March 24th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Media ensure a comfy rise for Bill Shorten

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can Liberals' broad church survive schism?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Middle-East time bomb: youth unemployment

ENVIRONMENT Europe's freeze further proof of global warming!

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cashless debit card records positive results

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals' Tasmanian victory: the implications

OPINION The height of absurdity: education as business

ECONOMICS AND CHINA Eyes averted from the dragon in the marketplace

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM The state attacking the Church: lessons from history

FAMILY POLITICS A Trojan horse for monitoring children

NORTH AMERICA The cultural and political mosaic that is Canada

CINEMA Mary Magdalene on film: a new interpretation

MUSIC Audio-visual: or, how to watch your music

CINEMA The Adventures of Tintin: A light amid the bleakness

BOOK REVIEW Taking arms against the gender fluid fad

BOOK REVIEW Narrative history from a great writer

LETTERS

POETRY

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

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CINEMA
The Adventures of Tintin: A light amid the bleakness


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, March 24, 2018

The world can seem a pretty bleak and hopeless place, with all the violence and economic insecurity and political instability that seem to dominate the news. This can lead to an attitude of despair, where nothing can be done to fix anything.

This attitude can often be seen in “serious” art, be it movies or books or television series, where people are ground down by forces they can barely understand, let alone control. But this is only part of the story of life, and it helps to have points of reference that offer a counter-narrative, a different way of looking at things.

Often times such counterpoints are dismissed as frivolous or lightweight, but in fact they can have great depth and can offer something deeply worthwhile. One such example is The Adventures of Tintin, the classic Belgian comic book series by Hergé that was adapted into an astonishingly faithful animated series in the 1990s and is now available on Netflix.

Tintin is one of the most recognisable figures in popular culture. The eternally youthful ace reporter, accompanied by his faithful dog Snowy, has exciting adventures all around the world where he seeks to solve mysteries and right wrongs. Idealistic and ingenious, he embodies the Boy’s Own/Scouting ethos of always being prepared and always seeking to do the right thing, to help those in need.

Tintin takes on forgers and drug smugglers, human traffickers and Japanese imperialists, central European dictators and criminal gangs. He looks out for his friends, and makes friends with everyone, from Chinese orphans to Latin American dictators, from gypsies to Arab sheiks. He sees the best in others, while not ignoring their weaknesses or making excuses for villainy.

At first glance the Tintin stories may seem amiable fantasies fit for the young and young at heart, but throughout Hergé managed to weave real events and real themes. Author/artist Georges Remi, who reversed his initials to make his pseudonym, created Tintin for the youth supplement Le Petit Vingtième (“The Little Twentieth”) of the Belgian Catholic periodical, Le Vingtième Siècle (“The Twentieth Century”), as a role model for Belgian youth. Inspired by such extraordinary characters as Palle Huld, a Danish actor and writer who travelled around the world in 44 days as a 15 year old in 1928, Tintin was to be brave and noble and loyal, a young man with a clear sense of right and wrong and who would stop at nothing in his quests.

Early Tintin adventures were set in the Soviet Union and the United States and managed to take aim at both communism and capitalism. Tintin’s adventures in the Congo were a little less nuanced, buying into Belgium’s paternalistic colonialism – a colonialism more frighteningly depicted in Jospeh Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. But Tintin also found himself in China aiding a resistance group against the Japanese invasion, thus humanising a group of people more often depicted as caricatures than individuals.

Later on, the reporter has adventures in Eastern Europe, trying to stop aggressive military dictatorships with plans of coups and conquest. Despite this, Hergé was accused of collaboration during the German occupation of Belgium, as he continued to work for the Nazi-controlled newspapers. The charges were eventually dropped, but remained a blot on his character for the rest of his life.

The animated series is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the books, with many of the visuals being lifted directly from the comics. All bar two of the stories are retold, and apart from streamlining the plots to turn them more easily into two-part episodes – which also meant some minor characters were removed – they follow their sources closely.

The only major difference is the ordering of the adventures, which Ellipse-Nelvana, the production company, decided to rearrange. They still flow easily, so even that does not significantly change their meaning. A more minor, but still distinct, difference is with regard to Snowy. In the comics we read his thoughts, whereas the series leaves him content to bark. Most importantly, the themes remain, especially the central one that good can triumph over evil, and that while the world may appear a bad place, it is still good and people can still be good.

This simplicity is reminiscent of G.K. Chesterton, with his keen awareness of the darkness of the world, but also its extraordinariness. Like the detective story, that by its resolution restores order and shows the value of every life, The Adventures of Tintin remind us of the value of life itself. Tintin inspires us to be good and brave, to not let defeat become defeatism. His adventures remind us that existence is its own adventure, maybe not as dramatic as his own, but just as meaningful.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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