terry pratchett is, and will be, one of my all-time favourite authors who, possibly, can do no wrong in a literary creative sense. his books are precise, observant, real, witty, scathing, clever, unforgettable and extremely well formulated.
films, of course, are not books. films are too visual. in addition, any film featuring anyterry pratchett work, will be inferior by default: the pratchett books are so full of allusion, imaginative contradictory descriptions and language play that they are simply impossible to visualise. thus, i’d say – turning a discworld novel into a film (maybe except some of the picture books) is a mission impossible.
that said, it is time to look at the film in hand (or on screen). the hogfather.
as a standalone installation, the film is quite watchable. a’tuin the star-turtle traverses the cosmos cinematically, the city of ankh-morpork is much cleaner than one could have expected, the living horse of death is beautiful, the hogs are..well..hog. mista te-a-time is totally annoying, and susan the demonic governess – perfectly sane. the death is a beautiful six-foot skeleton with a very scenic scythe. the death of rats, for whatever reason has the head of a miniature horse… except some moments of overacting and suchlike, the cast is the perfect comedy complement. the fights are fought, the good beats the evil, all the monsters are banished from the cellar, and all the children wished a good night.
the film is funny in a definite no-jokes british way. the interplay of the stock characters (governess-children-monster-family) brought to exaggeration and the literal (visualisations) meanings of trite idioms are one part of it. there are many visual jokes about computers (as ‘anthill inside’ and similar) and surprisingly little slapstick. the different british accents add another audial dimension to the whole game. (ok, i really liked the o!god of hangovers and the sock eater, but that is probably personal)
there is one issue the film raises – and this is where i will choose a definite post-modern approach to the analysis. the film, in some ways more clearly than the book, raises the issues of faith* and its place in the modern world.
and thus, let me put to you this: the whole discourse** of faith and its place in the modern society has become so much taboo that it has been moved over to the realm of fantasy. this is done so that the discourse can be clearly marked as not one of those of the current society.
as a result we get two things.
first: fantasy not unlike science fiction becomes allegorical in nature: not in writing, but in reading. thus is destroyed the last refuge of a mind craving an escape from mundane reality.
second: any discourse of faith – as ‘do we believe’? who are the believing ‘we’? what do we ‘believe’? how does belief influence the world around us? and similar – is labelled as ‘fantasy’ and thus ‘unreal’ and ‘unimportant’ in a world of ‘hard facts’ and ‘real decisions’.
so, what we get is a fantasy discourse of things that cannot be proven within the given methodologies. if we take fantasy as allegory (see above), this follows:
a) lack of faith in one big thing is compensated by people trying to believe in many tiny little things (Q. ‘there is finite amount of belief in the universe’) – like film stars and ‘gurus’, and economy, and ecology and whatnot.
b) if there is no faith, there is no humanity. because things like justice and equality of all people, and freedom, all rest within the realm of faith, not hard facts (and thus, the following is implied: all western values are either fantasy or must be believed in without proof)
c) if humans will not believe, the sun will not rise. ‘a ball of liquid gas will illuminate the day’ – and that is void of all meaning, and a cause of depression. maybe lack of faith is the cause of depression?
d) the real things are all based on blood and sacrifice. whatever your definition of ‘real’ is.
so, by sacrificing fantasy as a genre, the community of faith have gained what? a proof that the discourse of faith will out. and if it is forbidden access to the public ‘real’ space, it will create an ‘unreal’ space and continue allegorically.
because there are things that need to be said and done, or else we will stop being humans and turn into a version of machines, or even worse – bunches of tubes and tissue unable to create, unable to feel life. because someone has to die for the sun to rise up. because there is no creation without pain.
*by ‘faith’ here i mean ‘belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence’, ‘ a specific system of religious beliefs’.
**by ‘discourse’ here i mean ‘communication of thought by words’ and also ‘discussion of a subject’ – just like the dictionary.com says