Reflections on a variety of films and topics - Seven Samurai, It's a Wonderful Life, Don Quixote, We're no angels, War for the planet of the apes, Dunkirk, The African Queen, Babette's Feast, Dances with Wolves, The Prisoner (1967), Inherit the wind, humour in drama, nature of regret, the influence of multimedia, memoirs of a teacher of French.
Please scroll down or find on the right links to articles, pages of reflections on films, books, TV series (including "Public Eye", "Existentialism in society today", "Seven Samurai", "It's a Wonderful Life", "Don Quixote", "We're No Angels", "The African Queen", "Babette's Feast", "War for the Planet of the Apes", "Dunkirk", “Dances With Wolves”, “Inherit The Wind” and “The Prisoner”), and occasional pieces of flash fiction. These are additions to similar pages which may be found at www.stuartfernie.org .
A link to my YouTube channel with video presentations of a number of my pages.
Having retired from teaching fairly recently, I thought I’d write my memoirs, “What have I done?”, and present them online. Please find links to the various chapters on the right, though chunks of the text (but perhaps not all) may also appear below. If you suffer from insomnia, this may help!
Click on the arrows to access links to 2016 and then December.
I can be contacted through the comments sections or at email@example.com
Reflections on aspects of existentialism in “Public Eye” (TV series 1965 – 1975)
Created by Roger Marshall
and Anthony Marriott
Starring Alfred Burke as
A video presentation of this material is available
“Public Eye” was a TV drama
which ran for seven series from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. It
revolved around the investigations of Frank Marker, a slightly down-at-heel but
highly principled inquiry agent, usually into low-key, familiar and “realistic”
problems and situations.
Produced during the same
period as shows such as “The Avengers”, “The Saint”, “Department S” and
American shows such as “Kojak”, “Cannon” and “Hawaii five-0”, “Public Eye”
represented a significant and deliberate departure from these flashy, highly dramatic
and exciting shows. It focused on more human, recognisable and identifiable characters
and situations that were nonetheless intriguing and involving, and allowed the
viewer to engage with others’ lives and see possible outcomes, problems and
complications arising from those lives.
Marker’s inquiries touch
upon human relationships, social attitudes, legal and moral challenges and
above all the choices people make in their lives and the consequences of these
choices. His tales accentuate the fact our lives are interwoven and actions and
decisions we take will impact on others.
We all experience problems
in our lives and for the most part we turn to friends, family or the
authorities for help. Frank Marker is there if these avenues are not readily
open. He offers his services to look in to situations and at the same time
enables the viewer to do so as well. He is a sort of impartial observer with a
voice of reason and objectivity who seeks truth and clarity where emotion,
anxiety or anger may cloud judgement.
He walks a dangerous and
difficult path as his genuine willingness and desire to help his clients mean
that he will become embroiled in their situations. Faced with this existential
conundrum, he behaves like a human being – he cannot stand back and allow
circumstances to develop if he has some insight or thinks he can offer some
positive input. We all muddle through life impacting on one another’s lives but
Marker seems willing to recognise and accept responsibility for his actions,
sometimes paying a heavy price for his “interference”.
Marker is not driven by ambition
or a desire for money but rather a wish to help his clients while seeking truth
and clarity. Of course, he doesn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart – he is
paid for his services as, like all of us, he has to make a living, but his primary
concern is to do his best for his client. His fee is simply a fair recompense
for his time and effort. Ultimately, Marker seems to value the help he can
offer his clients above personal financial gain, highlighting the importance of
personal input and support in society as opposed to mere commercial
In terms of social
interaction, he is fiercely independent, sure of his own ethics and is not at
all keen on personal or romantic involvement. His strength of conviction and
clarity of thought and perception make the compromise required for a close
relationship or friendship very difficult for him.
The show offers insight
into the human condition and, generally speaking, the problems and situations
of clients are the centre of attention while Marker’s character is cleverly
drawn through his reaction to events and interaction with other characters.
Marker and, at times, his friend Detective Inspector Percy Firbank, uncover
truth which may have consequences but these consequences are always down to
choices made by those involved, though Frank and Percy occasionally have
trouble living with the influence they exercise as a result of their inquiries.
This show may be the
purest exploration of the principles of existentialism yet seen on TV. It
examines closely the interwoven nature of our lives, the impact we have on one
another and the responsibility we may (or may not) feel for this.
It is beautifully written
and produced (given its age), focusing on the ordinary and characters, problems
and choices we may all encounter, one way or another. The acting is of a high
standard throughout but Alfred Burke and Ray Smith deserve particular praise
for their portrayals of Marker and Firbank. Both bring authenticity, sincerity
and vulnerability to their roles and Alfred Burke manages to impart, seemingly
effortlessly, humanity and genuine soul-searching in his portrayal of the
relatively impoverished but highly principled and dedicated Frank Marker.
