Posts Tagged ‘review’

I’m a huge architecture nerd. Buildings both modern and ancient really excite me. I’m working through a book, given as a Christmas present, of 1001 buildings to see before you die. I’ve seen 110 across Europe, China, Japan and America. Not too bad. Of course since 2007 when I was given the book new buildings have been created, so it’s a futile gesture really to try and see them all.

I also find architecture immensely inspiring for my writing. As I am focusing on science fiction these days, the city-scapes of these speculative futures form an important part of world building. The city itself often becomes a character. It exists as a means to show the theme of a film and to create mood or atmosphere.

And I’m a sucker for an ancient ruin that can be transformed into a spectacular set piece location for an action adventure movie. [That’s my youth watching Indiana Jones and playing Tomb Raider showing.]

So, whenever I can, I find time to see exhibitions involving architecture. The one currently on at the Royal Academy in London until 6th April is a thrilling, interactive experience I’d recommend to anyone with a spare hour and a few bob. It’s called Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined.

Seven architects have been given rooms to turn into their own architectural wonderlands. Some are gigantic structures like the towering wooden platform by Pezo von Ellrichshausen and the plastic tunnel by Diébédo Francis Kéré; while others develop more intimate spaces where the mind turns inwards like Kengo Kuma’s dark, scented rooms with delicate bamboo sculptures or the play of shadow and light by Irish Grafton Architects.

My favourite, pictured below, has to be the labyrinth forest of twigs by Li Xiandong.

Li Xiaodong exhibition piece at Royal AcademyPhotograph by Max Gee (on terrible phone camera)

The viewer walks on a luminous white floor, between walls of twigs in a darkened room, often turning to dead end seating spaces and eventually reaching a zen stone garden at the centre. Other people and spaces can be glimpsed through the twigs walls which are not solid. Caught on the peripheries of vision, these half seen sights create an atmosphere of mystery.

The quiet is broken when you reach the zen garden, where you are encouraged to walk across the pebbles. This brings back nostalgic experiences of holidays on pebbled beaches – a strange association in a dark, forest of twigs. Magical, I thought.

Li Xiaodong’s exhibition piece led to a google search of his other work; the library at Liyuan, struck a chord as inspiration for a location in a future movie.

Liyuan Library by Li Xiaodong

Photograph from Dezeen online magazine article

The strong lines of the main structure seem so current, modern, in clean light wood but they are tempered with the external shell of twigs found in the nearby landscape. The walls are solid, but not; the architect interested in the flow of light and air. It is the library to aspire to having – although I feel it might be completely impractical in Yorkshire.

I have a suspicion that flavours of the pieces in this exhibition will be making their way into the scripts that I will be writing for my PhD, apologies in advance Mr Li Xiaodong. 

Exhibition details:

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined, The Royal Academy of Arts, 25th January until 06th April 2014,

Yesterday I finally caught the latest fairytale re-imagining from Disney, Frozen. A major overhaul of the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, the film focuses on the relationship between two sisters, Elsa, born with the ability to manipulate snow and ice, and her rather more ordinary, happy-go-lucky younger sibling Anna.

After Elsa accidentally hurts Anna with her magic, Anna’s memories of Elsa’s powers are removed and the King and Queen decide to seclude the sisters from the world, fearing the rest of society will react badly to Elsa. [Oh boy are they right – as the Mob Song goes in Beauty and the Beast, “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us… Kill the beast…”] Soon the parents die, time passes and Elsa’s coronation approaches. After years in isolation the sisters finally have to interact with the outside world again. The stage is set for drama.


Image taken from

Bit of a confession first, my interest in seeing the film was created last week when, on the 10pm train back from London, I caught the first thirty minutes. It was through the seats, there was no sound, and the picture wasn’t brilliant because it was on a family’s laptop and clearly a bootleg download.

The vague story I caught seemed fun, exciting and used medium of animation to develop a visual spectacle. I just had to see the real, full version. Granted, maybe a lunch time showing during the half term holidays wasn’t the best time to go see a Disney movie, but even my stony heart melted enough for there to be tears in my eyes at the end of the movie; my emotions expertly manipulated by the writer Jennifer Lee (yes a woman!). Well worth a watch, I think. Here are some more thoughts, with mild spoilers…

It was refreshing to see another Disney movie, like Brave, that focused on familial love rather than romantic love. This movie concentrates on the two sisters coming to understand each other’s perspectives and fears.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a romantic sub-plot, two really for Anna [the little tease] and for one of the romantic leads there’s emphasis on the plotting. But the guys are along for the ride to facilitate the development of the female characters and primarily Anna’s quest. No one tells Anna she has to chase her sister, in fact most of the town’s folk are against her leaving, but in true heroic fashion Anna will not be swayed.

Then we move onto what I feel is quite a nice exploration of reactions to seclusion from three different perspectives:

  • ·         Elsa’s self isolation due to her fear of powers and the way others might perceive her is something she needs to overcome. Control and trust issues abound.
  • ·         Anna’s ridiculous, naive trust in all people because she just can’t wait to interact with others after being shut away for so long. Her journey revolves around learning when to trust and when to be wary.
  • ·         Kristoff’s cynical mistrust of other human beings due to abandonment is put to the test when he interacts with Anna. His journey is about realising, like Elsa in a way, that all people aren’t horrible and dealing with his own trust issues.

Ultimately, Frozen passes on the message that the best way to handle internal problems is through interaction with others. It might go wrong, you might get hurt, but eventually you will learn and heal.

I’m also a fan of the fact that the film ridicules, like Enchanted, the idea that two characters meet one evening and are immediately ready to get engaged. Love, as the film postulates, takes time and trust to really develop; that goes for familial love to.

My late agent told me, when I started to pitch my own animated fairytale re-imagining idea that the main thing I needed to keep at the front of my mind was “spectacle.”

Frozen embraces this from the opening scene with the chorus of Ice Harvesters working on a frozen lake, as dawn becomes day becomes night illuminated by the Northern Lights, all to a song which encapsulates the theme of the film . “There’s beauty and there’s danger here…Beware the frozen heart.”

Then there is the wonderful demonstration of Elsa’s powers during the main song “Let it Go” which is a real joy to watch.  It’s described in the script as…

“In a flurry of creative release, she [Elsa] raises the snowflake on ice beams, builds walls, archways, a glistening chandelier, and an intricate ceiling that leaves the sky visible.” (From screenplay for Disney’s Frozen by Jennifer Lee.)

The sequence this tiny block of action describes is a marvel to watch and uses the geometric patterns of snowflakes to stunning effect.

As anyone can tell I thought the film was a blast and it gives me hope that female driven film is around to inspire young girls and show them some of the errors of the usual fairy tale model.