Posts Tagged ‘Felicity Jones’

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On The Basis of Sex

Director: Mimi Leder

Cast: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny, Chris Mulkey

Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) takes on the role of gender activist lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg in director Mimi Leder’s informative if slightly over talkative legal biography On The Basis of Sex.

Armie Hammer (The Social Network, Call Me By Your Name) stars as her supportive lawyer husband Martin Ginsburg.

Also in the cast are Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train) as Mel Wulf a fellow human rights lawyer and Oscar winner Kathy Bates (Misery) as Dorothy Kenyon a lawyer that unsuccessfully tried to challenge the state and federal laws which discriminate against people on the basis of their gender.

Pay it Forward and Deep Impact director Mimi Leder does a reasonably good job of handling the legal subject matter although the material does not dazzle onscreen and this film will really only appeal to those interested in the legal precedent that Ruth Bader Ginsburg won and how she successfully reversed gender discrimination.

Felicity Jones does a brilliant job of portraying Ruth Bader Ginsburg, yet unfortunately On The Basis of Sex which was released amidst all the Oscar nominated films for 2019 does not shine as a particularly memorable film. On the Basis of Sex is a fascinating if slightly too talkative portrayal of a female lawyer who challenged the American legal established and reversed most federal and state laws which were based on pure gender discrimination, unfairly favouring men over women.

Jack Reynor (Detroit, A Royal Night Out, Macbeth) and Sam Waterston (Miss Sloane, The Killing Fields) play chauvinist lawyers Jim Bozarth and Erwin Griswold who are attempting to rebuke Ginsburg legal argument.

On The Basis of Sex gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and given the acting talent in this film, this legal biographical drama could have been brilliant but falls short of the mark.

Yet, the film remains a fascinating portrait of a female lawyer who fought the establishment in the early 1970’s and irrevocably altered the legal precedent in America just as the climate of social change was sweeping through this influential democratic country.

Rebellion in the Galaxy

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Jimmy Smits, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones

British director Gareth Edwards grew up on the original Star Wars Trilogy like most young kids born in the 1970’s and was heavily influenced by directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The Godzilla and Monsters director pays homage to the original Star Wars trilogy in the superb spinoff film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story featuring a diverse ensemble cast.

Felicity Jones

In the lead roles are British actress and Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Inferno) as Jyn Eso and Mexican star Diego Luna (Milk, Elysium) as Cassian Andor along with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) as Eso’s father Galen Eso and unrecognizable Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) as treasonous Empire pilot turned Rebel Bodhi Rook.

Diego Luna

Audiences must remember that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars film made in 1977 and centres on the rebels lead by Eso who plan on stealing the plans to the Empire’s galactic weapon of mass destruction, The Death Star. As the film unfolds and there is lots of inter-planetary travelling, Eso along with Andor and an Empire droid wonderfully played by Alan Tudyk battle the mighty Empire commandeered by an evil Orson Krennic superbly played by the blue eyed Australian star Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind).

Ben Mendelsohn

What is most impressive about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the tight narrative and impressive visual effects, the plot ably written by screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz who pepper the action packed intergalactic journey with visual treasures and homages to the original Star Wars trilogy which dazzled the world back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Riz Ahmed

Any fanboy or girl of the original trilogy especially the first two films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back will appreciate all the references in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story including the Death Star, brief appearances by the malignant Darth Vader voiced again by James Earl Jones and even a glimpse of R2D2 and C3PO as the droids wave goodbye to Eso and the gang as they travel to Scarrif, a tropical island planet with an Empire base which resembles the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai resulting in one of the best battle sequences seen in any of the Star Wars films.

Director Edwards sets the bar high with Rogue One with a tight storyline, witty dialogue and solid central performances by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. There is also some influential supporting roles including Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) as Saw Gerrera who is Jyn Eso’s guardian after her father Galen is mysteriously captured by the Empire Stormtroopers and Jimmy Smits (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) reprising his role as Senator Bail Organa.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a superb prequel, a visual sci-fi feast which will have specific appeal to the dedicated fans of the Star Wars franchise. Now that George Lucas has sold the rights to Disney, the Star Wars universe is going to expand exponentially and in more innovative ways, cashing in at the all international box offices as each new film gets released.

This is highly recommended viewing for lovers of this extraordinarily imaginative Sci Fi franchise. If you love Star Wars then don’t miss Rogue One, it’s a classic.

