Cinematic Blues

For this month’s theme of Blue I have chosen two different but tenuously linked films that relate to this colour. This first film I am going to look at is Open Water.

Open Water by Chris Kentis (2003)

Of course ‘water’ brings to mind the ‘sea’ and with that the colour ‘blue,’ so this is how this film inks in with our theme. Open Water [DVD] is an independent film and quite a frightening one at that. Based on a true story, couple Daniel and Susan take a scuba diving holiday to relax and reconnect with on another. A feeling of dread is apparent throughout the film though as you know something is going to go wrong. After being sailed out to the deep ocean for a dive, a mistaken head count believes them to be on board when in actuality they are still diving. Then the tension notches up a gear as they are stranded for two days in the middle of the ocean! I won’t give any spoilers away but safe to say they do not have an easy time of it by any means, it gets very dark in tone and makes you wonder what you would do in this situation. If you are of a nervous disposition then it probably best not to watch this film!

Dark Water by Hideo Nakata (2002)

Another film, quite different although still using the theme of water is Dark Water [2003] [DVD]by Hideo Nakata, the acclaimed Japanese horror director of Ring. This film is based on a short story called Floating Water by Koji Suzuki (the author of the Ring novels). I really liked the Ring novel in some ways I preferred it to the film as you experience more of a back story and more detailed scenes set in the mountains but I do feel that the film of Dark Water was better than the short story and this may just be because the director had time to show levels of nuance that the short story could not convey. Dark Water tells the story of recently divorced Yoshimi Matsubara and her six year old daughter Ikuko. The Matsubaras move into a block of near derelict flats, most of which are abandoned and damp. As soon as they arrive they begin to experience strange occurrences such as hair being found in the tap water, and a little girl’s bag with a rabbit on it which keeps reappearing however much Yoshimi tries to get rid of it. Are these hallucinations or real hauntings? As a divorced single mother in Japanese society, Yoshimi appears to be struggling with no help from her ex-husband, she has to work long hours and look after Ikuko plus experience all of these disconcerting events at home. It may be enough for herself or others to doubt her sanity, this is reflected in the attitude of the male lawyer and caretaker of the apartment block who do not seem to take her concerns seriously. There are some truly terrifying moments in this film also so do not watch if you are easily scared!

These are my choices for this month’s theme of blue if you agree or disagree or have better examples then let us know.

Kids in the Blue!

For this month’s theme of Blue I have decided to include a film I have recently watched and enjoyed and an image that made a impact on me from school.

Ponyo

Ponyo [DVD] is a film based on the Hans Christian Anderson classic: ‘The Little Mermaid.’ It is about a magical goldfish who is captured by a five year old boy called Sosuke. Ponyo licks Sosuke’s bleeding thumb which then magically heals and she turns into a little girl. She is recaptured by her nervous father who keeps her in a bubble but with a little help from her mischievous sisters she escapes and finds Sosuke again. However all of this magic messes up gravity and the moon comes closer and closer to Earth so she has to decide whether to stay human with Sosuke and possess no magic or be a fish with magic in the ocean, to keep the ocean from rising. What will she choose? Watch this and find out.

Glaciers

By Christof Berger - self-made, scanned from slide, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3
From Wikimedia Commons By Christof Berger – self-made, scanned from slide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Blue can be found in nature as in the sea, the sky or even in ice. A glacier is a slow moving frozen lake or river and it moves about five to ten inches each year. I was studying glaciers at school and noticed that when they form icebergs they sometimes reveal a beautiful blue sheet of ice! I thought it was absolutely extraordinary and quite interesting too! So I looked it up further and apparently glaciers are preserved for millions of years so the water that froze and became the glacier would be not polluted and would be very fresh.

These are my choices for this month, if you have any similar and would like to get in touch then please do so.

