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Posts Tagged ‘Emma Thompson’

I was watching a movie with my brothers last night, and the scene was one of those notorious “opportune moments.” The hero had a chance to confess his love – or tell the truth – or something useful, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. But he had planned ahead and brought with him a little gift, which he laid on the table between himself and the lady.

 

My brother summed their plight with the poetic description: He laid a gift on the moment’s grave.

 

Tonight I was reading the dictionary – not just to read it, but as one does when one is trying to get somewhere in those pages, and must journey through dangers and distractions like those of Odysseus. (I’m such a terrible speller of Greek; is that right? I am only newly acquainted even with the story of Odysseus, and most disappointed in his character.) My brother is reading The Federalist Papers, great essays on government and history and economics, which employed the word “temerity.” It happens to mean foolhardy or brash, but before I discovered this, I saw a picture.

 

To be honest, I almost always get caught by pictures, and carried away by root words. That is the way dictionaries have with me. This picture was of a little hog-like rodent, and the caption was like a Boggle-champion’s dream: tenrec. How simple. How very likely to occur in Boggle. How unheard of. Honestly. Have you ever heard of a tenrec?

 

No? Well, I suppose that is to be forgiven, since it, like so many interesting creatures, makes its home on Madagascar. The tenrec is a hedgehog-like mammal that eats insects (thus the nose looking like a pig’s, though it could have looked like an anteater and made itself more obvious). Our dictionary’s entry reported that this beast inhabits Madagascar and the adjacent islands.

 

Adjacent Islands!!! Who ever thought? Almost an oximoron! I mean, we’re not talking about islands connected at low tide but not at high. Maybe they were connected during the ice age. But then they weren’t islandS; they were AN island. So my meticulous brother commanded (he’s the one with leadership skills) that I look up “adjacent.” And it turns out that “adjacent” has as its first definition, “to lie near.” Still, I think that “Adjacent Islands” would be a great title for something. The image is so poetic.

 

Movies are almost always on in my house, maybe coming from so many of us enjoying long movies, or maybe because there are so many of us who think we need our own turn at choosing the program. Tonight there was yet another movie, and it was simply horrible, because the message of the movie was that when grown ups lie to children, the children owe it to them to sort of believe, because they want to believe, and miracles happen when you believe… The end of the movie had very little to do with this subject, as it consisted of the main little girl receiving three separate pairs of roller skates for Christmas. The last pair came from a blind man. And the little girl responded that she had a gift for him, her arms now full of metal and wheels. The most natural thing to expect her to give was a pair of roller skates. But then we pictured a blind man skating down the road… Don’t give such gifts to blind men!
 
Oh!  I signed up for all sorts of restaurant email updates, and have coupons and freebies rolling in!  Mostly they just want to give me something free with purchase, but I have plenty of choices!  There is something so pleasing about having a coupon in one’s purse.  Tonight I used a Kohl’s discount they sent in the mail, and saved a whole $1.50!  The best sign-up’s so far are Coldstone Creamery, Red Robins, and Lone Star Steakhouse.  Wendy’s gives a coupon for a dollar off.  But I’m still waiting to see what happens on my birthday.  I’ll let you know. 
 
The movie from last night (Wednesday) was Sense and Sensibility.  There are 4 versions I know anything about.  The earliest was made by BBC in the 70’s or 80’s, and according to my brother, who picked it up by mistake, is acted by robots who sit on teeter-totters sideways trying to converse with each other.  Next in importance/quality is a strange version made in India.  In fact, I believe the English is dubbed.  Not anywhere near as good as India’s Bride and Prejudice.  Now we come to the competitors.  In the 90’s, Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for Sense and Sensibility.  She also starred as Elinor.  Alongside her were Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet, the latter reporting that she scarcely had to act; her personality was so much like Marianne Dashwood that Kate simply had to play the part.  That movie is beautiful.  Funny.  Sad.  Thoughtful.  With the exultantly happy ending highlighted by the perfect score.  I have my objections.  Hugh Grant – he’s not handsome, and his stuttering is annoying.  Colonel Brandon (I should know his name) isn’t very handsome, either, and Jane Austen movies aren’t known for their realism, so we should aim for attractive.  Finally, the version we were watching is the latest BBC adaptation, made in 2008.  It is about 3 hours long, with pretty scenery.  Other than that, the characters are poor imitators of the really good Sense and Sensibility.  Andrew Davies failed to convey emotion with his screenplay, and I don’t think most of the actors understood their characters.  The movie has its moments of interest.  Anyway, the actor who plays Colonel Brandon was recognized by all watching, but we couldn’t place him, so I looked him up.  IMDB is great!  I have been spending a lot of time there lately, for one reason or another.  The actor is David Morrissey, whom I recognized from The Water Horse.  Ah, the relief of answers! 
 
Have a good night.  Don’t waste your day. 
 
To God be all glory.
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The following is a sort of running commentary on the movie, Remains of the Day.  I wrote it while watching the movie.  The movie is subtle and deep.  I don’t get poems.  I like them if they are clever or rhyme, but not if they’re too deep. So when I do really start to catch on, I get excited.  This movie is like a poem.  If you can grasp the meaning by just watching, you might not be too entertained by this blog post.  It’s full of spoilers and observations about the plot.  Another aspect of this essay is that because I wrote it during the movie, it alternates tenses.  If I speak in past tense, I’m referring to something that happened earlier in the movie, but which I was just pulling together later.  If it’s in the present tense I am either making a point about the theme of the story or discussing events unfolding before my eyes on the screen.  Rather than making the tone consistent throughout, I have preserved the original, hoping that the natural flow will communicate more about how my thoughts were developing.  I’m essentially inviting you to view the movie with me. 