 

Dante’s Death Mask

Inferno

inferno

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu

Screenwriter David Koepp intentionally disorientates the viewer in a disrupted narrative through a series of flashbacks and blurred images in the first half of director Ron Howard’s historical thriller Inferno as Professor Robert Langdon played again by Tom Hanks wakes up bewildered like Jason Bourne in a hospital in Florence. There Langdon is initially tended to by Dr Sienna Brooks played by Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything).

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Soon the couple are shot at by a vicious but gorgeous female carabinieri Vayentha played by Romanian beauty Ana Ularu. As Langdon and Brooks seek shelter in her Florence apartment they soon discover that crazed Billionaire Bertrand Zobrist played by Ben Foster (Warcraft, Hell or High Water), seen only through a series of mediated images like a televised lecture and numerous flashbacks has decried the world’s overpopulation and plans on letting off a deadly virus killing more than half the world’s population as a form of human culling.

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Langdon and Brooks travel to the Hall of the Five Hundred within the Palazzo Vecchio https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Vecchio to discover that Dante’s death mask has been stolen. Hot on their heels is Brouchard played by French actor Omar Sy as well as a tactical team from the World Health Organisation headed by the beautiful Dr Elizabeth Sinskey played by Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen last seen as the doomed corporate executive in the thrilling HBO Sci-Fi series Westworld.

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As the action moves from Florence to San Marks Square in Venice, Koepp’s script strips away the confusion and reveals an enlightening moment as a significant plot twist occurs in the Venetian Piazza reminiscent of Casino Royale and Professor Langdon soon realizes who he can really trust.

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With high production values and lots of flashing images of blood soaked streets and corpses writing in hell, the cinematic depiction of Dante’s Inferno adds to the already suspenseful narrative as Langdon races against time taking in some of the ancient world’s most iconic tourist attractions including Florence’s Duomo and Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia.

The second half of Inferno is captivating as the denouement is revealed and the true danger identified in a thrilling finale in Istanbul’s Sunken Palace where a Solstice concerto is taking place amidst the possibilities of a dangerous virus being released into the ancient city’s water supply.

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It is a pity that Ben Foster and Tom Hanks did not have any screen time although like with Angels and Demon’s and The Da Vinci Code, Inferno does not faithfully follow the thriller genre. Instead using a combination of visual clues heavily reliant on art history and a sense of urgency, the hero Professor Langdon in Inferno covers a touristic journey through some of the most cultural cities in Europe and Asia Minor.

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Whilst Hanks and Jones are suitably impressive in their roles it is the supporting roles particularly played by Knudsen and Indian actor Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) which add a sense of diversity to this extraordinary tale. Inferno is a fast paced historical thriller boosted by contemporary fanaticism which makes the story all the more relevant within the global context of terrorism and unsuspecting horrors.

Inferno is a captivating thriller which by far is one of the best in the Dan Brown inspired cinematic franchise, transforming into a fitting third act to The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

 

 

Infinite Probability of Happiness

The Theory of Everything

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Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Alice Orr-Ewing

Shadow Dancer director James Marsh delivers a fine, subtle film about the early Cambridge years of the brilliant theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything so remarkably portrayed on screen by Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables) that he become one of the youngest best actor Oscar winners at the age of 33.

Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking from gangly awkward scientist in the early 1960’s, through to his courtship of the lovely Jane Wilde, beautifully portrayed by Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, Hysteria) to his devastating diagnosis of the life altering motor neurone disease is absolutely phenomenal. The expressive face of Eddie Redmayne, his physical contortions in portraying Hawking is beyond superb as the Professor grapples with the horrendous paradox of being intellectually gifted yet physically crippled as the motor neurone disease takes effect on his body, limiting his speech, his ability to walk and even to eat properly.

Despite this crippling diagnosis, Professor Hawking and his wife Jane, manage to produce three children so obviously his reproductive abilities weren’t affected by the disease as weren’t his mental capabilities in which he managed to expound the Big Bang Theory and then later to disprove it in his ground breaking novel, A Brief History of Time, which sold millions of copies worldwide and propelled him to international fame http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking.

theory_of_everything

The intellectual conflict in the film between Jane’s Church of England upbringing and Hawking’s cosmic atheism is delicately portrayed. One the most poignant moments is when Jane Hawking confides in her mother played by Emily Watson that she cannot cope with her husband’s crippling disability and having to bring up several children simultaneously. Her mother’s advice is typically English and suggests she should join the Church Choir. During Choir practice, Jane meets the able bodied and charming choral master Jonathan, played against type by Irish actor Charlie Cox, who soon befriends Jane and her famous wheelchair bound husband, Professor Hawking.

