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Themes of consolation
Written by Harriet Moll, creative director
17 October 2020
Is it fair to say that this last nine months we have all become more expert at finding inspiration in the everyday, at making the normal, magnificent? It consoles me to think so. This week we’ve picked some of our favourite simple pleasures to share with you. Films, documentaries, music and books to go to for inspiration and escape, in the comfort of our own homes we have universes to explore. Have a great weekend.
There is a secret place. A radiant sanctuary. This magnificent refuge is inside you. Be brave and walk through the country of your own wild heart. Be gentle and know that you know nothing. Be still. Listen. Keep walking. No one else controls access to this perfect place. Give yourself your own unconditional permission to go there. Waste no time. Enter the centre of your soul.
― St. Teresa of Ávila
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson
The first time I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, I was so enchanted that I immediately booked a round trip to Eastern Europe and dragged three of my unsuspecting friends along on my quest to find its original site. Much to my chagrin, I soon discovered that the hotel didn’t actually exist and neither did the hotel’s home base. (Legend has it that the Republic of Zubrowka was actually inspired by the Polish bison grass vodka.)
Nevertheless, the Grand Budapest Hotel remains an opulent, overstuffed and artful creation – a comedy about the tragedy of nostalgia – and a great film to lose yourself in.
Li-Ann Chin, associate.
Watch it on Youtube.
2. The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea, Mads Brügger
During these disorientating times there is something strangely life-affirming about dipping into a world even more mind-bending than the one we currently inhabit.
Documentaries about North Korea have appeared with reasonable regularity in recent years, but The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea is something else entirely. It’s part spy thriller, part farce with more genuine WTF moments than even the most outlandish fictional tales. The central figure is so unlikely he received the following praise from a former spymaster: “Due to his modest appearance and lack of charisma, you hardly notice he’s there”. It will be fascinating to see if the film has long term implications for the ‘hermit kingdom’ and its ruling dynasty.
Tom Gillingham, associate partner.
Watch it on BBC.
3. Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Burnt Sugar is an escape to vibrant Pune, in west India; its cultural nuances and colour and scent depicted through the eyes of the discontented, greedy adolescent, Tara. The book is no cosy coming of age tale however, it as a jarring read, the most perfect illustration of that uncomfortable and never-ending path to female self-determination, and ripe, delicious, familial toxicity. Avni Doshi’s Booker-shortlisted debut touches on feelings and circumstances we all will recognise: how to care for a deteriorating relative; how to broach rejection from those we love most; how to understand why things are as they are. Mothers and daughters will see themselves most vividly. For everyone, it’s just fantastic writing.
Katie Stanton, associate partner.
Buy it from Waterstones.
4. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
“Describing something is like using it – it destroys, the colours wear off, the corners lose their definition, and in the end what’s been described begins to fade, to disappear. This applies most of all to places.”
In only two sentences, the narrator’s painfully self-reflexive tone manages to capture the greatest fear of any storyteller – the never-ending quest to reproduce the vibrant visual image through a verbal medium. And yet, Flights is the nearest a verbal work of art has ever been to making motion from that most static of forms.
This book of topsy-turvy and enchantingly evasive stories came to my rescue in a crucial moment – in the first weeks of lockdown when our fast-moving world abruptly retired, and with it, all my illusions of experiencing the same levels of connectedness and mobility again. I’m glad to admit that with its lucid, shaky prose and refractive insights, Tokarczuk’s book proved me wrong.
Ralitsa Bobcheva, associate.
Buy it from Fitzcarraldo Editions.
And finally: Andrew Wasylyk’s new album Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation.
This album is the third in his series on place, and specifically the land, rivers and sea around Dundee. Beautiful soundscapes that journey through childhood, nostalgia, familiarity, mystery, loss and love. It’s been a constant comfort and companion recently. I hope you’ll enjoy it with me too.
Harriet Moll, creative director.
Listen on Apple Music.