Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Empire of the Sun

Recently we watched Empire of the Sun on DVD. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it was released in 1987 and nominated for six Oscars. We had seen it before, but not in a long while. Watching it again, it was just as powerful and gripping as it had been when we'd first seen it in the theater.

A heartwrenching coming-of-age story set in Shanghai in 1941, it tells the tale of Jamie Graham, a little boy who is separated from his parents when the Japanese invade. Young Jamie is forced to make his own way through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. No longer enjoying the privileged lifestyle he's known all his life, Jamie is swept along in the chaos. Of course he learns and grows along the way, and makes acquaintances he never would have made if the invasion hadn't taken place. Some friendships and experiences, despite Jamie's diminished circumstances, are good. Some are, as you can well guess, not as wonderful.

The story was written by J.G. Ballard, who had his first novel published in 1962. He was 32 at the time, and he has made his living writing professionally since that first publication. The first novel? It was called The Wind From, isn't that an interesting title? His most recent endeavor is his autobiography, called Miracles of Life. He is, unfortunately, suffering from cancer. I wish that wasn't so, but it is. My thoughts and prayers are with him.

So you're probably wondering why I'm going on and on about a movie, right? Well, it's because this film is one that made a big impression on me when I saw it when it was first released. And I've got to say that every time I've seen it since, it's moved me. Greatly. It's left its impression on me. Made me think. Why? Because Empire of the Sun is a well-written, solid story. Regardless of whether or not it's a favorite genre, or filled with a cast of superstars, there's no denying it's stellar storytelling. The characters, dialogue and plot are fly-off-the-page/screen realistic. There are moments when I cringe. Others when my throat tightens. Despite the setting, there are even moments that call for laughter. Only superb storytelling could elicit such a range of emotions.

I've never read any of Mr. Ballard's novels besides Empire of the Sun but I fully intend to do so. Maybe I'll spend some long, lazy afternoons this summer and dive into his impressive body of work. Read his stories beneath the big maple tree in our yard. It's dark and dreary outside my window now, so this summer reading plan sounds like a good one. I'll let you know how it works out for me, all right? Give you updates on my discovery of a new-to-me author.

I already know I'm going to love his books, even though I've only read one so far. How do I know? The quote below convinces me. :)

"I've never suffered from writer's block. I have plenty of ideas, sometimes too many. I've always had a strong imagination. If it dries up I'll stop and look for another career. But I wouldn't recommend writing. You can be a successful writer and never meet another soul. I'm not sure that's a good thing." -- J.G. Ballard


Unknown said...

This is a good story. I remember the little boy from this movie. He did an incredible acting job.

Anonymous said...

I remember this movie. Super quote, very interesting. Good movie, if I remember correctly. Sad in spots but good overall.

Hey, I hear you've got a new cookbook. Is it out yet?


Melissa McClone said...

I haven't seen the movie, though I remember when it came out. I love that quote of his you posted at the end of your blog. So very true!

Dru said...

I remember this movie and I did enjoy it. I haven't seen in in a while though.

Great quote.

Anonymous said...

You just never know where your blogs are going. That makes them all the more interesting. I haven't seen this movie, unless I was overdosed on Houghton's Late PICKLED (yep, I didn't have my glasses on and read the PICKED as PICKLED) Verdelho. I'll have to watch it sometime.

Aussie Jude

Anonymous said...

I love that quote.

I remember the movie, too. My reaction was a bit different than yours, though, because I was so young when I was taken to see it and I lacked the maturity to appreciate the story. I'll have to give it another look.