Tag Archives: Tintin

All About the Tuning

How does this make you feel? :)

Time for rambling on an extended metaphor.

George MacDonald once wrote: “If there be music in my reader, I would gladly wake it.”

He has stirred my soul to music many times, yet I know, for some, he only strikes a discord. Does this mean they have no music in them?

I think not. It is all about the tuning.

I came to this metaphor while driving one night and I have been turning it over in my mind ever since. The existence of the phrase “strike a chord” tells me that I’m only now catching on to a very old idea. I wonder if the thought occurred to the first human ever to play an instrument.

Literature, music, art, and people are often associated with melody and discord in the soul, but I think every experience plays on us. Places, smells, colors, and noises in nature and the world around us create “sound” in this way.

Unlike instruments, however, humans are not passive in this process. It is here that the metaphor breaks down, though not completely.

It would be senseless to argue that I can only react a certain way to something because of my predisposition. I don’t simply mean changing my mind, as that can be subconscious, a change in circumstances which changes my tuning (and my tuning changes ceaselessly).  I am speaking of awareness of my reactions. The music or discord retains its instinctual nature, but it does not have to rule me.

Why does the scent of reindeer lichen stir my soul to depths of joy? Why does the sight of corrugated steel make me a little ill? The reasons, or even understanding that there are reasons, give me power to explore my own feelings and avoid being judgmental when the feelings of others contradict my own. This also allows me to hold an opinion that is not based on my feelings. This kind of understanding seems to be missing from many political arenas and social conversations. I am not a relativist, but I do believe that attempting to understand the “other” point of view is vital for civilized discourse.

How this ties into storytelling:

What resonates with people in a story has an instinctual quality. The persistence of cliches, archetypes and tropes is a symptom of this. Tropes would not exist if they did not play certain chords on a segment of people and this makes them handy tools in storytelling, but tools that require careful use. But that is a post for another time. :)

Details, description, and theme are also powerful influences on a reader. My personal philosophy of writing, at present, demands that I balance effect on the audience with my own preferences, while the integrity of the story itself trumps both. I have very little control over  what chords I strike in an individual, as authors I read have little control over my reactions to their work. That is something that every writer should accept for the sake of sanity. No matter how good a job we do in writing, some people are not going to like what we create.

In speaking with the inspiring blogger BeKindRewrite, I realized that the musical metaphor has some bearing on my reaction to beloved books turned into films. I have discovered that the key, for me, is tone. One cannot expect a film and a book to strike exactly the same chords in a person. However, differing details between the works may be acceptable if the tone of the film is similar to that of the book.

Examples:

“Lord of the Rings” trilogy: Peter Jackson’s film interpretation of the story differs from the books in many respects. He changes characters, plot devices, and lines, sometimes to good effect and sometime to bad. So why do I like the films as an interpretation of the novels? I resonate in much the same way when I read one of Tolkien’s sweeping scenes and when Jackson pans in on Meadowseld with the strings-heavy Rohan theme playing. The same is true of the new “Tintin” movie, the “Princess Bride,” and the 1995 film “Persuasion.”

Then there are the films that strike a very different chord in me from the books on which they are based. It does not follow that they are bad films or that I dislike them (though some I dislike very much). Examples of this include the new “Sherlock Holmes” films, the 2005 “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice,” and horror of horrors, the 1978 “Watership Down.”

I have rambled all over the place with this idea, and could ramble still more, but I think I should draw to a close. I have come to a two-fold conclusion in this exploration:

1. An awareness of the music and discord within us all can make me more tolerant of the opinions of others. I may still have views regarding the quality of an artistic work, but I can easily accept and respect the fact that what makes music in one person, may make dissonance in another without the need to devalue the opinion of one.

2. To anyone who transfers a work from one art form into another: Heed the tone. If you can get that right, you are more than halfway to your goal.


Tintin

I plan to ramble here. You have fair warning.

I seem to be one of relatively few U.S. citizens who grew up on Tintin. Not the tv series, but the books. For some reason, Tintin didn’t sweep this country as he did many others.