Unnaturally this seemingly impossible ménage-a-trios is not set to last as soon Hawking’s motor neuron disease takes a turn for the worst after he collapses during a Wagner concert in Bordeaux. Jane Hawking soon realizes that she is going to require a full time care giver to look after her famous yet incapacitated husband. The fact that the caregiver looks like a 1960’s Bond girl is testament to Hawking’s own flirtatious nature and soon through the aide of an American sounding computerized voice he informs Jane that him and the caregiver are flying to America together.

The mathematical probability of happiness is discovered in all its infinity as soon as Jane and Stephen find partners suitable for their own physical requirements, and this eventual separation becomes the emotional crux of The Theory of Everything, apart from the bleak physical disabilities and momentous scientific breakthroughs which has characterized a highly unconventional marriage.

Despite some directorial embellishments, James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is a well-structured and sensitive portrayal of one of the world’s most famous Physicists who despite all the odds and being unable to speak or walk, manages to expand a theory of time which transforms all future scientific endeavour and quantitative research. Hawking’s insatiable will to survive is testament to the power of the human spirit, considering he was given two years to live at the start of his diagnosis.

At the centre of this film, based upon Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen is a story of a very challenging marriage and of a couple whose determination to overcome every physical and emotional obstacle eventually led to their separation yet ultimately finding their own individual fulfillment.

The casting of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones is critical to this film’s success as they both give exceptionally meticulously and ranged performance of Stephen and Jane Hawking which is all the more admirable for portraying such venerated and surviving figures of the British academic establishment.

The Theory of Everything is brilliant cinema, and highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed films such as My Left Foot and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This is first rate acting at its best and has proven beyond doubt that Redmayne and Jones are truly gifted screen actors with an infinite career ahead of them. The soft focus cinematography of the entire film gives Cambridge a hallowed glow that ensures the audience gets a feeling that they too are watching a miracle, ably assisted by an exceptional musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

 

 

 

 

In The Shadow of a Literary Giant

The Invisible Woman

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Director: Ralph Fiennes

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Michelle Fairley, Michael Marcus, Joanna Scanlan, Amanda Hale

Oscar nominated actor Ralph Fiennes follows up his first directorial debut Coriolanus with a film adaptation of a novel by Claire Tomlin, The Invisible Woman, which centres on the brief but doomed love affair between celebrated Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and Nelly, known as Ellen Tiernan a young actress half his age, superbly played by Felicity Jones of Hysteria fame.

As a director Ralph Fiennes seems to find his creativity for portraying the Victorians from skilled director Jane Campion with many shots looking like a pastiche of scenes from her hit film The Piano and the later film Bright Star.

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As an actor Ralph Fiennes who also plays Charles Dickens is naturally brilliant, inhabiting a larger than life famed author who clearly desired literary attention and popularity more than the love of his massive family. Fiennes does not detract from Dickens reputation as one of the greatest Victorian novelists of the 19th century who went to detailed efforts to document through literature the hardships of the British population during the Industrial Revolution especially illustrated in his celebrated novels Oliver Twist, Hard Times and Bleak House.

This period of literature especially during the mid 19th century and which characterized the reign of Queen Victoria was called realism and along with Dickens, spawned a range of brilliant social commentators including George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Thomas Hardy who all highlighted the plight of the poor especially the appalling conditions of child labour.

The Invisible Woman centres on the period of friendship between Charles Dickens and the novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkie_Collins played by Tom Hollander who wrote The Woman in White in the early 1850s. Here Dickens, aged 45 in rehearsal for The Frozen Deep, a collaborative play written with Collins he meets the gorgeous Nelly (Ellen Tiernan) along with her supportive mother Mrs Frances Tiernan played by Kristin Scott Thomas, ironically Fiennes co star in the Oscar winning film The English Patient.

Despite being married with 10 children, and a 27 year age difference Charles Dickens is scandalously captivated by Nelly who is actually the same age as his oldest son Charles Junior played by Michael Marcus and there is an awkward scene in the film whereby Dickens Sr having resolved to separate from his wife is walking with Nelly through Hampstead and comes across his oldest son Charles, who discover the affair.