My thanks for taking the
time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.
It seems to me that in
the wake of the two World Wars there was a general upsurge in the principles of
equality, justice, democracy and fraternity. Naturally, changes were far from
instantaneous, but the old order (based primarily on class superiority, assumed
authority and position) was challenged and largely overhauled due principally
to a spirit of entitlement, openness and impartiality in recognition of the
fact that members from across the spectrum of society had defended its
fundamental values and then participated in its post-war reconstruction.
This may be viewed as a
practical embodiment of the philosophy and values upheld by the Enlightenment
Movement wherein the principles of equality, reason and accountability are held
However, as time passed
and the direct threat of injustice and subjugation for all mostly subsided, the
intense flames of the fight for freedom and integrity calmed to mere embers and
a large swathe of people have come to adopt an almost existential acceptance of
political, social and commercial chicanery (perpetrated by those unfettered by
a sense of rectitude and responsibility for impacting on others’ lives),
provided the quality of their own lives remains intact or is even improved.
Schemes and conspiracies
have been conducted behind the scenes, often involving hardship and injustice
for many who oil the machinery of such commercial enterprises and political
machinations, while maintaining a façade of political and commercial correctness
and legitimacy which most are more than willing to accept.
As one-time military and
political conquests and subjugations have been insidiously replaced by
commercial acquisition and financial control, values and principles once
considered worth defending are in danger of being invisibly but steadily
eradicated, swallowed by an existential fog of self-centred apathy and
abandonment. Careerism and hedonism appear to be steadily replacing
professionalism and purpose, yet apparent impassivity, lack of direction and lack
of positive action are being recognised and rejected by some and this is
evidenced by a trend toward independence and self-determination. This is born
of frustration and discontent in the face of apparent inability or
unwillingness on the part of governing bodies to tackle ongoing urgent social,
political and economic issues, exacerbated by the perception that an
influential minority seems to actually gain through their protraction.
In the past, when people
faced common external issues and threats (crushing social injustice leading to
the French Revolution, industrialisation and its attendant social pressures and
reforms, and attempted subjugation leading to two World Wars), they united to
fight for a cause, for values and for a common purpose, reflecting the spirit
of the Enlightenment Movement.
However, after the
immediate post-war period there followed a turbulent period in the sixties and
seventies, characterised by confrontation over workers’ rights, conditions and
wages, social and political upheaval, huge economic pressures and rising
unemployment. As a result, there was a return to more conservative policies in
the eighties, involving the re-establishment of traditional working practices
and an emphasis on market freedom, and the suggestion that the individual
should act in his/her own best interests, with the view that this would
strengthen society overall. This philosophy was reflected in the famous line
“Greed is good” in the film Wall Street (1987).
Today, it might be said
the problems we face are increasingly internal as we encounter political,
administrative, financial and socially divisive issues. We appear to have lost
the perspective of “the bigger picture” and focus instead on individual
satisfaction, maintaining our own standard of living or making our way in the
society we have built. We appear to be losing sight of values, purpose and the
common good, opting instead for a self-centred path toward “success”. This may
be said to reflect the spirit of existentialism wherein the existence of God,
morality and principles are refuted and we are invited to think only of
ourselves and the place we can make for ourselves in society.
This attitude has led to
inward-looking and defensive governance, administration and law-making which
conceal inaction, indifference and lack of comprehension and empathy and this
has, in turn, led to frustration and discontent, causing some to want to break
away from traditional and accepted government.
However, as I have suggested previously, existentialism is not the same as nihilism. If we accept
responsibility for one another and our impact on one another, we can achieve far
more together than if we limit ourselves to what is best for individuals or
small groups with shared interests.
self-gratification and a blinkered outlook have insidiously crept in to our
political and administrative systems and this has led to many sections of
society feeling disenfranchised and willing to pursue change, any change, as an
alternative to a system they feel has failed them. That is not, however, a
reason to reject the structure itself. Structures and systems can be re-invigorated
and re-imagined with fresh, practical and positive ideas put into practice by
constructive and conscientious personnel resulting in tangible change and
improvement for all instead of apparently incessant discussion and pompous
focus on procedure and position resulting in inaction and indolence.
Threat and danger have
previously united people in a common cause. Today need be no different, but now
the threat lies within our society and the loss of perspective we have
developed by encouraging members of society to focus on individual success. We
need to develop an awareness of and a sense of responsibility toward others if
we are to evolve as a society.
Even if principle,
morality and values have no celestial authority, the concept exists and
therefore we can create, adopt and enforce values when dealing with fellow
human beings. Success does not necessarily mean self-serving. While a degree of
selfishness may be required to inspire or stimulate action, that action should
ultimately serve others if it is to have any lasting value, and that precept
may be seen as one of the corner-stones of a healthy and enduring society.
My thanks for taking the
time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.