 

“I’m not leaving.  I’ve nowhere to go.  I have no family.  I’m a coward…  I’m frightened of leaving and that’s the truth.  All I see out in the world is loneliness, and it frightens me.  That’s all my high principles are worth.  I’m ashamed of myself.”  Emma Thompson plays the housekeeper in Remains of the Day, opposite butler Anthony Hopkins.  She’s not afraid of confessing who she is.  In fact, I’d say she’s more afraid of not telling who she is. 

 

It’s a movie all about loneliness: on one side about trying to feel nothing or at least to show no feelings.  Actions and words went together to prove dignity, the hallmark of British society.  The main characters never talked, then encountered people who do.  How do you adjust to the demise of aristocracy as a philosophy?  What the butler, Mr. Stevens, had always known as abstract turned out to be affecting personal lives. 

 

(Mr. Lewis is an interesting thread to follow.  He’s an American way ahead of the gentlemen in the democracy and equality world.  The way he uses rhetoric is too direct for them.  Initially he makes enemies everywhere.  People think he doesn’t care about England or Europe.  In the end his view of politics is proven right, and he also turns out to be very fond of England for its real value.  It is he who preserves Darlington Hall.  He represents America, I think, across nearly a century of its history.) 

 

It isn’t that the butler can’t express himself or can’t feel anything.  He just exercises self-control.  His loyalty was misplaced.  He chose self-control because his goal was dignity.  By the end of his life, he’s second-guessing the direction he chose. 

 

In the movie Lord Darlington explains why he wants to help Germany.  He had a friend who fought on the side of Germany in the First World War, and afterwards was so devastated by its effect on his country that he committed suicide.  Mr. Stevens watched a similar thing happen to his boss over the course of the movie.  He feels obligated to honor the memory of his former employer and helps do as a free man what he couldn’t do as Lord Darlington’s servant. 

 

Near the beginning of the movie, Miss Kenton the housekeeper comes into Mr. Stevens’ parlor bringing flowers and representing passion and life.  She does her job well and respectfully, but offers a whole different approach to dignity, one that is more open and faithful to herself.  She represents the other side of loneliness, the kind that feels alone even when she’s with other people. 

 

Mr. Stevens never says what he means, following the example described by his father: the butler in India shot a tiger in the kitchen and entered the parlor a moment later to say dinner would be served at the usual hour, by which time there would be no discernible traces of the incident.  All this calm, polite conversation to convey the death of a ferocious animal in the dining room. 

 

So when Miss Kenton enters his room, he says that he prefers his room private, unchanged, and (seeming to refer to flowers but actually not) free of distraction.  The relationship between the butler and housekeeper is reminiscent of Elizabeth and Darcy’s conversations in Pride and Prejudice.  Until she got to know Darcy, he seemed rude and unfeeling.  Once Miss Kenton likewise makes the patient and attentive habit of knowing Mr. Stevens’ character and tastes, she can, rather on faith, begin to interpret what he says or doesn’t say as a sort of code for his true meaning.  Given her openness, he has the great advantage over her: the comfort of knowing when she agrees, security of being aware when she doesn’t, and even delight when her position entertains – all while, at first, safely hidden in his own opinions. 

 

But she begins to see through him, utilizing Plato’s “plot is everything” to observe his life.  She notices he doesn’t like pretty women on staff, and speculates, “Might it be that our Mr. Stevens fears distraction?”  She has an excellent memory, and so no doubt began to understand what he had thought of her when she first entered his study with flowers years earlier.  He didn’t trust himself. 

 

Passion is a distraction from duty.  Or is the other way around? 

 

“Please leave me alone, Miss Kenton.”  He wants to be alone, at least partly.  And he wants her to physically pry the book from his hands, to talk and guess and look into his face for the answers he dare not show but can’t hide.  He freezes, utterly conflicted for a moment, craving and fearing her closeness. 

 

“We have each other.  That’s all anyone can ever need.”

 – Miss Hull on marrying without money.

 

Miss Kenton finds that being together in the same house isn’t enough.  She might content herself with friendship, but he can’t.  He must have formality or surrender to love, but he doesn’t know how to do the latter.  She can’t bear the rejection, which is worse than loneliness. 

 

She hurt him.  She loved him and she hurt him.  Maybe that’s why she left. 

 

He didn’t owe her anything.  She knew he didn’t, but she hoped anyway.  That made her tears all the more bitter and self-reproaching when he couldn’t let himself admit he was in love. 

 

Why does Miss Kenton do these things?  She sees the outside world as lonely, in contrast to the house and servants (though Mr. Stevens sees the house as lonely).  She above all fears loneliness, and works and sacrifices so that she won’t feel alone.  This is why she eventually leaves.  Though Mr. Stevens knows she is not alone, he makes the mistake of not telling her so.  And she flees to what seems a sure thing, an offer of marriage to a man who says he loves her. 

 

She is too needy for a marriage, and her husband didn’t always say what he meant, either – even when he first said “I love you.”  The movie ends with the question of loneliness still hanging. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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