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Saturday, November 2, 2019

My Reaction To. . .

Vita Nostra
When I first began to read this story, I must admit, I had difficulty adjusting to its style and some of the phraseology used. But, remembering this is a translation from another language, (Russian), I persisted. And I’m glad I did, for what started off as a dissonant, tongue-tripping slog smoothed out into a magic carpet ride of an intellectual adventure.
Vita Nostra – Latin for Our Life – tells the story of Sasha Samokhina, a teenage girl living at home with her mother, who stands at a crossroads. She must soon decide her future. Does she go off to university as everyone expects to become a tiny cog in part of the big machine that is society, or should she strive for something better?
It’s as she ponders that conundrum that she meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov. A man who knows more than he’s letting on, and someone who seems able to compel her to carry out ridiculous tasks as a way of measuring her character.
Whatever that special something is, Sasha has it, and she is offered the opportunity of attending an obscure place of learning nobody seems to have heard of: The Institute of Special Technology.
Sasha accepts that placement against her mother’s wishes, and discovers to her cost how different the institute is.
I’m never one to give away the plot, so all I’ll say is . . .
What follows is a deeply intimate and skilful exposition that deals with – dependent upon your viewpoint and character – some of the major hurdles/stepping stones in life: the nature of reality; the influence of philosophy; the true magic of mysticism; the power of faith – and how all these factors combined can lead to a metamorphosis of self beyond our wildest dreams.
Far from tripping over my hypothetical tongue, I ended up skating through a thought provoking – if disquieting – tale, one that should appeal to the chrysalis in all of us.

Criminals UK
If you’re in desperate need of a breath of televisual fresh air, I’d recommend Criminal UK. This is the first of four anthologies from different countries throughout Europe set almost entirely within a police interview room.
And that’s it!
The crimes in question have already been committed, so there’s no bloodthirsty violence, madcap escape attempts or high-speed pursuits. Neither do you get huge budgets, explosive sets, continent-hopping or intricate action scenes to play with.
Everything takes place within that interview room – or the observation lounge on the other side of a two-way mirror – and the intricacies you do see revolve around the mental agility of the police team dedicated to seeing justice done.
In some respects, Criminal UK reminded me of a stage play, as it’s the skills of the actors that immerses you in the psychology of the procedures involved in obtaining a confession – or in some cases – revealing the truth of what actually took place.
Superb stuff. And compelling too, as its quality TV like this that highlights the power of the human narrative. If you do it right, you don’t need high-octane special effects and state-of-the-art weapons. The minds of a detective and a desperate suspect will do. Each lining up their pieces on the chessboard of the interview; each one hoping their strategy is the one that prevails.
Try it. I guarantee it will leave a lasting impression.

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