Week in the Life: Film and Philosophy

Van Bui, studying Film and Philosophy, takes us through her Week 12...

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Photograph by Joanne Skelton

My full name in Vietnamese is Bùi Ngọc Khánh Vân. I’m in my final year doing Film and Philosophy, an interesting combination that I embrace every day of my academic life. I live off-campus with my boyfriend in a studio apartment. I’m officially a member of Pendle College, but I guess I no longer take that identity since I moved out of my accommodation on campus. I’m currently enjoying every moment of my last university months, when at least I don’t have to wake up every day at the same time.

Monday, 22 January

I woke up at 7.17am. It was not easy. I had such a sweet weekend I wasn’t ready to believe it was over. But the week had to begin. My breakfast was a cup of brewed coffee, two slices of buttered bread with canned ham and a small bowl of leftover fried rice. After getting ready, I said goodbye to my lovely home and headed to the bus station.

I spent nearly two hours reading for my dissertation, which will be about documentaries that deal with historical traumas. Doing a dissertation is a great chance to explore a topic in detail, although the whole process of organising work steadily throughout the year despite the deadline being so far away requires some degree of self-discipline. Against my initial plan, I quickly lost my concentration and got myself lost in the beautiful world of random short documentaries on the internet. It was still a morning well spent, though.

My first lecture started at 2pm. It is a new module for this term: Sex, Violence and Identity in International Crime Narratives. The basic idea is that you can learn a lot about a country’s social issues through its crime fiction, films or TV series. The focus this week is on The Bridge, a Scandinavian series. This would include the cutting up of bodies and romantic tension between two police officers, as far as I knew.

The next lecture on Film Theory was closer to my heart. The French film critic André Bazin believed that film is such an amazing medium as it can capture faithfully our continuous experience of space and time. Towards the end of the lecture, however, I found myself half-falling asleep and writing ridiculous notes. I decided that I was too sleep-deprived to enjoy the film screening afterwards and left after 4pm.

At home, I did random household chores as my lovely boyfriend was preparing for an early dinner. His Sloppy Joes was super good. I spent the evening mostly talking with him. We went to bed fairly early: around 10pm.

Tuesday, 23 January

I woke up at 9am to get ready for my one-and-a-half-hour lecture at 10am: History of Twentieth Century Philosophy. Different philosophers have explained why we can talk meaningfully about concepts that don’t exist such as unicorns and Harry Potter. The explanations have something to do with the existence of logical forms behind words and sentences. I enjoyed the lecture quite a lot. It was a sort of escapism from the everyday stresses for which logical analysis never gives the right kind of solutions.

As this was my only lecture of the day, I hopped on the bus again and went to the Asian store to refill the instant noodle stock in my house. I can’t imagine life without instant noodles. Around 1pm, I found myself eating fried rice. Not as part of any plan, I then spent the whole afternoon on bed procrastinating with YouTube and Facebook. I can’t imagine life without the internet, either.

At 5pm, I started to watch the film I missed yesterday: Rebel Without a Cause, a 1955 American film. It started with some teenagers experiencing typical teenage problems: drinking, fighting with their parents, fighting with each other… But by the end, two of them were dead. The filmmakers seemed to be talking about more than the hormonal changes in adolescents.

I then had Sloppy Joes and prepared lunch for school tomorrow (stir-fried noodles with bacon, bean sprouts and green onions). The rest of the day was spent on my weekly readings for seminars. I went to bed at 12.30am, regretting the lazy afternoon as I didn’t read as much as I should have.

Wednesday, 24 January

Another early day! I had a 9am to 11am lecture on Indian Religious and Philosophical Thought. I was introduced to some ancient Indian texts. My lecturer was very knowledgeable and insightful. I could listen to him lecturing on Indian philosophy forever. Perhaps I should start to think about the universal essence that I share not just with other humans but the whole universe, to combat the feeling of being separate or isolated most of the time I’m outside my house.

