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Russian wooden churches

April 13, 2011 2 comments

While far from horrifying, these wooden churches, from Kizhi Island in Karelia, Russia (wiki, google maps), are inspiring. There must be some horror movie or novel made in this setting. Or there ought to be.

Oh, and don’t miss the webcam!

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Did anyone actually read Gormenghast?

April 13, 2011 1 comment

I mean, it’s so long and it’s not even finished? At times I feel I should give it another go, but for the moment, I’ll just let it rest in my book shelf.

I do like the idea of it, though. A castle so big it becomes the world to its inhabitants. Old, stale, timeless. Characters that are bizarre or grotesque. Perhaps I should see the TV-series. Here‘s the first part.

Bruges-la-Morte: dead lover, decaying city

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Bruges-la-Morte…concerns the fate of Hugues Viane, a widower who has turned to the melancholy, decaying city of Bruges as the ideal location in which to mourn his wife and as a suitable haven for the narcissistic perambulations of his inexorably disturbed spirit. Bruges, the ‘dead city’, becomes the image of his dead wife and thus allows him to endure, to manage the unbearable loss by systematically following its mournful labyrinth of streets and canals in a cyclical promenade of reflection and allusion. The story itself centres around Hugue’s obsession with a young dancer whom he believes is the double of his beloved wife. The consequent drama leads Hugues onto a plank walk of psychological torment and humiliation, culminating in a deranged murder. This is a poet’s novel and is therefore metaphorically dense and visionary in style. It is the ultimate evocation of Rodenbach’s lifelong love affair with the enduring mystery and haunting mortuary atmosphere of Bruges.

–Alan Hollinghurst, editor of this edition. Quote from johncoulthart.com

Bruges-la-Morte by George Rodenbach (1892) is a short novel portraying the Gothic city of Bruges as silent and melancholy. Upon its release, a cult of Bruges started, making it into the tourist hotspot it still is today. Written in French, there are but a few translations to English. Make sure you get hold of a copy with the original black and white photos of Bruges. You can read the whole book here if you know French.

The inspiration to the house in Psycho

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Compare Edward Hopper’s House by the Railroad …

Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925.

…to the house in Psycho.

According to imdb‘s page on Psycho, this was the inspiration.

Hitchcock on the setting of Psycho (1960)

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Let Alfred Hitchcock guide you to the setting of his classic Psycho in this five minute trailer. It is always a delight to hear Hitchcock speak. Warning, spoilers.

Link here, I can’t seem to embed imdb videos.

On mazes, New Age and meaning in architecture

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

It is a fact that buildings affect us. They are practical or impractical, spacious or cramped, beautiful or not, etc etc. We notice the truly spectacular examples or the really hideous ones, but we are nonetheless affected by all buildings we spend time in even if we don’t even notice them.

One way for buildings to affect us is when we assign meaning to them, apart from the practical function. Most theologians would agree that a church is only a building, but it is still common for people to feel reverance upon entering a church. This is true even for many atheists and it is true for desacralized churches as well. Others feel affected by prisons, asylums etc.

However, most rational people would realize that there is nothing there in the walls to create that effect. We create the effect.

One such example, is the old mazes which have been found in many parts of Europe, and beyond.

English maze

As such, they are no more and no less than a pattern in the ground. But once we assign meaning to it it becomes interesting, thoughtprovoking, fascinating and perhaps even scary. What happens when we walk through it? What happens to us? (And how is it possible that M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t made a movie on turf mazes?)

Rest assured, I have no supernatural beliefs in general and none relating to mazes, but I find them interesting in the same way I find fiction interesting.

New Agers on the other hand hold a firm belief in almost everything, so it is no wonder that they have embraced mazes and labyrinths. A favourite of theirs is the maze in Chartres.

This image taken from http://www.crystalinks.com/labyrinths.html. Hold on to your hat and your critical reasoning when you visit that site. As a general advice, if someone mentions crystals, don't believe a word they say.

Kutna Hora: true horror in architecture

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Speaking of Švankmajer, the Czech artist has made a 1970 film about one of the most remarkable places I have ever visited. It is a small church in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, about an hour by train from Prague. The history of it is fascinating. During the Crusades, an abbot brought home some earth from Golgotha and spread it out in the churchyard. The wish to be buried in hallowed ground made the burial site very popular.

So lots of people were buried there. In the 1870s, however, a local man was told to put the bones in order (I suppose there were so many that they caused a problem. Here is how he tidied the place:

The result is chilling, even on a sunny day. You must go there. Here is Švankmajer’s 1970 film: