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The Boy With no Reflection

There once was a boy who lived with his mother and two half siblings in a place known as The Land of Broken Glass. This dystopian land was riddled with heaps of garbage as big as some mountains and waste laid as far as the eye could see.

The family scoured the land for edibles or even something useful for their survival. The one thing they never had was a mirror. One day the boy asked his mother why he’d never seen his reflection.

“I want to see my reflection mother, please show me my reflection,” he said.

“You want to see your reflection?”

She picked up a piece of broken glass and showed it to the boy but he had none!

“See, you are so ugly that the mirror won’t even show your reflection,” she laughed.

The boy grew sour inside when she said this. Days passed of them wandering the land, making contact with absolutely no one when the boy stood up.

“Mother, all we do is worry about surviving. We never have any fun. We never enjoy ourselves. And if I’m so ugly like you say maybe you are all better off without me!”

“Good luck out there then, you’re gonna need it!” She laughed.

The boy walked off into the unknown. He wandered for miles and miles. There came a point where he was really tired and so he collapsed on the ground.

When he woke up he was inside a building but the sun shone through a hole in the ceiling.

“Oh, you’re awake,” he heard a voice coming from inside the building.

He propped himself up to see who was speaking to him and it was a girl. She wore rags and she was barefoot.

“W-who are you? And why aren’t you wearing any shoes? You’ll cut yourself!” The boy exclaimed.

“Because I don’t have any,” she retorted.

“Who are you?” He asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t have a name.”

The girl had no identity and neither did the boy. Neither of them had a name. After that the boy and the girl spent days scouring the earth together for bits of food or shiny objects and bringing it back to their habitat.

Without the girl knowing the boy nabbed a book and a piece of glass. At times when she was asleep the boy would look into the glass but not see his reflection and other times he would engross himself in the book.

The next day when the boy woke he saw the girl tending to a wound.

“When did you do that to yourself?”

She turned innocently towards him.

“While we were out in the fields…”

“I’ve been reading this book and there’s a character in there. Her name is Ellen and she’s a lot like you. So I think your name should be Ellen.”

The girl blushed and tried to contain her smile.

“Ellen?”

The boy just nodded.

“Okay.”

“Well now you have a name but I still don’t have a reflection. How can others see who I am if I can’t see myself?”

The girl merely sympathized with him.

Some time passed and the girl told the boy she had a surprise for him. The boy was much curious. When he came to find out, the girl had assembled an old broken mirror from parts she found out in the heaps.

“I think your mother put a curse on you. There’s an old myth that if someone can’t see their reflection that a loved one can restore them back to normal. Here, look inside the mirror.”

The boy peeked inside the mirror and indeed he saw his reflection. He passed his hands through his hair and touched on his face.

“That’s me?” He asked.

The girl nodded. After that he just sat there staring at it.

“Not what you expected?”

“It’s just my mother always said I was ugly. I think she was right.”

The girl grabbed his hand with one swoop and looked into his eyes.

“Don’t you ever say that. I’d been on my own days on days and something told me one day to walk your way and I found you lying in the sun. So I carried you back here. I think you were the sign I’d been looking for and when you gave me my name and told me about your situation, I couldn’t help but think this was meant to be… I love you.”

“I just met you not too long ago.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “You are my blessing.”

She hugged the boy and the boy began to tear until he just wept and the girl pulled away from him.

“Don’t cry. For better or for worse you have a home now.”

The two lived together from then on happily despite having very little, eventually even having children. Who would also scour the earth and their children and so on.

Oldboy: Viennese Waltz and the Greek Tragedy

[SPOILER ALERT]

It all started when a friend of mine posted a waltz by Dmitri Shostakovich. I thought it sounded oddly familiar. It reminded me of this track from Oldboy (2003).

I knew that Oldboy used a lot of waltz music for their original soundtrack but it never quite occurred to me why. To understand, we’ll need a little bit more context.

For starters, Oldboy is adapted from a manga for the big screen but it’s also adapted from a greek tragedy called Oedipus Rex. In the story, a king causes a chain of events in the past that regrettably ends up with him fulfilling a prophecy of murdering his father and sleeping with his mother.

We can see direct parallels from this to Oldboy’s story. Oh Dae-su sees Woo-Jin enacting incest with his own sister and that causes a spiraling of events. A cause and effect that was indicative of greek tragedies at the time. Because Oh Dae-su saw them, Woo-Jin’s sister committed suicide. Because of this suicide, Woo-Jin seeks revenge on Oh Dae-su which leads to him being imprisoned for 15 years.

