England, in the year 1500, was emerging from a century of grim civil wars during which the cultural life of the country had deteriorated to a deplorable state. It was not until 1485 that the civil wars were ended by the victory of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, at Bosworth Field, establishing the Tudor dynasty with the crowning of Henry Tudor as Henry VII. During the next 118 years under the reign of the Tudors, especially through the long reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, England attained the status of a first-rate European power and produced a flourishing culture scarcely equaled in all the history of Western civilization.
Sir Thomas More, Utopia. This 1516 work is the book that gave us the word ‘utopia’ – from the Greek meaning ‘no-place’, though with a pun on eu-topos, ‘good place’, implying that such an ideal society is too good to be true. More’s island utopia has variously been interpreted as a sincere description of the perfect world and as a satirical work poking fun at the world’s excessive idealists. Mind you, given that in Utopia adulterers are taken into slavery, and repeat offenders are executed, it makes you wonder whether More’s Utopia isn’t more dystopian than anything…
Other significant innovations of Utopia include: a welfare state with free hospitals, euthanasia permissible by the state, priests being allowed to marry, divorce permitted, premarital sex punished by a lifetime of enforced celibacy and adultery being punished by enslavement. Meals are taken in community dining halls and the job of feeding the population is given to a different household in turn. Although all are fed the same, Raphael explains that the old and the administrators are given the best of the food. Travel on the island is only permitted with an internal passport and any people found without a passport are, on a first occasion, returned in disgrace, but after a second offence they are placed in slavery. In addition, there are no lawyers and the law is made deliberately simple, as all should understand it and not leave people in any doubt of what is right and wrong.
Francis Bacon's New Atlantis was probably written in 1624, but was not published until 1627, a year after the author's death. Like the work of his contemporaries, Campanella and Andreae, Bacon's book shows the influence of More in certain broad aspects. It purports to relate the discovery by an exploring expedition in the Pacific Ocean of an island where the natives have developed a society offering much to admire. The goal of the common good is sought through learning and justice. The principal attention of the account is focused on an elaborate academy of science. Bacon has incorporated in this society the basic ideas that he developed more elaborately in his longer philosophical and scholarly treatises; namely, that the advancement of human welfare can best be achieved through the systematic exploration of nature. His famous "scientific method" is founded on painstaking observation of natural phenomena and constructing, through inductive reasoning, a body of knowledge based on those observations. He urges experimentation to improve general knowledge and to develop inventions for human comfort and pleasure. The central institute in the capital of New Atlantis, called Solomon's House, is a huge academy which foreshadows the later creation of scientific laboratories and academies, such as the English Royal Society.
Utopia has a more playful tone than one might think. While More's world is illustrating whatever point he is trying to get across, he is having fun engaging in creating his own world, as is demonstrated in the way he phrases "Then let me implore you, my dear Raphael,' said I, 'describe that island [Utopia] to us!"(Getty 323). He also says "When Raphael had finished his story, I was left thinking that quite a few of the laws and customs he had described as existing among the Utopians were really absurd." This demonstrates that he realizes his world is bizarre, and wants others to realize how out of place it was in their society. More is quite anxious to create his world, and pieces it together in great detail, taking pleasure in what makes world different from our own. However, he wants the reader to take his story seriously, which is why he bases it in reality, saying it is a part of the “New World.” This being the parts of America and its surrounding islands discovered by Amerigo Vespucci in 1497.
The book itself is a social commentary on the excesses of 16th Century Europe. Often viewed as one of the first communist treatises, Utopia represents both More's personal opinion, as well as devil's advocacy on topics such as religious tolerance, capital punishment, labor and industry as well as social and political topics. More's genius and foresight are evident 500 years later, as many of the elements of Utopia have come to pass in the 20th and 21st Centuries - with mixed results.
The story of the transformation from the nineteenth-century capitalist-industrial society is explained to the narrator by an old man who has made a study of the revolution that brought about the change. Before the outbreak of armed revolt, conditions for the common workers grew gradually more intolerable, and unions banded together in an organization similar to the AFL-CIO. The establishment ordered the machine-gunning of unarmed protesters, and the people finally learned how to fight back. Certain features of this history are reminiscent of the French Revolution, but others actually foreshadow developments and actions which occurred in the twentieth century, like the firing into the crowd of protesters in Petrograd by the Czarist guards.