After the lecture, I slowly enjoyed the noodles I prepared yesterday with some background music from my earphones. At 1pm, I went to a talk about Hindu nationalism. There was such an unplanned Indian theme to my day. At 2pm, I had a Skype chat for my research internship on literacy projects for refugees and asylum seekers. I then only had enough time to send some emails.

At 4pm, I went to the training session for my volunteering with Citizen’s Advice. Despite gaining a lot of invaluable knowledge throughout the day on campus, at 5pm I couldn’t wait to go home and be greeted with some warm food. My boyfriend had made some weird curry dish with soy sauce. The chicken was nicely cooked, although the sauce was a bit too salty.

In the evening, I spent some time with my boyfriend, caught up with some seminar readings and read some online articles. I also discovered a sketch artist whose beautiful works made me feel happy and content. After preparing myself coffee and food for tomorrow, I wasted some more time on the internet and went to sleep around 1pm.

Thursday, 25 January

I arrived at the University around 10am with my boyfriend for his project presentation. Not much was accomplished before I went to my seminar for Indian philosophy at 11am. One hour was not enough time for the lecturer to pass on his valuable insights about “the self” to us.

I then had four hours of free time. I found a corner to eat my food. It was a weird mixture of what was left in the house: rice, chicken curry and canned ham. I promise it tasted better than it sounds. Then, in the library, I watched an episode of the historical series The Unknown War on YouTube. It was brilliant. I read a bit from a book on theories of documentaries for my dissertation. Apart from that, much of the afternoon was spent on random nameless activities.

My seminar on Film Theory at 4pm was quite enjoyable. We discussed more about Bazin, the film theorist, and Rebel Without a Cause. My seminar on Crime Fiction, however, was far from enjoyable. But it was still a useful discussion about how the Scandinavian female detective had meaningless sex with a random guy, and how the male detective cried in front of his wife, and other issues.

My boyfriend greeted me with a clean, tidy house and good food. He decided to get rid of the other recipe and soy sauce and made a decent curry with the rest of the marinated chicken. We spent some quality time together as the night was approaching. I had some time alone reading and watching more from the precious internet, before we went to bed around 2am.

Friday, 26 January

Who didn’t have early lectures in the morning? That’s me. I only woke up after noon and slowly began my day. I made myself instant noodle soup with bacon, thinly sliced onions and coriander. It was quite nice, especially after I added magical sriracha (chilly sauce), hoisin sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.

I went to campus a bit early before my Twentieth Century Philosophy seminar at 4pm, to go through the set reading again. In the seminar, my lecturer made sure that everyone understood the importance of the “revolution” in philosophy started by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Next week, we will start looking at Wittgenstein, which is very exciting as I have come across his name many times before.

My boyfriend had already made dinner when I came home: lazanki – a Polish dish consisting of pasta, sauerkraut and sausages (and other minor ingredients that I don’t know). He also bought ingredients so that we could make brownies together.

To celebrate the start of the weekend, we had our night in. Instead of going out, we enjoyed Friday evening in our cosy flat with alcohol, juices and plenty of food. We stayed up pretty late.

Saturday, 27 January

My day started at 2pm. I made a bacon-onion omelette for breakfast. It was a bit too dry, sadly. I thought I might do some shopping and house chores, but a light hangover, on and off period cramps and laziness kept me in bed most of the day. I watched some documentaries, did some reading and caught up with my best friend who is living in Edinburgh. I only got up a few times to go to the toilet or get brownies. The saddest thing about my lazy day was that there weren’t enough brownies. I didn’t have a long day as I fell asleep just after 9pm.

Sunday, 28 January

Sunday didn’t start early, either. I woke up at noon and had leftover lazanki and oranges for breakfast. In the afternoon I did some shopping with my boyfriend. To fill up our flat with food was a priority. Some hours of the day were devoted to doing house chores, in preparation for the upcoming week. I also made spicy Asian chicken noodles. It was basically phở but not including all the typical ingredients, and with many types of chillies in the soup for hotness. Some of the boiled chicken will be used to make Vietnamese-style chicken sandwiches (‘bánh mì gà’) to bring to campus tomorrow.