Posts Tagged Nazi

Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan – Play Review


Image result for noor inayat khanEnActe Arts recently produced Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan.  

Stories of India inextricably linked with that of its neighbors, the collective that makes South Asia, have always been fascinating and generate universal interest. En Acte Arts company founded by Vinita Sud Belani focuses on bringing these fascinating tales on stage, with multi ethnic cast and crew. Their recent production, Soundwaves: The passion of Noor Inayat Khan told the story of Noor who was born from a union of Indian father and American mother, in January, 1914.  

Image result for noor inayat khan
 Noor imbibed lessons of sufi tradition and during her formative years she focused on music and writing children’s stories. However, the rise of fascism and Nazi invasion of France altered her focus and she became a British spy in occupied France. Given Noor’s interest in music, the play’s heavy theme is beautifully blended with music and dance. This inspirational story is written for stage by Joe Martin. The play is beautifully directed by Vinita Sud Belani and Music composer was Randy Armstrong. Akaina Ghosh is clearly very talented actress and did an awesome job in bringing Noor’s character to life.

EnActe Arts has grown in stature and influence in the bay area. This was a bold production of telling an inspirational story with many twists and turns.  The play featured a large cast and EnActe did a fabulous job.  I will be watching for future plays from this theater company.  For tickets, go to www.enacte.org .

 

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The Imitation Game – Movie Review


A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett)

A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on a series of true events, the movie tells the story of how a team of young bright mathematicians cracked the Nazi code that helped the Allies win World War II.  Prominent among them was, a brilliant, young Alan Turing, who was a British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, philosopher, marathon runner and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  And he was a homosexual.  A small seemingly irrelevant details about his sexual orientation, at a time in history when homosexuality was a crime, also makes this beautiful movie, a devastatingly sad one.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was recruited by British Intelligence Agency M16 to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which was considered unbreakable.  Turing’s team included Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew William Goode), Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).

During World War II, strongest weapon of the Axis forces were their Enigma machines, which were largely unbreakable and enabled them to plan and communicate their strategy, unhindered.  Turing and his team built a machine to break the code, that allowed Allied forces to intercept Axis communications and gave them access to information that ultimately helped the Allied forces win the war.

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park - geograp...

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park – geograph.org.uk – 1591025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The focus of the film is primarily on the time that Turing spent at Bletchley Park.  Bletchley Park was the central site of UK’s top secret, code breaking operation.  It is presumed that the “Ultra” intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.  Besides Turing’s team, there were a whole cadre of brilliant young women working on manual code breaking, and “Bletchley Circle”, a mini series, recently aired on PBS, tells the story of four women who reunite years later to track down serial killers.

In 1939 however, this was such a top secret operation that everyone was forbidden to share any details of their work.  At the end of the war, these unsung heroes of the war, quietly went home.  The movie is also a sort of an indictment of Britain’s shoddy treatment of these heroes, primarily Turing, who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual behavior and he accepted oestrogen injections (equivalent to chemical castration), to avoid prison.  In 1954, Turing committed suicide.  His is a story that needs to be told and kudos to Director, Morten Tyldum and Screenplay writer, Graham Moore for bringing it to the screen.  Cumberbatch has done a fabulous job as Turing.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.8.

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“The Monuments Men” – Movie Review


“The Monuments Men” directed by George Clooney, based on a true story, boasts a huge star power that includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and Hugh Boneville.  The year is 1943 and World War II is almost coming to an end.  Along with millions of lives lost in this devastating war, at risk was an incalculable loss of artistic and cultural treasures, as the Nazi soldiers were plundering millions of pieces of art and when it was not possible to haul away the loot, they were destroying them.

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Brugge

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Brugge (Photo credit: Erf-goed.be)

Making his case to send in men to secure this loot, at the beginning of the movie, Clooney says, “we are at a point in history where the Nazis are trying to destroy our way of life and it is a high price, if the very foundation of modern society is destroyed”.  He asks, “Who will make sure that the statue of David is still standing and Mona Lisa is still smiling”?  One of the generals, questions Clooney, “You want to go into war zone and tell our men what they can and cannot destroy”?

Finally, six brave men undertake the task of finding the hidden treasures, of securing them, conserving and cataloging them.  This was a monumental mission.  The men tasked with the mission were not soldiers, but were art curators, museum directors, and art historians, attempting to secure literally millions and millions of pieces of art. They get only minimal support from the combat troops who considered their main mission to save lives, not art.  These men operate with minimal resources, in the absence of packing materials etc. to carefully load and transport the art they find.  And they literally are in a race for time as the new boundaries are getting drawn.  They get help from an unexpected source, a French woman (Cate Blanchett) who spied on the looting operation of the Nazis for years and carefully noted and cataloged the pieces for years.

The movie based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter and produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney, celebrates this monumental task undertaken by these brave men and a woman. In the end, they saved millions of pieces of art, sculptures and more. In one mine alone, they found 16,000 pieces of art.  In the quest for art, they also found 100 tons+ of gold stashed by the Nazis.

The movie could have been more engaging, the story could have been better told to do justice to the enormity of the mission, where a few men are scurrying like rats through the still smoldering battle, with dogged persistence, to secure for coming generations, a link to the past, a treasure that society will only come to value in the years to come.  But this is a story that must be told and one that is engaging and uplifting.  I give the movie a ranking of 3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

 

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