Fascinating Blue Reads

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Our theme of the month is blue so what better way to start January off then with the excellent new book by Elly Griffiths, The Woman In Blue: The Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries 8 (Ruth Galloway 8)This is eighth book in the Ruth Galloway series of novels which sees forensic archaeologist Ruth grapple with themes of religion. The book is set mostly in Walsingham (a place of religious pilgrimage due to reported sightings of the virgin Mary). Cathbad (our favourite Druid) purports to have seen a woman in a blue undressing gown who is later found murdered. When Ruth’s former colleague Hilary gets in touch and wants to reconnect Ruth is surprised to find that  she has become a priest. A series of attacks and murders on women priests especially stacks up the tension further and when the passion plays take place all eyes are out for the murderer. Being the daughter of fundamentalist Christians, Ruth as we know from previous novels is rather ‘anti’ organised religion. The juxtaposition of Ruth’s attitude towards religion is nicely balanced against Nelson’s Catholic beliefs. As well as the topic of Christianity, Elly also explores misogyny and attitudes towards women. This is seen through the targeted hatred the suspect has towards women gaining the right to be priests. I did wonder at times if this would be the penultimate or last book in the series as there seemed to be more reflecting on past cases than before but I really hope it isn’t as I’ve really enjoyed following Ruth’s journey so far! There are scenes between Ruth and Nelson too will this be the book where they finally get together? You’ll have to read it to find out!

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

When I think of blue the sea comes to mind which makes my next choice, book one in the Neapolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend: 1 by Elena Ferrante a great choice as it’s set in the bay of Naples. No one seems to know who Elena Ferrante is, it appears at the moment to be a big mystery but whoever they are they know how to write very interesting fiction especially with regards to realistic characterisation. My Brilliant Friend is the first book of four that follows the story of young girls Elena and Lila in Naples as they grow up. The first book is mostly concerned with their childhood and adolescence, you learn that the girls are both very clever but that Elena is luckier than Lila in that she is supported by her family in continuing her education whereas Lila is forced to work in her father’s shoe making firm. The girls experience jealousy over relationships with boys but also experience opportunities, as Elena moves towards a scholarly future, Lila prepares to get married. Ferrante realistically describes moments of discovery, but also threat as the girls are growing up in a highly masculinised society. Violence and the code of honour abound, Lila is oppressed by her father and brother and there is a local figure who is obviously Mafia-related called the Don who they imagine as a monster who steals their toys. I can see the appeal of these books, look forward to reading the rest and may be getting the same level of #ferrantefever as many people have!

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

Viral is my final choice for this month’s theme of blue. When I think of the internet and anything to do with virtual reality or technology related, blue is the colour that comes to mind. Viral is going to be huge as it is a novel that deals with topical issues such as misogyny on the internet and revenge porn. It is a very important book that should be read by parents of teenagers and older teenagers themselves (16+) of both genders. The first line of the book is truly shocking and grabs your attention straight away. The story concerns the character of eighteen year old Su who whilst on holiday in Magaluf inadvertently finds herself a virtual sensation online in a shocking video filmed whilst she was in an altered state of mind. The fallout from the incident is truly life changing for both Su and her family, rather than the ripple effect, the outcomes for Su and her family are like huge aftershocks after an earthquake. One incident completely changes all of their lives and it shows just how easily one single incident could potentially ruin someone’s life as we are all paparazzi now and everyone has a camera and video on their phone. Fitzgerald also explores issues of identity as Su is adopted from her native South Korea by a White Scottish couple so this incident also takes Su on a journey to find her birth mother and she learns a lot about herself in the process. Su although naive is a sympathetic character and goes through a rough coming of age tale to reach maturity at the end. Viral is a key read and already has a buzz going on about it, as soon as I read this I knew it was going to be a phenomena!

These are my choices for our theme of blue this month, if you’ve already read them or have other examples then get in touch.

The Power of Blue: A History

The colour blue has many connotations. This can be that of  blue-sky, as in the phrase of “blue-sky thinking,” meaning a visionary. It can also refer to someone who is “feeling blue”, meaning a person who is experiencing sadness, which is  linked to “the blues” style of music. Also, the pigment of blue has a rich and fascinating history, and is used in many great works of art.

