Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I was watching the English Patient the other night. I have to admit, I think it is one of the best movies made...Anyway, you don't search for GIS blogs to here about the writer's favorite movies. I guess I had not seen it since finishing at university, because it never struck me how geographical that movie was. Not in that it was shot in several countries, but in geographical concepts. One of the major themes of the movie is place and identity. Another related theme was with borders, country borders to be specific. I don't think that movie could have been made at any other time than the 90's. Sort of that reshuffling of the deck period between the fall of the Berlin wall and September 11th. The internet and global communication was create a borderless world. The idea of a one world government seemed to have gained momentum. So here you have this movie where the characters defy borders and create their own sense of place, only to have that destroyed by the invasion of ownership of place.

One other part struck me too, was when Juliette Binoche's character is asked if she knows anyone from a dying soldier's hometown. I think it is later in the movie that she questions this action. The desire to see someone from where you come from. This probably interested me more than normal, as I am now living abroad. We just went to a party of Americans living abroad. The only reason for the party was that we were Americans, or spouses and children of Americans. So that was the one connection - you're American. There was even a hierarchical scale to the connection - America --> State --> Close to the same town....It's just funny, because without the concept of place, it's not like we would have ever met or been friends with any of these people, especially in the states. We only had one thing in common. This happened when I traveled too. It's such an easy introduction - WHERE are you from? As if Where defines who you are. I would probably make the argument it does partly define you.

I noticed that Harm de Blij has a new book coming out this winter/summer (july), and I think it will be about this topic. From the product description:

"In recent years a spate of books and articles have argued that the world today is so mobile, so interconnected and so integrated that it is, in one prominent assessment, flat. But as Harm de Blij contends in The Power of Place, geography continues to hold billions of people in an unrelenting grip. We are all born into natural and cultural environments that shape what we become, individually and collectively. From our "mother tongue" to our father's faith, from medical risks to natural hazards, where we start our journey has much to do with our destiny, and thus with our chances of overcoming the obstacles in our way."

I find it to be interesting, but I can only offer anecdotal experience as my view. I also find Geography in the movies to be interesting. A recent AAG newsletter had a short article about this. I think it was just before the Boston Conference, because all the movies were about/took place in Boston.

Forgot the book came out shortly before the movie, but still in the early 90's. Although similar themes between the book and movie exist, I think the movie had a few of its own. Anyway, here are some articles on the book here and here.

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