Oh Dae-su is unaware of his captors and in the beginning racks his brain as to who may have imprisoned him and who seeks to do him harm. Woo-Jin warps Oh Dae-su’s mind and when he is released, be it no accident, he searches high and low for his family but he can’t find them. By no accident he meets Mi-Do, who happens to be none other than his daughter (unbeknownst to him). He ends up falling in love and sleeping with her, fulfilling an elaborate plan or a “prophecy” concocted by Woo-Jin.

This is where the part about the waltz comes in. The waltz is a form of traditional classical music that traditionally was meant to be danced to. Later other forms would be birthed but waltz literally means “to turn” in German. Back to the subject of the greek tragedy, it’s almost like Oh Dae-su is dancing with fate. Fate being a common theme in Greek plays.

Waltz music was big during the romantic era and was primarily a couples dance. It was a forbidden dance in the 1800s and was only danced by the few, the bold and the brave in the beginning.

The dance Oh Dae-su is dancing with Mi-Do, his daughter, is incest. Therefore it’s a forbidden dance much like the waltz was in its early days.

Greek tragedies have another theme of “show, don’t tell” and other good directors know this rule is crucial for any good drama. In Oldboy, this is employed a lot.

Mi-Do embracing Oh Dae-su in the ending for Oldboy (2003)

Some scenes in Oldboy are reminiscent of programme music (a form of classical music popular in the romantic era) in the sense that a lot of scenes are carried simply by the music. Programme music was a derivative of classical music where the pieces told of a story or an event. The emotion of the music and the grandiosity of it all was the dialogue. No script needed!

At the end of Oldboy, Oh Dae-su has cut off his own tongue as repentance. He is the only one who knows the secret and has tried a myriad of hypnosis treatments to forget what he has done. Not much is said in this scene and it’s the perfect example of how to do drama right. In the end, nothing is said besides “I love you” as they embrace each other and the track “The Last Waltz” plays tying the whole theme together.

My last post

Magic

Magic… does it truly exist in this world? We see magic in the movies, on TV, we might even feel magical when we listen to certain kinds of music. We have holidays and parties where we dress up and pretend to be something we’re not. I think many people have a longing to escape.

For two hours I am watching a movie so captivating, so colorful, so whimsical and delightful that for that time I am transported into that world. I’m escaping for that little bit of time. The glare of the television screen acts as a window. A portal of sorts.

I connect with the characters. I feel for them. I feel the music deep within my bones. I get chills up my spine.

Afterwards it’s over and I’m left wanting more. Why can’t life be more like this, I wonder. Why can’t magic be real? Why can’t we go on adventures everyday?

The thing is… magic is real. Depending on your definition. The ability to suck me into a fictitious world and tie me to events happening in this world is a form of magic. When the right song comes on at the right time is a form of magic for me. The “magic” I’m talking about extends even farther than that. Miracles happen everyday. Ones we are blind too.

This is a frame of mind I’d like to keep as we go through these troubling times. I hope all of you stay safe out there but most of all, stay positive.

Blood, Sweat, but Mostly Tears

Let me paint you a picture.

A young man is troubled with growing pains.

When he was younger, everything was simpler. Everybody played together and less thought was given to what clique you were a part of or how you looked for that matter.

He found that when he got to high school, he felt invisible. Some “better looking” and more “suitable” guy stole the girl of his dreams.

He graduates high school and is looking for his place in the world. He suffers from interminable loneliness. All he knows is that he loves art. He sees artists in the media attracting lots of attention and he thinks “I can do that. Why should they get all the praise?”

So he locks himself away in his room. Working on his craft day and night. Determined to prove himself.

He starts to see some success and is getting more attention. Suddenly, people want to be around him. He forms a group of so-called friends who supposedly are there to secure his rise to the top. Then he finds that the industry is shady and he loses a lot of friends because of it. Some even stabbing him in the back.

He grows even colder. “Now I really won’t let anyone in. I’ll become the biggest artist in the world and all the fame and glory will be for me and me alone.”

So he becomes a chart topping success almost overnight. Now many women want to be with him but one stands out in particular.

This woman is very beautiful and she is also very popular so he thinks it would be a good look for him. The two date but he finds they have nothing in common. She only wants to talk about shallow things. At night he lies with her but it’s like lying next to a stranger.

Finally he makes enough money to be able to afford a big mansion in the hills. He moves the woman in with him and they have children.

One day he is sitting by himself and he thinks: “Why did I have children with this woman I don’t even love? Now I have everything I ever wanted. The fame. The money. The house on the hills and the trophy wife. But I still feel as empty as I did when I first started… I don’t want any of this anymore.”

So the boy, now a man plans his escape but it seems there’s nowhere for him to disappear to except a place you can’t come back from.

“So long world, you were never fair to me.”

And so… ends his long and arduous tale.