Originally, the only source of blue pigment came from the lapis lazuli mineral which was found from only a specific area of Afghanistan. As a result it was a highly expensive colour that was preserved for only the most wealthy and extravagant pieces of art work. One of the most recognisable uses of lapis lazuli comes from the funeral mask of Tutankhamun. With its striking blue and gold lines, the symbolism of a majestic, powerful ruler is not lost. It is perhaps one of the images that comes to mind when one thinks of ancient Egypt.

A lesser known use of lapis lazuli comes from this Mughal Empire (who ruled over India) sculpture of an elephant, which is quite a vivid piece, and is actually one of the rare surviving examples of Mughal art. It shows how resilient the bright blue colour from lapis lazuli is as it remains unfaded for hundreds or even thousands of years.

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Lapis Lazuli Elephant Sculpture

There was also a great demand for the use of lapis lazuli in paintings. The pigment ultramarine comes from lapis lazuli. This was quite extensively used in the renaissance period. Two paintings that really make great examples of the use of it come from the artist Johannes Vermeer.

The first is Girl with a Pearl Earring. The headscarf that the woman is wearing gives a brilliant contrast to the brown clothing worn elsewhere. The second is The Milkmaid which shows a maid pouring a jug of milk, with a blue fabric wrapped around her as well as a blue cloth on the table, which is useful for directing the focus of the viewer.

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Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer

 

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer
The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

Both of these paintings use blue to great effect and enhance the impact of the image. Blue is employed to create a memorable lasting impression in the viewers mind, especially as it is contrasted with the other drab colours. You can find the girl with the pearl earring on display at the Mauritshuis museum. Whereas The Milkmaid is found in Rijksmuseum, both of which are located in the Netherlands.

The use of lapis lazuli as a pigment waned later on in time as there were cheaper synthetic productions of blue. These were made from combining the minerals jasper with chalcedony, which created a much more ready supply of the blue pigment.

The colour blue is often employed in a bold way, whether that be a vivid use in painting,sculpture or even in a more abstract sense describing emotions, in any case it leaves a lasting impression. Let us know if you have any examples of the way in which blue is used throughout history in the comments below.

‘Blue’ in Gardening

Blue, the colour of the ocean, the sky and a great many flowers. Seen as a relaxing colour on the spectrum when used in gardening, blue promotes feelings of calm and is used along with whites and mauve in complementary planting schemes in contrast to the colours used in a lively vibrant hot border full of reds, oranges and yellows.

Found in hyacinths, grape hyacinth, lobelia, hydrangea and delphinium to name but a few. Blue is a fairly common colour in the plant kingdom. However when it comes to roses, there aren’t any blue ones currently in existence. Despite this there are a few varieties, which although having the word blue in their name they are either mauve or purple. Such as the Blue Moon rose or the Rhapsody in Blue rose.

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Blue Moon rose

However, true blue roses are being created through a process of genetic modification, this is done by taking the blue delphinidin gene that naturally gives blue pigment to the violas, pansies and delphiniums and splicing it into the rose’s DNA. However as this is achieved using genetic modification it is still a contentious issue in many parts of the world.

Blue in nature and gardens is perhaps most associated with Spring blue and is found in a large variety of flowers. Perhaps one of the first we see in spring is the bluebell (a classic staple of British woodlands).  Later on in Spring this is followed by the hyacinth and grape hyacinths.

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Blue Lobelias

At this time of year we watch and wait while the garden sleeps. We eagerly plan the seeds to sew, the annuals to plant and long for warmer, brighter days. It is a good time of year in the gardening calendar to take stock of the plants that did well and ones which perhaps fell short of our expectations.

Blue is a quintessential colour in the garden palette today and gardens simply wouldn’t be the same without it. So as we start this New Year, spare a space in your garden for something blue this year.