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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The Lady of Heaven did not stay long

It is a film that is “more interesting on paper than in practice”, according to this review:

This British-made epic earns a significant accolade: it is the first film to put the “face” of the prophet Muhammad on screen. No single actor is credited with playing him, or any of the other holy figures in his entourage. And, as a nervous initial disclaimer points out, their faces, often shown in dazzling sunbursts, are computer-generated. Presumably, this is enough to placate Islam’s prohibition on visual representation of the prophet, but this is a Shia-aligned film that is evidently a little more lenient on the issue.

The Guardian‘s reviewer underestimated the interest that the film would generate. UK cinema chain cancels screenings of ‘blasphemous’ film after protests, the same newspaper reports today.

Paul Embery tweets, “This is reportedly the manager of a cinema in Sheffield addressing a theocratic mob protesting at the screening of a “blasphemous” film (The Lady of Heaven). Thoroughly depressing to see him capitulate to their demands and confirm the film has been binned.”

4 comments to The Lady of Heaven did not stay long

  • We’re too far along the curve to place the rights of independent cinemas to show what films they like without being hounded by the mob of usual suspects.

    As expected, the police are nowhere to be seen. Can’t have their diversity and inclusion credentials being smeared by accusations of Islamophobia now, can we?

    Even if they were there, there is more chance of them arresting the manager for hate crimes than empowering the cinemas freedom of expression.

  • It would be ‘islamophobic’ for the Sheffield police to defend free speech (or in this case, paid-for cinema viewing), even of a rival islamic sect’s movie, from an islamic mob. How fortunate we are that ‘christophobic’ is not a word, as far as the authorities are concerned, so the Sheffield cinema can (safely, I assume) fill the now-empty slots of its schedule with screenings of ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ or ‘The Passion of the Christ’. That would be my advice to the cinema owner if his failure to find enough courage to defy the mob had left him with enough to risk quietly making them look stupid in their own terms.

    In summer 1942, the BBC received a letter claiming that their broadcasting of “The Man Born to be King” (Dorothy Sayer’s 12 radio plays covering the birth, life, trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ) had brought about the fall of Tobruk, and begging that the remaining episodes be withheld, lest such impiousness bring further disasters upon British arms. Before the end of that year, they received another letter assuring them that broadcasting the whole series had brought about the October and November victories in North Africa and Russia, and begging it be swiftly repeated so that the divine favour thus acquired would bring further victories to the Allied cause in 1943. However neither letter threatened violence (nor, I feel sure, could either have assembled a mob to inflict any). The broadcasts also caused many other letters, the vast majority favourable but not suggesting its impact was on quite that scale.

    Next time someone suggests we’re more broadminded now than then, feel free to murmur “swings and roundabouts”.

  • (P.S. to my comment above) I find myself thinking about the Guardian reviewer’s remark that the play was

    “more interesting on paper than in practice”

    1) I mean no criticism of those well-produced and acted radio plays when I say that Dorothy Sayers’ book “The Man Born to be King”, with her introduction, insightful analysis, detailed notes on each play, character studies and etc., as well as the text of the plays themselves, definitely has yet more of interest than even the plays just on their own. The amount there is exceptional, but it’s not the only time I’ve found a published play with author’s notes more gripping, more re-readable, than the acted play’s lines alone.

    Qualification: at other times, a well-acted scene can make a play’s text clearer, or an il-written play less dull. I’ve sometimes thought being put on stage adds more to poor writing than to good. Good is still better than poor, but on the printed page the poverty of poor is yet more obvious. Full disclosure: this thought first came to me after watching some of Dario Fo’s hard-left dramas interspersed with other plays. 🙂

    2) The Guardian’s ‘on paper’ may have been merely a clumsy way of saying ‘in theory’, ‘as an idea’ – that the writing did not match the theme. That would fit with the overall unflattering review.

    3) A far more cynical thought occurs. The Guardian reviewer may have been seeking an artistically-defensible way of signalling that ‘islamophobic’ public display of the film was not being advocated. Like Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent ‘reviewing’ the Vogon captain’s poetry at the end of the first episode of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, woke reviewers often face the question: “Can our heroes escape this predicament with their artistic integrity intact?”

    (BTW I did read the link but did not find the quote; either it has been edited since Natalie did, or you need to pay to read a longer article that includes it, or I’m just too slovenly a reader to spot it.)

  • Earnest Canuck

    The link I’m adding here, if clicked, will *definitely* result in weird porny popups you must close before watching “The Lady of Heaven.”

    So? Just close ’em. Like everything else on the Internet, such content is safe — definitionally harmless, in fact, since you can neither download sticks nor upload stones.

    I could say “click at your own risk” but that would imply there is a risk. There ain’t. There is an X in every upper-right corner; there’s an off button to every device; there’s contempt for you, specifically you, in every censor’s heart.