Situated near the southern tip of the African continent, Namibia is a vast land brimming with adventure. The nation itself is quite large- about twice the size of California- but is home to only a little over two million inhabitants. With a low population to land ratio, the nation makes a name for itself with the numerous natural attractions that it has to offer, making it a true haven for lovers of the outdoors Namibia is covered in beautiful desert regions, including the Namib Desert, regarded at one of the oldest in the world, as well as lush countryside, plateau regions, and coastal plains of rolling sand dunes, with a subtropical and arid climate.
Looking Backward (1888) by Edward Bellamy, the most successful and influential American author writing in the utopian vein, presents a vision of a glorious future society. Julian West, a young, aristocratic Bostonian, falls asleep under a hypnotic trance in 1887, but through a remarkable set of circumstances, is awakened in the year 2000. His host family in this new age introduces him to their amazing society, explaining their institutions and the rationale for their system.
The trailer of " Voyage en Chine " (Trip to China) is undoubtedly attractive : while it displays beautiful views of the Chinese countryside it sets against them the shapeless figure of an aging, limping, more uncomely than ever Yolande Moreau. The effect is that you can't help asking yourself what the Belgian comedian is doing in such an exotic place ? And the title is only half explicit about that, for this trip does not look like a sightseeing one. Well, for more information, there is no other solution than... to go and see the film. Which I did. I then found out what Yolande Moreau was doing in the Middle Kingdom. In the film she is in fact Liliane Rousseau, a fifty-odd-year-old nurse sharing her modest suburban house with a husband she does not seem to particularly care for. One night she learns by phone the death of her twenty-five-year-old son Philippe : the young man has just been killed in a car accident in China, his adopted homeland. Due to administrative complications, the grieving mother brings herself to go to China, in order to try and sort things out of course but also and above all to mourn her only child with dignity. Only she insists on going alone, certainly not in the company of her husband Richard, whom she blames for having misunderstood their son and caused his estrangement from them. And this is precisely what she does, landing first in Shanghai where Philippe lived and then in the province of Sichuan where he had his accident. Speaking a little English (which does not help very much in the countryside) but not a word of Chinese, this journey proves no pleasure cruise. However Liliane, like a brave little soldier, holds on and finally achieves her initiatory voyage - with a little help from local friends naturally. And just while she opens up to China and its people she gets closer to her son, even if it is too late for him. A profound theme combined with the discovery of another civilization, it looks like we are on track for a masterpiece... Unfortunately this is not really the case. The film is pleasant, yes. As expected, you discover many things about China, particularly about rural China, which is rarely shown in fiction cinema, the views are beautiful and Yolande Moreau is great. So, how come you leave the theater vaguely dissatisfied? One explanation may lie in its exceedingly slow pace. Too many scenes last too long and as they are not rich enough in meaning and/or emotions, a distancing effect (unwanted by the director, I suppose) sets in. With the result that instead of translating the meditative mood of his heroine, Zoltan Mayer inoculates a slight dose of boredom in the viewers' brains. A little more dynamic editing and scenes a little richer in content would have helped give "Voyage en Chine " more impact, which it deserved actually. Another weak point is the way the scenes connected with Philippe's death and funeral. Oddly enough, while the general tone of the film is subdued (even a little too much, as I mentioned before), this part of the film is presented in a melodramatic, if not whiny, fashion. An illustration of it is the (inappropriate) way Mayer directs the pretty Chinese actress Qu Jing Jing, who embodies the late son's former fiancée : she expresses grief too conventionally. So, when she finds herself face to Yolande Moreau, it is disturbing to see the former play while the latter lives. But don't get me wrong: even if I dwelt at some length on the film's imperfections these are only reservations. On the whole, as it is, " Voyage en Chine " remains a respectable work, at any rate worth seeing. Simply, it could have been even better. On the other hand, knowing that this is photographer Zoltan Mayer's first feature, such defects are understandable. So, if you feel like a trip to grassroots China, you can try this one. Just do not expect too many thrills and spills.
Among the many films of Woody Allen, Sleeper managed to distinguish itself by being one of the funniest comedies he has created in his long career. The story of Sleeper follows the adventures of clumpy ordinary man Miles Monroe (played by Woody Allen) who goes after simple medical procedure finds himself awoken from cryostasis 200 year later. There he starts exploring the weird dystopian world in which oppressive government rules the working class, entering into many misshapes during his struggle to help a small group of anti-government radicals.