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Studio Interior 1, Stanisław Wyspiański


A Spotlight on Culture

Through reviews and longer articles, ArteFact keeps a finger on the pulse of how our culture is reflecting on itself.

Film Fiction Theatre Music Poetry
Review |  Film

Broken Beggars

“The real protagonist of history is the beggar.” In sharing this insight, Luigi Giussani underscores that real significance lies in the connection and encounter between individuals in their mutual humility, need, and search for fulfillment.

Living, the 2022 British period drama directed by Oliver Hermanus, is a film adapted from Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), itself inspired by Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Like its predecessors, the movie explores a middle-aged bureaucrat’s reaction to his terminal diagnosis (Mr. Williams portrayed by Bill Nighy in a Best Actor Oscar-nominated performance) as he struggles to discern if he has lived a meaningful life and, if not, what he needs to do to correct things. We will see that it is only through an attitude of vulnerability and humility—that of the beggar—that the other is lead to response to these needs.

Article |  Fiction

Invitation to the Feast

It is the fall of 1947 on the ruggedly picturesque Cornwall coast, and Reverend Bott must write a sermon. A normal part of the job, yes, but the minister is struggling with this one, for the occasion is particularly challenging. People were dead, others had survived, but he could not exactly deliver a funeral sermon. The bodies in question were already irretrievably buried under a massive, collapsed cliff. All had been guests or employees at the ramshackle seaside hotel at the base when, not without (unheeded) warning, the cliff had fallen, engulfing the inn and all who were inside. What could anyone say in the face of such a tragedy? Thus opens Margaret Kennedy's clever novel, The Feast, originally published in 1950 and re-published recently by Faber & Faber.

Article |  Film

Barbie and Life in the Unity of Life and Death

Girls have always had dolls. These dolls were models of little girls. Playing with dolls, real girls would play at being mothers. That is, until Barbie: a doll that is simply a woman. In the opening scene of Greta Gerwig's Barbie (2023), Barbie appears (as a ninety-foot-tall Margot Robbie) and we watch as all the little girls smash their girl dolls on the ground. Upon seeing this, I thought to myself: this is abortion, this is contraception, this is independent womanhood opposed to motherhood: this is life (independence, self-standing) against death (separation, motherhood, letting be, being fruitful in another).

Article |  Poetry

T.S. Eliot and Temporal Eternity

Time rules over man. It propels him through life, which is short when compared with eternity, and ushers him through life’s events, which often seem inconsequential beside history’s kings and wars. All of man’s experiences exist in and through time, and the means by which man communicates these experiences and thoughts—language—is also temporally bound. The nature of a novel, a poem, a sentence, or even a word, signals its mortality. It exists in time; it begins, and it ends.

Review |  Fiction

Mistrust of the Inanimate

Ruth Ozeki’s novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, is a conundrum—at turns enraging, confusing, impenetrable, intriguing, luminous, and beautiful. Its protagonist, Benny Oh, is the precocious child of an American mother and an Asian father. His mother, Annabelle, though insecure and unassertive, has found happiness in the cocoon of her family. His father, Kenji, is a jazz-clarinetist and is a loving but free-spirited and somewhat irresponsible husband and father. Benny is kept safe and is content in the closed circle of his family group. This happy domesticity is destroyed, however, when Kenji, drunkenly returning home from a gig, lies down in the alley behind their house and is killed by a truck hauling live chickens.

Humanum: Issues in Family, Culture & Science
Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
620 Michigan Ave. N.E. (McGivney Hall)
Washington, DC 20064