Library review


Why pay for DVDs and books when you’ve got the James Joyce Library, asks Anna Burzlaff

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

1930s Berlin is a society on the verge of catastrophic change. What was once a refugee for outspoken liberals and hedonistic socialites is being transformed into the oppressive capital of fascist rule.

Set against the backdrop of the dark and seedy lights of the city, Christopher Isherwood depicts a moment of monumental change, as the face of Berlin is transformed by the horrific growth of a fascist regime.

Its endlessly fascinating characters shape Goodbye to Berlin, most notable Sally Bowles, memorably played by Liza Minnelli in the subsequent film adaption. Ms Bowles is drenched in the glamorous gluttony of the period. The indulgent yet infinitely encapsulating cabaret singer is a caricature of a society soon to be lost by the encroaching Nazi presence; constantly tittering on the edge of the novel’s borders. The story, in effect, is one of transition and mourning.  The decadent and unrestricted lives of many of Berlin’s inhabitants are soon to be irrevocably altered.

Goodbye to Berlin captures the spirit of a city whose acceptance and liberty had created a haven for the misfits of the world.  However, the tragic destiny Berlin is doomed to soon face, through the tyranny of Hitler’s rule, is the death which Isherwood so poignantly mourns.

City of God (2002)

Directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund depict the harsh realities of poverty and crime in City of God, a movie set in the unforgiving surroundings of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.  The unavoidable culture of violence and drugs engulfs the ghetto’s inhabitants as they desperately fight for survival in the moral wasteland of the favela.

Our experience of the Brazilian slum, known as the City of God, is shaped through the eyes of aspiring photographer Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), who from the 1960s through to the seventies retells stories of rape, murder and revenge, all components of the horrific and senseless gang war which the movie is set against. Fuelled by desperation and fear the people of City of God carry out barbaric acts in order to cement a position of power.

Stylistically brilliant, City of God keeps the audience captivated throughout.  The superb performances and well-developed characters make the movie one of the greatest of its kind. Inspired by Paulo Lin’s fact-based novel, the movie examines the harrowing effects of deep-rooted poverty, and the corruption – both state and otherwise – that causes it. Exciting, upsetting, thought provoking, and fascinating; City of God merits viewing for simply too many reasons to list.