Films about artists and writers are not fun... they can really take it to
your heart. But they sure create some amazing performances from the actors.
And when a script as this one comes around, it is difficult not to
appreciate the beauty of the work that Jonathan Pryce out into it, and the
very nice job that Emma Thompson did as the writer's long time friend.
This film is about the living arrangement that the writer Lytton Strachen
and artist Dora Carrington had during their time, right after the glory days
of Victorian England. Lytton is a homosexual, and Emma is not. But this
does not deter from their agreement to withstand each other as personal
friends and housemates for a very long period of time.
Lytton's health interfered with his ability to write, many times, as well as
his ability to stay with his writing. And Dora provides much of the
stability that the otherwise un-emotional Lytton seems to avoid. But as he
grows, and his homosexual side comes out, his life takes different turns. He
is a bit more emotional, and apparently his health is all the better for it.
It's when he has the emotional letdowns, that he appears to suffer the most.
And Dora, appears to be much in love all the time, even going so far as to
get married to the man with whom, they are both having an affair. The
triangle is not an orgy, as each couple maintains their space, but it is a
severe strain all the way around.
When Lytton's health takes his life, the lonely Dora decides that her life
is miserable, and does something about it.
In between, it is easy to see what it is that turns on a writer, and a
painter. Dora, though not a major artist,
became, in time, considered quite an accomplished artist, with a sizeable
collection of works, mostly portraits of
the people she liked. Lytton's work is available in the many libraries the
Jonathan Pryce ( Brazil, Miss Saigon ) is the thing that keeps this film
going, and it really shows up when he is
not around. Lytton has a large ego, built out of being well educated, but he
also has the knack for making
things appear more interesting, and important. The others do not have his
sense of occasion. And Jonathan
Pryce just shines all the way through, even if the line is a quick cut, or
take, in the film.
With sharp acting like that, it is up to Emma Thompson to bring out the
originally shy Carrington, but later
the woman that pretty much knows what she wants from those people around
her. She can't have children, so it seems, and she then turns into a life
of enjoyment, to compensate for it. She can not break through Lytton's
barriers against a physical relationship with women, but his attitude
towards them softens with her around,
much later in life. But the film makes it clear that it is the likes of the
early rejections that Lytton
receives, even from Dora ( two other times it shows up in the film ),
eventually is what makes him say
such things as women's bodies are "hideous and ugly". But his inner
relationship with Dora makes up for
whatever lack of physical satisfaction may be present.
An outstanding film, with superb acting all the way around, this is really
more of a study of a gone by era, and its attitudes, than it is the story
of Lytton and Dora. In the capable hands of a respectful director and sharp
actors, that era comes alive even more, even if it can not be found today.
Excellent film, well directed, and sharply made, in that it is tightly
thought out, and accomplished. It also
has some magnificent music by Michael Nyman, which is highly noticeable.
Copyright © 1996 Pedro Sena