". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, June 29, 2018

Prisoner of Zenda (1984) - The Devil Always Gets Into It

     . . . . Prisoner of Zenda BBC (1984); novel (1894). This production lacked only a decade to have made it an anniversary celebration of this classic adventure tale, that has been adapted in many forms ever since publication.  But if it had been made in 1994, the characters would likely not have been quite as noble, maybe?  It's kind of fun to speculate, even though it's fruitless as it didn't happen.

I fell love with this old BBC miniseries, oddly enough.  I didn't care for the Ruritania or George Barr McCutcheon's Graustark books much, even though I encountered them relatively early (for me), like the summer between junior and senior h.s. years.  Even then these books seemed too glib in terms of how and what happens -- and most of all, I could not believe in Ruritania or Graustark as independent monarchies existing in the late 19th C Europe after Bismark's unitary success pulling all those German principalities, dukedoms, etc. together out of the ancient jigsaw of the Holy Roman Empire. Even then I knew about the Germanies and the Holy Roman the Empire then, though what I knew as sketchy.  It was all those years of church school studies,but I did know by then the German states were no longer it was parts of the Holy Roman Empire -- or as they called it even still, then, the Empire. It was now Germany, so this little place could not have had a king.  It could have a princeps, a duke, or something else equivalent but not a king!  Even Queen Vicky's Hanover family's kingdom was annexed by Prussia in the mid-1860s.

Indeed, I laughed every time I saw the Prussian Iron Cross worn by the characters in this BBC production -- though of course made of precious metals and studded with jewels and hung on jeweled gold chains.  would have been furious to see this honor that he devised intentionally to be the equal of honor of whoever it was awarded to, however rich, whatever rank or class, no matter how poor or lowly. This is why it was made of Prussian iron. That wouldn't be possible, not in an independent kingdom by a monarch and his entourage, etc. because it was Prussian! Also the Ruritanian crown was a enclosed crown, which only emperors or pope are entitled to wear.  Mere monarch have open crowns.  Historian's nitpicks.

But watching the way this BBC production rolls and all its subtext, was so much more engrossing than the books.  It's sly and cheeky in all kinds of way that the books never were. It really plays up the Great British Empire upon which the sun never sets with Rudolph Rassendyll, a man of little money, position or accomplishment beyond his good schooling and Britishness, who shows he's better fit to be a monarch than any monarch. It shows how quickly someone who is king for a day becomes accustomed to being king forever -- yet, Rassendyll is so honorable, at least as honorable as the honorables with whom he falls in with.  Not the least honorable is Princess Flavia.

Most of all I enjoyed how efficiently this slender novel was turned into 6 episodes, each a bit less than a half hour.  Nothing was sacrificed. The pacing and rhythm were perfection.  People don't know how to write like for the screen that any more.

Rudolph Rassendyll, who has been crowned King Rudolph V, and who has successfully rescued the true Rudolph V from a dire plot to murder him and put a regent on the throne of Ruritania, departs for the train, leaving Ruritania, and the woman who he loves and who loves him, behind forever.

"God doesn't always make the best men kings," observes loyal courtier, Fritz van Tarlenheim.

Wise Colonel Sapt responds, "The devil always gets into things."

Yet it was lovely to find a respite from black evil and destruction for those bits of time watching Prisoner of Zenda, in which honor and goodness win.

Streaming from Amazon Prime, for which, as mentioned a while back, I have been gifted a membership.

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