I never have been sure what it is about the stories that draws me in. Hergé somehow created adventures that were, on the surface, dead simple, unapologetically ridiculous, and addictive. He had a gift, and he worked very hard to share it. His gift comforted and inspired people during some of the darkest times in recent history, and continues to do so decades later. But if I wax too serious about Hergé’s work I will do it an injustice. It mocks my seriousness.

Papoose Snowy mocks my seriousness

Papoose Snowy mocks my seriousness

My brother and I used to joke that Tintin has a force-field just beneath his skin because bullets only ever graze him. My friend D, looking over my shoulder on occasion as I have been re-reading some of the books, commented on the fact that he gets hit over the head several times per story and yet he is not brain-dead. Though a pipsqueak, he has a killer punch and knows his way around firearms. He can operate any car, plane, boat, helicopter, tank, motorcycle or moon-rocket and seems to possess unlimited wealth. He sticks to his ethics, is often clever, always wins in the end, and his only vices are an intermittent lack of foresight, and being a nosy-parker.

In short, he is a Mary Sue.  I look at this list and I am amazed that I don’t hate Tintin.

But the fact is, I like him. Haddock and Snowy are my favorites, but the Great Ginger Detective is, without challenge, my favorite bland character of all time. I enjoy seeing him dash through his adventures and I am acutely aware that without him, the other characters would be whirling balls of plotless chaos. I can just see the tragic Adventure of Haddock and Snowy in the Distillery of Doom, and Calculus leading Thompson and Thomson off a cliff like a pair of lemmings.

Serious Captain is serious

Serious Captain is serious

Many stories have a bland central character, an eye of the storm that carries the plot forward, binds the more interesting characters together and acts as a blank screen onto which readers can project their own imaginations. Usually these characters annoy me or I am indifferent to them. So what is different about Tintin? Perhaps it is that Hergé refuses to take his main protagonist too seriously. Tintin is daring one moment, noble the next, and falls flat on his face a panel or two later.

But what I think is most disarming about Tintin is the honesty of his existence. He is a vehicle for the child-like desire for adventure and Hergé knew that and embraced it. Without that, Tintin would set my teeth on edge. With it, I laugh in delight when he takes control of a helicopter, or snaps an enemy’s rifle barrel with a single shot. Apparently, for me, honesty and humor are keys to making a Mary Sue acceptable.

There have been recent developments in the Tintin universe.

DUN Dun dun...

DUN Dun dun…

When I heard that Spielberg and Jackson were collaborating on a Tintin movie, I was worried. I had much the same fears when I heard of the making of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films. I wondered, once, how film could do justice to Tolkien and I found myself wondering the same of Hergé’s work. There was a different challenge to creating a Tintin film, too. With LotR, Jackson was up against the imagination of Tolkien’s readers. For the most part, I feel that he met that challenge. With Tintin, he and Spielberg were up against deceptively simplistic and dynamic art that has been iconic for decades.

When I saw the trailers to the new Tintin film, I was even more worried. The animation style looked weird, and the humor just off enough that it might grate on me.

I am happy to say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed “the Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn”. The credits at the beginning showed me that the directors and animators had paid attention. They translated the energetic poses of the comics into motion with panache. The mannerisms of the cast were right, their voices did not irritate me and the mix of fast-paced adventure, silly humor and coshing people on the head were right out of the books.

Purists will complain, but oh well. I complained about details from Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings,” but I love the films anyway and own the extended versions. I have a suspicion that there will be an extended version of  “the Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn” (they need to explain that tank…) and if so, that will one day grace my shelf of films as well.

There are a few things that were not quite right, in my opinion. Something was off about the twins, or maybe I should say that something was more off than usual about them. The captain’s eyes were a bit too piggy. The tank… And I have to wonder what they are going to do in the sequel as they’ve already used the plot twist from the third book. These are all very minor, though, and as with Lord of the Rings, the changes made to the plot all seemed reasonable if not necessary.

I hope that Jackson and Spielberg will do as fine a job on the next one

Iconoclast!… troglodyte!… fresh-water pirate!… slubberdegullion!… mountebank!… nyctalope!… steam-roller!… sea-gherkin!… cannibal! (Seriously, we could learn so much about “swearing” from the good captain and vastly improve our vocabularies all the while.)


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