Unfortunately as illustrated in The Invisible Woman the love affair between Dickens and Nelly is short lived but she remains the muse for Estella the female character in Dickens most accessible and famous work Great Expectations (published in 1861) who Pip falls in love with.

Felicity Jones adds layers of subtlety and complexity to the character of Nelly a woman who becomes the object of the great novelist’s affection who soon realizes that their affair is ultimately doomed and she will be the one most affected by this relationship. For Dickens, his love of fame and literary greatness trumps any real devotion to Nelly and naturally divorce was out of the question. Nelly realizes that she is living in the shadow of a literary giant and her role in his success will be eclipsed by his fame and popularity.

The Invisible Woman is a thought-provoking and intelligent period piece which at times lacks variety and is slow moving. Fiennes as a director makes a fatal decision not to use much soundtrack in the film, which clearly needs a more suitable musical score. At least The Invisible Woman got nominated for Best Costume Design but lost out to The Great Gatsby at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Viewers get the impression that if Ralph Fiennes had been content on just playing Dickens and letting a more experienced director like Mike Newell or Jane Campion remain behind the camera, The Invisible Woman could be a remarkable film.

This engaging if slightly uneven period piece is saved by the sustaining performance of Felicity Jones who carries the subject matter of the film beautifully. The Invisible Woman is recommended viewing but not absolutely essential and will most likely appeal to literary scholars who are familiar with the writers of Victorian social criticism and ardent Charles Dickens fans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens

 

Vibrating the Victorians

Hysteria

 

Tantalizing Indeed!

Hysteria is a hilarious romantic comedy set in Victorian London in 1880 about a struggling and well-meaning young Doctor, Dr Mortimer Granville played by the ever dashing Hugh Dancy (Evening)who joins up with a prominent Doctor whose medical practice’s sole aim is to treat bored suburban Victorian housewives of the so-called elusive feminine condition of Hysteria. Dr Granville whose under the patronage of wealthy entrepreneur Lord Edmund St John-Smythe, beautifully down played against type by Rupert Everett (Another Country, An Ideal Husband) and is fascinated by all modern electrical inventions which were increasingly surfacing in Victorian London at the ripening of the Industrial Revolution.

Dr Granville is taken in with board and lodging by an unorthodox Dr Dalrymple who is a widower with two very different daughters, the plain and simple Emily played by Felicity Jones and the hugely volatile and passionate Charlotte wonderfully played by the very talented Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Crazy Heart).

Hysteria works because of the fantastic on screen chemistry between Dancy and Gyllenhaal and is helped by a superbly witty script which highlights not only the bizarre inventions of late 19th Century England but also the more serious plight of women during the Industrial Revolution. Charlotte Dalrymple is a headstrong nurse and teacher who assist at a community school and shelter in the poorer East End of London, much to her pompous father’s disgust.

Charlotte is deeply involved in the ever growing suffragette movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette_movement which aimed to eventually give women in Victorian England the right to vote in a unusually patriarchal society ironically ruled by the steadfast Queen Victoria which left women suppressed by controlling men and often viewed as commodities to be traded in a marriage contract reflected in Dr Robert Dalrymple’s view of his daughters, played with an underlining misogyny by the hugely talented British actor Jonathan Pryce (Carrington, Tomorrow Never Dies).

Hysteria in women, whilst manifesting in a variety of symptoms is according to these Victorian doctors basically caused by a lack of sex. Comic moments abound as while the dashing Dr Granville is relieved to give women a helping hand, he eventually turns to his outrageous patron Lord St John-Smythe and between the two of them they perfect the world’s first mechanical vibrator minus the feathers.

Whilst the subject matter might be provocative, Hysteria manages to be an engaging and often hilarious comedy from a uniquely feminine perspective. The onscreen chemistry is fantastic, the cast top notch and the fashions to die for. Hysteria is recommended for all those lovers of period drama yet has all the proper doses of comedy and romance without descending into farce. Tanya Wexler directs and while the editing is not top notch, the script and story line is truly enlivening and not to mention based on historical fact. Really!

Decline of the English Aristocracy.

