will remember such events occurring in their lifetimes (1972 -1983) – the growing power of the military, the brutality and repression, the abduction of children and the murder of their parents and also the power of the grandmothers who never let the matter rest, but protested regularly in the Plaza del Mayo. It is only recently that such stories have emerged about Franco's Spain between the 1950s and the 1960s and children are asking questions about their heritage.  Looking at the history of those times on Wiki, makes depressing reading.

I don’t want to give too much away – this series will grip you by the  throat and not let you go until you have seen all 13 episodes. There are several strong themes including the fragility of democracy – people voted for these monsters, just as they did for Hitler when circumstances were dire, the enduring power of friendship and of family, how the older generation does have a role to play, and finally, how a few good people can change what seems to be the inevitability of things.

Sadly, looking at 'some countries not far from here,' I fear that’s where the story strays into fiction, but it most certainly serves as a warning for us all to remain vigilant. 

"1983 " (Polish series, Netflix)

As far as I can tell, no such events occurred in Poland. However, it is certainly the theme of another dark series which talks about what might have been had Poland not struggled to leave Soviet control. With today's capacity for even greater surveillance - electronic, cameras, and of course the ever present snitches and the use of  threats against family members and torture as a means of control, any uprising against an existing order becomes even less possible. It also highlights the corruption which sets in once parties have cemented themselves.
Also like “The Barrier,” the film employs the somber tones and similar cinematography to convey the oppressive mood, but – and I hope I am wrong about this, the message is less optimistic. 

Its creators say they wanted “1983” to be a cautionary tale. As authoritarian governments gain traction in many parts of the world and the lines between institutions which are supposed to keep them in check - for example between the judiciary and the state, or between the military, the media, or the church and the state, become increasingly blurred,  that warning is long overdue.  

I'm not especially promoting Netflix. I'm sure the European films particularly, will be available on other streaming services. Netflix just happened to be the one son got me while I was out of action.