Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Carmina Burana and The X-Factor

The X-Factor occasionally uses a piece of classical music named Carmina Burana composed by Carl Orff. The lyrics are from a medieval poem Oh, Fortuna. However, some talented Smart Alec's on the Internet have created a game called misheard lyrics. Below I've embedded a video of some one's misheard lyrics of Carmina Burana. [This was brought to my attention by Tweets regarding Richard Wiseman playing the video at a comedy venue.]

Friday, 11 December 2009

Drag Me to Hell and the Lamia

This week, one of my birthday presents from my wife was the DVD of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. I have always liked Raimi’s films and so I enjoyed watching it. There were two good aspects to this film. One was that is was a modern reinterpretation of the basis of the plot of the classic 1950s film Night of the Demon (in itself based on a ghost story by M. R. James). The other was how the story was told and the dĂ©nouement. Of those things, I should not write of them here because it is unfair to anyone who has not seen the film yet.

My only criticism of the film is Raimi’s holding onto little visual touches that go back to his early films and may even be an injoke reference to them. There are only a few but their timing produces a comical rather than chilling effect. If they had not been included I would regard the film as a modern horror classic; as it is, those brief moments ruined the chilling, on edge, hairs tingling on the back of your neck type atmosphere that the plot works so carefully to create.

The evil in the film is a fictional one made up by Sam and Ivan Raimi; in giving it a name they chose the word Lamia, which is from ancient Greek mythology and bears no resemblance to what appears in the film.

The precise nature of the ancient Greek Lamia is somewhat fuzzy. Its incorporation into the literature of later civilizations involves them moulding its qualities to the ideas of their own time. A near modern example is John Keats’ poem Lamia, where the creature is hinted at being somewhat vampire like. Unfortunately, during the nineteenth century the vampire was becoming a popular image in literature and just about every mythological being that had very little information to suggest its nature was being pigeon-holed under the label of vampire.

In the myth, there was only one Lamia (rather than a generic species of vampire) – a beautiful mortal woman who was one of Zeus’ lovers. The story goes that Zeus’ wife, Hera, was prone to dishing out harsh punishments on her husband’s lovers and their children; in this case Hera would murder each child that Lamia bore. It eventually drove Lamia mad. She became insanely jealous of women who enjoyed motherhood and she began murdering and devouring their small children. Somehow, and mythology seldom goes into details, this activity changed Lamia into an immortal monster who preyed upon children. Later use of that story was to present Lamia as a bogey-woman, a means to scare naughty children with the threat of her coming to devour them if they did not behave.

[The above image is copyright by the film-makers]