Brideshead Revisited

The period between the World Wars in the Twentieth century has always been a fascinating time in Western History. The 1920’s and 1930’s saw a huge resurgence in creative energy in Europe, notably the Bohemian decadence of Parisian artistic circles and the radical Modernist aspirations of the Bloomsbury Group. Those two decades with all its turbulent European events marked the eventual decline of the Victorian formalities that restricted the 19th century, something that Oscar Wilde predicted would eventually falter.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous big screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s complex examination of the erosion of the ideals that held the English aristocracy in so much high regard, from their religious and moral superiority to the many temptations that members of that class succumbed to, from adultery, to forbidden sexuality and substance abuse, to the many foreign attractions of marrying outside that closed world in order to insure their own survival. Remnants of that particular aristocracy have obviously evolved fifty years on and still dwell in secluded regions of England and Europe.

However it was really during the 1930’s with the devastating effects of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the ensuing economic depression that engulfed much of the Western World and the inevitable outbreak of World War II that marked the demise of the seemingly immovable landed gentry in Europe. Sound Familiar? Fortunately we don’t have any World Wars looming in this century, but the future can never entirely be predictable.

The wealth is in the title...

The wealth is in the title…

Historical observations aside, Brideshead Revisited is a complex and brilliant film, directed with a fluid and delicate eye for detail by Julian Jarrolds who rose to fame with Becoming Jane about the life of Jane Austen and Waugh’s novel, a magnum opus which is superbly crafted into an epic narrative by Jeremy Brook, screenwriter for such classic films as Mrs Brown and The Last King of Scotland, no easy accomplishment considering that in the 1980’s Brideshead Revisited was an extremely successful BBC mini-series mainly because of the scope of Waugh’s detailed analysis of the decline of British Aristocracy between the Wars.

With BBC backing and between director Jarrolds, and the success of Jeremy Brook as a screenwriter, I was assured that this epic masterpiece would be given all the respect it deserves. Brideshead Revisited is like a tour-de-force of some of the best films on similar themes from the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, The Remains of the Day to the more recent critically acclaimed Atonement and of course the spectacular Wings of the Dove, all these films based on acclaimed novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Henry James respectively.

What sets Brideshead Revisited apart from these comparable screen masterpieces, is its particular emphasis on the religious aspect of this aristocratic families decline, their staunch attachment to Catholic principles despite a life rather decadently lived. For as long as the characters receive absolution for their sins before death, then their place in the afterlife was secured, as we are so rightly told by Brideshead Matriarch, Lady Marchmain a brilliant performance by Emma Thompson.

From the gay and carefree days of Oxford in the late 1920’s to sumptuous Venetian palazzo’s complete with a cameo by White Mischief star Greta Scacchi, the camp and flamboyantly destructive Lord Sebastian Flyte, played by Ben Whishaw lives a self-indulgent and decadent existence, luring an unsuspecting artist Charles Ryder into this unscrupulous and almost fiercely protected yet infinitely opulent world.

Ryder played with subtle dexterity by Match point star Matthew Goode is soon embroiled in the intrigues of an aristocratic family whose powerful religious convictions are as strong as their indulgences and desires are deceptive. As the characters develop and destroy each other aspirations, it really is the property of Brideshead itself, which takes centre stage, an imposing stately mansion filled with Roman Catholic art, fountains and sculptured gardens.

Like the palatial homes seen in The Remains of the Day, A Handful of Dust and now in Brideshead Revisited, it was ultimately the ownership of such lavish estates that fell into jeopardy and were often auctioned off or decommissioned for military purposes once the full effects of World War II had embraced Europe, changing and scattering that aristocracy forever, since without property ownership, all claims of wealth are an illusion.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous cinematic feast, the kind of epic film that has seemingly long gone out of fashion to be replaced with the slick computerized world of American paranoia that Hollywood so duly produces. Of course it is essentially British, and any viewer who has a deep appreciation of literary films and especially of historical epochs will surely be grateful to see such attention given from the gorgeous costumes to the magnificent scenery from Venice to Marrakech lavished on a well-deserved and extremely pertinent period film about the fluid and almost traceable decline of a world long gone. With intelligent insights into such complex themes as religious superiority, addiction and forbidden desires, it is obvious that the strengths of Brideshead Revisited will be recognizable in the 21st century while such issues still remain as relevant in today’s society, as they were seventy years ago.

Don’t miss such a superb classic as Brideshead Revisited, as the story demonstrates that no matter how powerful a society is, that power can quickly be eroded by historical events and economic insecurities, not to mention all the accompanying desires that so often plague the human race.

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